The government will tackle human trafficking with comprehensive legislation aimed at identifying victims and providing better protection, an official said on Friday in a video conference with US officials.
A draft bill is being worked on and is expected to be placed on the agenda of the Legislative Yuan in September, said Chien Hu Hui-juan, Immigration Affairs Division director of the National Immigration Agency (NIA), at the conference.
Chien said the bill is expected to be the first in Taiwan that coordinates inter-agency collaboration by the Council of Labor Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of the Interior, the National Police Agency, the Coast Guard Administration and various social groups and non-government organizations to identify criminals and victims of human trafficking.
The initiative was welcomed by the US. Mark Lagon, director of the State Department's Office to Combat and Monitor Trafficking in Persons, praised the government's response to multi-dimensional trafficking since last year. Its response included the creation of a national plan of action and an inter-agency committee, the drafting of legislative amendments to the immigration law and increased prosecution of trafficking crimes, he said.
Lagon, who spoke to about 100 conference attendees from Washington, Taipei and Kaohsiung, stressed the importance of adequate legislation that addresses all of the elements found in modern day slavery, saying that a comprehensive law is the "gold standard" and a "critical tool."
Criminal law alone is not enough to cover all facets of the trafficking problem because "it only punishes the criminals," said Mohamed Mattar, a professor at Georgetown University and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Collaboration between law enforcement and social care groups is instrumental in combating human trafficking by rescuing victims, said March Bell, senior special counsel for trafficking issues in the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice.
The comprehensive bill is looking to do just that, Chien said. However, all the agencies involved in the program have to avoid departmentalism, and prosecutors need to take the leading roles, which is not the case at present, she said.
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