Mon, Dec 31, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Minister demands harsher penalties for illegal migration after disappearances

Staff writer, with CNA

Stricter penalties for immigration offenses are to prevent incidents such as the sudden disappearance of 148 Vietnamese tourists earlier this month, the Cabinet said on Saturday.

At an interministerial meeting, Minister Without Portfolio Chang Ching-sen (張景森) issued a directive to review the Kuan Hung Pilot Project, which aims to attract visitors from several Southeast Asian nations, including Vietnam, the Cabinet said in a statement.

Chang instructed the Ministry of the Interior to propose amendments to introduce heavier fines and stiffer penalties for immigrants who work illegally, their employers and labor brokers involved in human trafficking, the statement read.

The statement did not mention by how much fines should be raised or what harsher penalties would be proposed.

Under existing laws, employers who hire illegal immigrants can be fined NT$150,000 to NT$750,000.

There has been renewed debate about illegal immigration after 152 of 153 Vietnamese who entered Taiwan as part of four tour groups on Dec. 21 and Dec. 23 left their tours and could not be found on Tuesday last week.

Contact was later established with one of the 152 who had been reported missing, while three were found to have left Taiwan.

As of yesterday afternoon, 20 of the missing tourists had been found, leaving 128 unaccounted for, the National Immigration Agency said.

The agency said it believes that criminal syndicates orchestrated the disappearance and were trying to illegally channel the Vietnamese into manual labor jobs or prostitution in Taiwan.

Chang also asked the agencies to reinforce measures to monitor Vietnamese who come to Taiwan through the pilot project, which streamlines the visa application process for groups of five or more tourists from Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and India that meet certain conditions.

Groups can apply for the visas as long as the tour is organized by a “quality travel agency” recognized by the Tourism Bureau or sponsored by a company.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications should improve its review of tour group applications, while the Ministry of the Interior should bolster checks on Kuan Hung travelers at the border, Chang was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, New Taipei City police arrested a Taiwanese man surnamed Cheng (鄭) who they suspect of harboring some of the missing Vietnamese travelers.

Cheng was quoted by police as saying that he was not a member of a human trafficking ring, but had helped the tourists find shelter and received payment for it.

Vietnamese media on Saturday reported that the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism had punished one of two Hanoi-based travel companies that arranged the four tour groups, barring it from providing international travel services for nine months.

The company was also fined 48.5 million Vietnamese dong (US$2,086) for irregularities, including failing to manage groups based on contracts and hiring unqualified guides, the reports said, adding that the other firm was still being investigated.

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