Legislators across party lines yesterday approved a bill that imposes harsher penalties for human traffickers and provides better protection for victims.
The Human Trafficking Prevention Act (人口販運防制法) states that people found guilty of forcing debtors into prostitution may be punished with a jail term of between six months and five years and a fine of up to NT$3 million (US$90,000).
Those who force others to work below pay by means of threat or confinement or by controlling victims with drugs may be sentenced to a maximum of seven years in prison and fined up to NT$5 million.
The court can seek the same punishment for those who force minors into underpaid jobs.
Those who underpay workers as a way to pay off the victim's debt may be subject to a maximum of three years in jail and a fine of NT$1 million.
Anyone who removes an individual's organs against his or her will for profit by means of threat, confinement, hypnosis or drugs may face a minimum prison term of seven years and a fine of up to NT$7 million.
The law also stipulates the same punishment for anyone who recruits, conceals or introduces minors to clients in order to have the minors' organs removed for profit.
Those who have the organs of their debtors removed for profit may be sentenced to between five and 12 years in prison and fined a maximum of NT$5 million.
Violators found to have attempted to commit all aforementioned offenses will be subject to the same punishments.
The bill allows the court to confiscate any benefits the violators earn as a result of human trafficking. The court can also seize the violators' property if necessary, the bill states.
Any government official found to have been involved in any of these offenses will face more severe punishment, the law says.
Those who commit human trafficking outside of Taiwan will also be punished, it says.
The act also introduces measures to protect victims of human trafficking, obliging the police to protect them and social workers and other professionals to offer assistance to the victims during police investigations or court trials.
Under the bill, public officials or tourism businesses are required to report suspected human trafficking violations. Those who fail to do so will be fined between NT$6,000 and NT$30,000.
Law enforcement authorities should immediately intervene as soon as they receive such reports, the bill says, adding that they should provide shelter to suspected victims of human trafficking.
The government is also required to offer the victims protection, medical assistance, translation service, legal assistance, counseling and necessary economic assistance, in accordance with the act.
The cost of the assistance should be covered by those who inflicted the harm on the victims within a given period of time, the law says.
The government should issue six-month temporary visas to victims of human trafficking who do not have a Taiwanese visa or residency. The temporary visa can be extended if necessary.
However, the government can revoke the visa or have the victims deported if the victims leave the shelter or break the law.
Those who receive a temporary visa can apply for a work permit at the Council of Labor Affairs, the bill says.
The government may also grant residency to those whose life may be in danger if they return to their native countries. Those who have legally lived in Taiwan for five consecutive years after being granted residency may apply for permanent residency.