An investigation into Vietnamese children allegedly brought to Taiwan yielded that arrangements were made by relatives to have the children put up for “adoption,” with the goal of seeking Republic of China citizenship for the children, prosecutors said.
The findings contradicted an announcement on Friday by the National Immigration Agency (NIA), which said it had successfully “busted a child smuggling ring” where 11 Vietnamese children were “put to work as child laborers.”
Taiwan International Family Association (TIFA) executive director Chang Yu-hua (張育華) said it was not a criminal cross-border human trafficking operation, adding that she condemned the NIA for vilifying the families involved and distorting the facts of the case without verifying all the information.
“The claim by the NIA that it busted a ‘child smuggling ring’ has besmirched the foreign spouses of these Taiwanese families. This was a family adoption involving children from Vietnam. It was not child smuggling,” Chang said on Saturday in a response to media reports about the case.
“The children were adopted by their aunts and uncles or close relatives, or families who knew each other well and wanted to give their children a better life. This was not the sale of Vietnamese children for profit and when in Taiwan, they were not exploited as forced child laborers,” Chang said.
“We urge NIA officials to find out all the facts and clarify with the public,” Chang added.
“We are worried that prior to a full investigation, the defendants have already been maligned by officials boasting of their successful work and by sensationalist media reporting. The public has been led to perceive foreign spouses as potential criminals engaging in the selling and buying of children,” TIFA said in a statement.
“Also, it is worrying that the government would use the pretext of preventative measures to raise threshold requirements for foreign spouses to legally adopt their own children from previous marriages,” the statement added.
Yunlin District Prosecutors’ Office officials said investigations confirmed that the children in Taiwan were mostly living with their aunts and uncles or other family members and there was no child exploitation, as the children were well-treated and did chores on the farms and tea plantations of their families in Taiwan.
In one case, the parents of a 10-year-old Vietnamese girl, who has a minor speech impediment and mental disability, arranged to have her “adopted” by a family member married to a Taiwanese man so the girl could receive better medical treatment in Taiwan.
The plan was for a family adoption so that, once her citizenship was approved, she could seek medical care, prosecutors said.
“The investigation showed that mostly it was the Vietnamese families who willingly paid between US$3,000 to US$6,000 for forged documents and other costs to send their children to Taiwan. So it is very different from cross-border human trafficking, where ‘snakeheads’ of international criminal operations are involved,” prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said they intend to charge suspects with forgery and violations of passport regulations, but not with violations of the Human Trafficking Prevention Act (人口販運防制法) as reported earlier.
The NIA said the children would be repatriated to Vietnam.
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