An Asian forum on human trafficking was held yesterday in Taipei to facilitate international cooperation in the fight against human trafficking in the region.
The forum, the first of its kind held in Taiwan, was attended by 33 government officials, academics and non-governmental organization (NGO) workers from 12 Asia-Pacific countries, including Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, as well as foreign dignitaries based in Taiwan.
At the event, representatives from Taiwan’s immigration, labor and NGO sectors gave speeches on the prevention of crime, implementation of policies against human trafficking and protection measures for victims in Taiwan.
Joe Parker, assistant regional security officer from the American Institute in Taiwan, talked about the US’ experience in fighting human trafficking.
At the forum, foreign delegates also asked questions about Taiwan’s performance, ranging from measures to protect undocumented foreign workers and its benefits for pregnant foreign workers to how the country ensures that workers entering the country are above the legal working age.
According to National Immigration Agency Director-General Hsieh Li-kung (謝立功), the agency organized the forum because it hopes to play a “more active” role in clamping down on human trafficking in the region.
“Many of the human trafficking victims in Taiwan come from Asian countries, so the most practical way [to combat the problem] would be to first cooperate with our neighbors,” Hsieh said.
“We hope that not only Taiwan, but all Asian countries can eventually be listed as ‘Tier 1’ countries,” Hsieh said, stressing the importance of transnational efforts to crack down on human trafficking.
Taiwan was listed as a “Tier 1” country in the US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report in 2010 and last year, meaning that Taiwan has complied fully with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The only other Asian country to receive the ranking is South Korea.
Hsieh said his agency is currently holding talks with a number of Southeast Asian countries to sign memorandums of understanding that would allow Taiwan and these countries to hold joint training sessions and share intelligence on trafficking crimes.
Mary Ann Velasco, supervisor of the Travel Control Enforcement Unit of the Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration, said “it’s about time” that Taiwan and the Philippines signed such an agreement, given the large number of Philippine workers in Taiwan.
Many Philippine workers who have received permits to work in Taiwan often leave the Philippines on tourist visas for a speedier exit, making it hard for the Philippines to accurately track the number of its nationals working in Taiwan.
She said it would greatly help the prevention of human trafficking if the two nations could cooperate on a reporting mechanism that gave details of Philippine workers entering Taiwan.
Samarn Laodamrongchai, a researcher at the Asian Research Center for Migration at Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University who specializes in issues involving Thai workers in Taiwan, urged the signing of a government-level agreement between the two countries, saying that it would offer more legal protection for victims of human trafficking or labor exploitation.
Thailand is one of the countries with which Taiwan is seeking to sign such agreements.