Groups urge update to definition of human trafficking

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Jun 13, 2018 - Page 3

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wu Yu-chin (吳玉琴) and a coalition of civil groups yesterday urged the government to amend the Human Trafficking Prevention Act (人口販運防制法), which they said needs to provide a clearer definition of human trafficking to more effectively prevent it.

Although the US Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons last year named Taiwan a “Tier 1” country in its Trafficking in Persons Report, the nation still has much to do to fight human trafficking, Wu said at a public hearing on human trafficking she held with civil groups at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.

“The act, which took effect in 2009, deserves a serious overhaul,” she said. “While civil groups and I have put forward our proposed amendments, we hope the government would soon complete its draft amendment as well.”

The act currently defines human trafficking as involving subjecting a person to “labor to which pay is not commensurate with the work duty.”

“This is too vague and has made it difficult for perpetrators of human trafficking to be convicted. In practice, it allows human trafficking rings or the exploiter to avoid breaking the law by paying migrant workers the legal minimum wage while deducting large sums from their pay and calling it a ‘broker’s fee,’” Legal Aid Foundation attorney Sun Tse-fang (孫則芳) said.

As an example, one female migrant is paid NT$32,000 every month by her employer, but about NT$13,000 goes to the trafficking ring that controls her, Sun said.

The court ruled that she did not meet the definition of “being subjected to work for which she was not reasonably paid,” even though she works 15 to 16 hours a day with no weekly days off.

The vague definition has directly contributed to the low prosecution and conviction rates of human traffickers, she added.

The system for protecting human trafficking victims is also problematic, Serve the People Association director Wong Ying-dah (汪英達) said.

After discovering a suspected case of human trafficking, prosecutors must first conduct an investigation to determine whether to recognize the person as a victim, which would allow them to receive protection and assistance.

“In practice, the criteria for determining whether someone should be considered a victim of human trafficking and granted that status is very vaguely defined and unnecessarily complicated,” he said. “Meanwhile, few law enforcement officers have been properly trained to handle human trafficking cases. As a result, they often make the wrong decision when determining whether to grant that status.”

The Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, along with the Serve the People Association and several other civil groups, last year completed a proposal for amending the law, in which they suggested setting down a more concrete definition of human trafficking, allowing social workers to accompany alleged victims during the investigation and establishing a committee to determine victim status, said Keven Chang (張凱強), a manager at the foundation.

National Immigration Agency representative Lee Lin-feng (李臨鳳) agreed that the act needs an overhaul, saying that the agency would convene more meetings to discuss the matter and continue to communicate with civil groups.

The agency would also increase protection for victims, including those who have not been granted victim status, and enhance police training, she added.