The Cabinet yesterday approved a draft bill aimed at cracking down on human smuggling. The proposed bill came as a long-awaited response to human rights activists who have criticized the country for lacking a comprehensive trafficking law.
The bill is the Executive Yuan’s “first priority,” which it aims to push through the legislature before it goes into recess late this year or early next year, Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) said in a press statement issued yesterday.
“If the bill is passed by the legislature, it will greatly contribute to the prevention measures the government has adopted to stem trafficking in people,” the statement said, adding that “the problem has deeply damaged the image of the country and its human rights record.”
Taiwan was listed last year in the US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report as a source and destination state.
Taiwanese women are trafficked for sexual exploitation in Canada, Japan, the UK and the US, while Taiwan is also a destination for women and girls who are trafficked mostly from China and some from Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand for sexual and labor exploitation, the report said.
The report said the government did not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but was making significant efforts to do so.
Taiwan does not have a comprehensive trafficking law, but has a number of laws to prosecute traffickers including the laws against slavery in Section 296 and 296-1 of the criminal code, it said.
Current law penalizes human traffickers with up to seven years in prison, but there are no laws to criminalize labor trafficking or debt bondage, the report said.
The Executive Yuan’s proposed bill covers the functions and powers of agencies of the central and local governments in dealing with trafficking, shelters and other protective measures for victims, as well as punishments for traffickers.
The draft bill stipulates that traffickers would receive a ten-year sentence and a fine of NT$10 million (US$305,000) for forcing victims to engage in prostitution, while public officials found covering for traffickers would have their punishment increased by up to one half.
The government will be required to set up relocation centers for human trafficking victims if the draft bill is passed and for foreign victims, the permissible period allowed for them to stay in the country would not be subject to regulation by the Immigration Law (入出國及移民法), which grants a maximum 60-day overstay period to illegal immigrants.