A human-rights group has called on the government to do more to combat human trafficking, in the wake of the US placing Taiwan on a watch list in the State Department's latest report on the issue.
Last year's Trafficking in Persons Report listed Taiwan as a "tier two" country, putting it on the watch list, a downfall from its "tier one" listing in the 2004 report.
"Labor trafficking was the [US'] main concern," said Fran Gau (
"Twenty-thousand of the 350,000 foreign contract workers in Taiwan ? have left their site of employment in Taiwan for ? abuse or conditions of involuntary servitude," the report said.
Some labor trafficking victims enter Taiwan and work illegally because of false information from traffickers, Gau said.
Other victims could have entered the country to work legally but become victims of abuse, and then runaway to escape the abuse, thereby breaking their contracts and the law, she said.
Since there is no law that specifically addresses human trafficking, its victims are usually treated as lawbreakers, Gau said.
"The government should rethink its policies on population, immigration and foreign workers," she said, as well as taking steps to prevent abuse and strengthen the protection it offers to victims.
"The government should make sure that potential foreign workers receive the most accurate information about legal working in Taiwan and about their legal rights," Gau said. "Officials [at overseas representative offices] should be more sensitive when they interview potential foreign workers in order to be able to identify trafficking victims."
When it comes to protecting victims, she said, the first step is to define who is a victim.
"The Council for Labor Affairs considers all runaway foreign workers to be lawbreakers, but we need to find why they run away," Gau said.
Then the government needs to provide assistance to victims, including monetary, she said.
"We hope that they could be given the right to work [while awaiting repatriation]," she said.
Gau thinks victims who would like to seek residency here should be eligible because their lives could be threatened if they are repatriated.
The government agrees with many of the suggestions made by Gau's group. Last November the Executive Yuan announced its"Action Plan against Human Trafficking," under which 10 ministries will work together to combat human trafficking, prosecute the traffickers and protect victims.
Minister without Portfolio Lin Wan-i (
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