Taiwan and the US began cooperating on training law enforcement personnel in identifying and protecting victims after the Human Trafficking Prevention Act (人口販運防治法) was enacted last month, Cabinet officials said yesterday.
Minister without Portfolio Kao Su-po (高思博), who also serves as head of an anti-human trafficking task force, made the remark at a three-day International Workshop on Strategies for Combating Human Trafficking that opened in Taipei yesterday.
The acting director of the American Institute in Taiwan’s Taipei Office, Robert Wang, praised Taiwan at the workshop for its efforts in combating human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is an issue that impacts all countries, including the US,” he said.
“It weakens legal economic activities, causes violence, destroys families and has an impact on education and public security,” he said.
Estimates say there are more than 12 million people who are human trafficking victims around the world, he said.
The global economic crisis has made workers more vulnerable as they struggle to support their families, he said.
“Today, we’re working with Taiwan to make sure that every person in the human trafficking network is punished, and that every victim is well protected,” he said.
Kao said the workshop would train frontline law enforcement personnel in Taiwan about how to identify human trafficking victims and how to protect them.
The first lesson was to distinguish between smugglers and victims.
Law enforcement agencies in Taiwan have been criticized by immigration and human rights groups for treating human trafficking victims as criminals because they can’t differentiate between smugglers and their victims, as well as lack of protection for victims.
Taiwan is not the only country facing this problem.
“One of the biggest global challenges is the failure to make the distinction between [human] trafficking and smuggling,” said Fanny Chu, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement attache in Hong Kong. “Human smuggling may involve elements of violence, however, the presence of these aggravating factors alone does not constitute human trafficking.”
“Elements [of human trafficking] are force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of commercial sex or forced labor,” she said, adding that human smuggling involves people who are voluntarily smuggled into a country, and it has no victims.
It’s important to provide a safe shelter for trafficking victims and grant them rights, such as the right to work so that they would be willing to work with law enforcement agencies to root out human trafficking networks, she said.