Human trafficking victims awaiting return to their countries of origin may be able to work and learn new job skills in shelters starting as early as next year, a National Immigration Agency (NIA) official said yesterday.
Immigration Affairs Division Director Chien Hui-juan (簡慧娟) made the remarks when answering complaints made by a rights activist during a conference on migrant rights held in Taipei.
Zhang Yu-hua (張育華), executive director of the Taiwan International Family Association told delegates at the conference that neither the immigration authorities nor the legal system treat human trafficking victims as "victims."
Zhang cited a case she had worked on recently as an example.
"Six Vietnamese women came to Taiwan as migrant workers," Zhang said. "Although the broker in Vietnam told them they would be preparing food at a lunch box factory, they were sold into the sex industry instead."
Although they were considered by police and prosecutors as victims, "they were not treated as victims," Zhang said.
The six women were put into a shelter in March and stayed there until August when they were required as witnesses at a court hearing, Zhang said.
"They could not work during that period. They didn't know how long they had to wait. For most of the time, they could only stay in the shelter, watching TV, sleeping and eating," Zhang said. "They felt miserable the whole time."
Zhang said during this time they were not asked if they wanted to be witnesses in the case, nor were they even told that they were expected to be witnesses, Zhang said.
After the six women were finally allowed to return to Vietnam in August, "an immigration officer asked us to provide evidence to prove they were victims before the NIA would waive their penalties for overstaying their visas," Zhang said. "It makes me wonder whether they were considered victims or criminal."
In response, Chien said the agency had started solving some of these problems.
"The Cabinet has approved a three-year project proposed by the NIA, which includes solutions to many of these issues," Chien said.
One that may become a reality next year, Chien said, is allowing work or job skills lessons to be held in shelters.
"The reasoning behind this is, if these human trafficking victims don't have any job skills, they may become victims of human trafficking again in the future," Chien said. "That's why we believe it may provide a solution to this issue if they can learn some skills while staying in the shelters."
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