TAIPEI, Taiwan — President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Wednesday reaffirmed the government’s commitment to combating human trafficking, after Taiwan maintained its ranking among the top tier of countries in fighting the practice.
“Taiwan is committed to working with all stakeholders to fight human trafficking,” Tsai tweeted in the wake of the publication of the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report by the U.S. Department of State, which listed Taiwan in the Tier 1 category for the eighth consecutive year.
Also, the State Department presented a “Hero Acting to End Modern Slavery Award” to Allison Lee (李麗華), secretary general of the Yilan Migrant Fishermen Union (YMFU, 宜蘭縣漁工職業工會), in recognition of her efforts to uphold the rights of foreign fishermen.
She was the first Taiwanese citizen ever to receive the honor.
In the report on human trafficking, the U.S. classifies countries into four tiers depending on how well they comply with standards established in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
Tier 1 countries are those that fully comply with the act’s minimum standards and include most countries in the developed world. The only other Asian countries in Tier 1 aside from Taiwan were South Korea, Armenia, Georgia, Israel, and the Philippines.
Japan was listed in Tier 2, Thailand was listed on the Tier 2 watchlist, and China was classified in the tier of the worst-performing countries, Tier 3.
The report, which covers the period from April 1, 2016 through March 31, 2017, said Taiwan authorities demonstrated serious and sustained efforts during the period by conducting 134 trafficking investigations, including cases involving foreign fishermen, and convicting 56 traffickers.
In addition, Taiwan identified 263 trafficking victims, provided access to shelter and other victim services, and enacted new regulations requiring standard contracts and benefits for foreign fishermen hired overseas, according to the report.
The report noted that in many cases, however, judges in Taiwan sentenced traffickers to lenient penalties not proportionate to the crimes, weakening deterrence and undercutting efforts of police and prosecutors.
Also, Taiwan authorities sometimes treated labor trafficking cases as labor disputes and did not convict any traffickers associated with exploiting foreign fishermen on Taiwan-flagged fishing vessels, it added.
It listed several recommendations for Taiwan, including increasing efforts to prosecute and convict traffickers and sentencing convicted traffickers to sufficiently stringent punishments.
It also suggested that Taiwan improve the effectiveness of anti-trafficking training and increase prosecutors and judges’ understanding of trafficking crimes and enact legislation that would address gaps in basic labor protections for household caregivers and domestic workers.