Sat, Jul 02, 2016 - Page 4 News List

US urges Taiwan to act on trafficking

BLIND EYE:Taiwanese officials treat many cases involving trafficking as lesser crimes and sentenced traffickers to lenient penalties, a US Department of State report said

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

Taiwan has been ranked among top-tier nations committed to fighting human trafficking, but a report by the US Department of State said that Taipei could do more.

Taiwan was ranked a “Tier 1” nation for the sixth consecutive year, but the department said that did not mean Taiwan had no human trafficking problems.

“On the contrary, a ‘Tier 1’ ranking indicates that a government has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking, made efforts to address the problem and complies with minimum standards,” the department said.

The report, released on Thursday by US Secretary of State John Kerry, urges Taiwan to increase efforts to prosecute and convict traffickers, increase punishments and vigorously investigate the owners of long-haul fishing vessels suspected of commiting onboard abuse at sea.

It also recommends that Taipei crack down on brokers who exploit migrant workers — mostly from the Philippines and Thailand — forcing household caregivers and domestic workers to work in near-slavery conditions.

“Taiwan is a destination for men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking and, to a lesser extent, a source of men and women subjected to forced labor and of women and children subjected to sex trafficking,” it said.

It said most victims were from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

“Most of Taiwan’s more than 587,000 migrant workers are hired in their home countries through recruitment agencies and brokers, some of which are from Taiwan, to perform low-skilled work,” it said.

Some migrant workers are charged exorbitantly high recruitment fees, resulting in substantial debts used by brokers or employers as tools of coercion to obtain or retain their labor, it said.

“After recruitment fee repayments are garnished from their wages, many foreign workers in Taiwan earn significantly less than the minimum wage,” it said.

It also said that women from Taiwan have been lured into forced prostitution in the US, but did not provide details.

The annual report said that Taiwanese authorities had fully met the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but specifically mentioned that during the past year, there were no arrests or convictions for trafficking violations on fishing vessels.

“Prosecutors and judges continued to treat many cases involving trafficking indicators as lesser crime and in many cases sentenced traffickers to lenient penalties not proportionate to the crimes,” it said.

China was placed on the “Tier 2” watch list, meaning it deserves special scrutiny.

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