Taiwanese authorities fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Authorities continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Taiwan remained on Tier 1. These efforts included convicting significantly more traffickers and referring more victims to protection services than in 2020; improving victim-centered shelter intake procedures for foreign survivors; enhancing the formal consultative role of non-government stakeholders in the victim identification, referral, and case management processes; and penalizing a significantly higher number of recruitment brokers for abusive practices than in 2020, including in the form of precedent-setting trafficking convictions. Although Taiwan met the minimum standards, authorities investigated and prosecuted fewer alleged traffickers and identified fewer victims than in 2020. Some official stakeholders continued to operate under disparate and often ineffective victim identification procedures, complicating some victims’ access to justice and protective care. Authorities’ insufficient staffing and inspection protocols continued to impede efforts to identify, investigate, and prosecute forced labor on fishing vessels in Taiwan’s highly vulnerable Distant Water Fleet (DWF). Taiwan authorities’ lack of specific labor laws ensuring the rights of migrant domestic caregivers continued to leave thousands vulnerable to exploitation in forced labor.
Increase inspections and, where appropriate, prosecute the senior crew and owners of Taiwan-owned and -flagged as well as Taiwan-owned, foreign-flagged fishing vessels suspected of forced labor in the DWF, including vessels stopping in special foreign docking zones.
Increase efforts to prosecute and convict traffickers under the anti-trafficking law, and sentence convicted traffickers to adequate penalties, which should include significant prison terms.
Expand the mandate of foreign port-based fisheries agency (FA) personnel to include victim-centered screening for forced labor indicators among foreign fishing crewmembers; increase inspector coverage to all authorized overseas ports; train all maritime inspection authorities on victim identification, referral, and law enforcement notification procedures; and expand the availability of interpretation services for such inspections, especially for Bahasa and Tagalog languages.
Formally include civil society input into the labor broker evaluation process.
Amend relevant policies and legislative loopholes to eliminate the imposition of all recruitment, registration, and service fees and deposits on workers, and coordinate with sending countries to monitor and harmonize contract provisions and facilitate direct hiring.
Continue to strengthen efforts to screen for trafficking among vulnerable populations, including foreign students recruited to for-profit universities; individuals returned to Taiwan in connection with alleged overseas criminal activity; and foreign workers falling out of visa status within Taiwan after fleeing abusive working conditions and/or surrendering to immigration authorities, and refer them to protective services.
Enact legislation that would address gaps in basic labor protections for household caregivers and domestic workers, including by instituting a full ban on the retention of migrant workers’ identity and travel documentation.
Extend trafficking victim identification authority to key stakeholder agencies.
Increase resources for and implement anti-trafficking training for police, prosecutors, and judges.
Taiwan authorities increased law enforcement efforts, but they did not sufficiently prioritize the detection, investigation, or prosecution of forced labor crimes in the coastal-offshore or DWF fishing industries. The Human Trafficking Prevention and Control Act (HTPCA) criminalized all forms of trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to seven years’ imprisonment and fines up to 5 million New Taiwan Dollars (NT) ($180,460); these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. HTPCA amendments enacted in 2018 increased penalties to a maximum of one year in prison and a possible fine of 300,000 NT ($10,830) for individuals who, “through recruitment, seduction, shelter, arrangement, assistance, exploitation, or other means, cause a child to act as a host or hostess in a bar or club or engage in acts associated with tour escort and singing or dancing companion services that involve sexual activities.” The amendment prescribed a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment and a possible fine of 1.5 million NT ($54,140) for such crimes committed by means of “violence, coercion, drugs, fraud, hypnosis, or other means violating the free will of the child or youth concerned.” Authorities continued to prosecute the majority of trafficking cases under other laws in the criminal code and the Child and Youth Sexual Exploitation Prevention Act (CYSEPA); some penalties prescribed for child sex trafficking crimes under these laws were not sufficiently stringent or commensurate with other grave crimes, such as rape, although other laws retained appropriate penalties. Authorities prosecuted and convicted some traffickers under criminal code provisions proscribing crimes outside the standard definition of trafficking, such as Article 231 (forced sexual intercourse or obscene acts), Article 296 (“trading or mortgaging of humans”), and Article 302 (false imprisonment), some of which carried lesser penalties.
Authorities reported initiating 99 new criminal trafficking investigations involving 229 alleged perpetrators, including 62 alleged perpetrators of labor trafficking and 167 alleged perpetrators of sex trafficking, compared with 159 total investigations involving 458 alleged perpetrators in 2020. Officials attributed this decrease to reduced law enforcement staffing, strict border controls, and the long-term closure of businesses that facilitated commercial sex as a health precaution during the pandemic. Authorities also continued ongoing investigations of 143 cases involving 341 alleged sex traffickers and 55 alleged labor traffickers initiated in 2020. They newly prosecuted 73 individuals—25 for alleged forced labor and 48 for alleged sex trafficking—compared with 116 new prosecutions in 2020. This figure included 38 individuals indicted under the CYSEPA, six under the HTPCA, and 29 under other laws and sections of the criminal code (compared with 58 under CYSEPA, 15 under HTPCA, and 43 under other laws in 2020). The six individuals indicted under the HTPCA were all charged with labor trafficking (compared with eight charged with sex trafficking and seven charged with labor trafficking in 2020). Authorities convicted 73 traffickers; this included four individuals convicted for forced labor and 69 for sex trafficking (compared with four for forced labor, 45 for sex trafficking, and one for both in 2020). In prior years, authorities ascribed the tendency to impose lenient penalties to Taiwan’s judicial evaluation and promotion system, which reportedly penalized judges if courts granted convicted individuals’ appeals to overturn or shorten their sentences. However, for the fourth consecutive year, sentences imposed on the majority of convicted traffickers (62, compared with at least 43 in 2020) exceeded one year imprisonment. Taiwan authorities investigated five foreign nationals—one each from Republic of Korea and Japan and three from Indonesia—for suspected CYSEPA violations, but they did not report whether these constituted child sex tourism crimes or other forms of exploitation proscribed under CYSEPA (compared with eight investigations in 2020). Authorities did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of officials complicit in human trafficking crimes. Authorities filed charges in a case referred to prosecutors in 2020 involving a Taiwan-based foreign government official suspected of colluding with her Taiwan citizen spouse to recruit three foreign nationals for sex trafficking in Taiwan; the case was awaiting trial at the end of the reporting period. Taiwan’s laws criminalized sexual exploitation of children by Taiwan passport holders traveling abroad. For the first time since 2006, authorities reported indicting one such individual; the case was ongoing at the end of the reporting period. As in prior years, law enforcement bodies and court authorities maintained disparate statistical records on anti-trafficking cases; as such, the true number of trafficking indictments, prosecutions, convictions, and sentences—including those processed through appeals in multiple court systems—may have been higher than reported. Pandemic-related challenges, including widespread infection among officers in some areas, significantly impacted law enforcement anti-trafficking capacity in 2021. The Judicial Yuan also ordered courts at all levels to suspend in-person proceedings or switch to virtual conferencing during periods with high infection rates, thereby constraining prosecutions throughout the year.
Authorities and NGOs noted court personnel perceiving cases as labor disputes rather than trafficking crimes continued to hinder effective prosecution of labor trafficking cases. Ambiguities in HTPCA provisions reportedly complicated implementation in cases where victims received some financial compensation. Other HTPCA provisions protected workers from having to remit “unreasonable payments of debt” to brokers or supervisors; observers expressed concern that these provisions were too vague to effectively prevent debt-based coercion. In 2019, authorities formed an interagency working group to seek civil society input for revising the HTPCA; in December 2021, authorities submitted draft amendments that incorporated this input to the Executive Yuan, where they remained pending at the end of the reporting period. In previous years, labor rights groups alleged some low-level corruption among local officials impeded action against forced labor in the fishing industry, although no such allegations were reported in 2021.
Although pandemic-related restrictions on large gatherings curtailed some training activities, authorities again allocated approximately 1 million NT ($36,090) to train more than 1,500 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges through a wide range of virtual workshops, seminars, and conferences (compared with more than 3,000 officials trained at an estimated cost of 1 million NT, or $36,090, in 2020). Despite coordination obstacles to international law enforcement due to Taiwan’s unique diplomatic status, authorities continued to conduct joint anti-trafficking investigations with several countries, including Kosovo, Montenegro, Paraguay, Serbia, Turkey, and Vietnam. Officials at times closed international investigations submitted by foreign counterparts due to perceived lack of evidence.
The Ministry of Labor (MOL) reported conducting 2,363 inspections of recruitment brokers in 2021 (compared with 2,617 in 2020). Unlike in 2020, authorities reported conducting 111 follow-up investigations based on reports of improper withholding of identity documentation and illegal surcharges; this led to the indictment of eight individuals on human trafficking charges, two of which culminated in convictions (compared with no criminal investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of brokers engaged in illegal acts in 2020). The FA reported conducting unannounced inspections on 112 fishing vessels, including 98 at domestic ports, 12 at foreign ports, and two that were Taiwan-owned and foreign-flagged, interviewing a total of 641 crewmembers (compared with 124 inspections—102 at domestic ports, 20 at foreign ports, and two on the high seas, interviewing a total of 658 crew—in 2020). Observers noted DWF vessels—both Taiwan- and foreign-flagged—spent more time docked in Taiwan’s ports due to the pandemic in 2021. Inspectors uncovered 62 violations relating to contract issues, excessive overtime, physical assault of crewmembers, wage discrepancies, and suspected human trafficking (compared with 141 in 2020). Forty-four of these remained under initial investigation. Authorities referred five of the cases to district prosecutors; continued prosecutorial investigation of two cases; and closed one due to perceived lack of evidence (compared with eight referrals in 2020; three in 2019; and three in 2018). Notably, two of the aforementioned referrals were for cases of suspected trafficking aboard Taiwan-owned, foreign-flagged vessels—a first in recent years.
In previous years, judicial officials noted bureaucratic lags generated by complicated reporting hierarchies impeded timely law enforcement response in maritime trafficking cases, allowing some alleged perpetrators to flee long before the competent authorities could begin formal investigations. In an effort to mitigate these delays, in 2020 Taiwan’s interagency anti-trafficking task force worked with the FA to complete and promulgate a policy granting police and prosecutors the authority to initiate maritime forced labor investigations immediately upon receipt of complaints, rather than following lengthier bureaucratic approval processes; however, authorities did not implement the new procedure in 2021. Civil society groups continued to decry systemic shortcomings in Taiwan’s maritime anti-trafficking law enforcement, evidenced by lack of robust investigations into formal complaints filed by NGOs and human rights watchdogs; they noted FA authorities continued to pass very few NGO-reported cases of potential maritime forced labor to prosecutors, and instead closed the vast majority of investigated allegations with no further action. Civil society observers encouraged Taiwanese law enforcement to apply the same universal jurisdiction principles cited in land-based human trafficking investigations to board and inspect maritime vessels where cases of seafarer abandonment or abuse are suspected. In an effort to increase transparency to the process, in 2021 authorities began inviting civil society representatives to observe FA interviews of migrant fishermen onboard some vessels in local ports; while noting this as a positive step, these NGO personnel observed some practices that may have discouraged victims from reporting abuses, including interviews conducted in close proximity to senior vessel crew. Only seven of the 32 international ports authorized for use by Taiwan DWF vessels had assigned FA inspectors (a decrease from nine in 2020), and observers noted these personnel operated under mandates that were largely limited to fish catch inspection and the detection of environmental abuses, rather than labor abuses. Taiwan’s unique diplomatic status and the pandemic reportedly continued to complicate ongoing Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and FA efforts to continue placing additional personnel in resident FA positions abroad. However, civil society groups continued to urge the FA to position more inspectors at all authorized overseas ports, or else to reduce the number of ports authorized to receive Taiwan-flagged vessels; train FA inspectors to detect labor abuses on board these vessels, including forced labor; and ensure inspectors have access to interpretation services in languages common among the primary seafarer demographics, including Tagalog and Bahasa. Division of responsibility for foreign fishermen between MOL and the FA continued to hinder the coordination necessary to prosecute maritime forced labor cases.
Authorities maintained protection efforts, but implementation of monitoring and referral procedures remained insufficient to adequately identify and provide services to forced labor victims among the foreign crewmembers aboard Taiwan-flagged and -owned and Taiwan- flagged, foreign-owned fishing vessels. Law enforcement authorities used standardized questions and evaluation forms when interviewing and referring potential trafficking victims, including among foreigners accused of having committed immigration violations. In 2021, they identified 221 trafficking victims (164 exploited in sex trafficking and 57 in forced labor), compared with 322 identified in 2020. Authorities attributed this significant decrease in victim identification to strict border controls, reduced law enforcement staffing, and the closure of businesses known for facilitating commercial sex during the pandemic. Of the 221 victims identified, 106 were foreign and 102 were children (compared with 143 and 168, respectively, in 2020). Among the 102 children identified were 24 boys and 71 girls identified in sex trafficking (not disaggregated in 2020). Twenty-six of the forced labor victims were women and seven were girls under the age of 18 (compared with at least 48 women identified in forced labor in 2020). The National Police Agency (NPA) and National Immigration Agency (NIA) each ran its own hotline— the latter in 24-hour operation and offering Mandarin and English language services. Thirty-six calls to the three hotline systems resulted in the positive identification of eight trafficking victims and the initiation of three investigations during the reporting period (compared with 17 victims identified from at least 18 calls received and investigated in 2020). MOL maintained a separate 24-hour migrant worker hotline, from which the FA reported fielding 51 labor rights-related complaints from migrant fishermen (compared with 75 calls in 2020). Authorities resolved 22 of these cases and recovered 875,900 NT in wages ($31,610) (compared with 870,000 NT, or $31,400, recovered from 42 resolved cases in 2020). Unlike the previous year, authorities did not identify any trafficking victims through this hotline. Observers noted crewmembers aboard vessels in the DWF likely had difficulties accessing the MOL hotline due to limited awareness of its existence, lack of cellular service and internet connectivity in remote maritime areas, and restrictions on their communication imposed by senior vessel crew. Some migrant fishermen previously alleged significant lags in hotline response times, and that hotline staff had relayed complaints directly back to senior vessel crew, thereby exposing callers to potential retaliation. Officials reportedly continued to be less proactive in identifying victims of forced labor than victims of sex trafficking due to definitional ambiguities in the HTPCA. By law, only NIA officials, police, and prosecutors could formally identify victims, while the law required MOL, the FA, and other relevant stakeholders to follow notification procedures to report possible victim status. Under this arrangement, prosecutors and judges could also rescind victim designation, thereby restricting survivors’ access to some protection services. NGOs and prosecutors believed many victims went undetected under this arrangement; as such, they continued to advocate for authorities to allow social workers, labor inspectors, and other stakeholders to independently identify victims as well. In an effort to address this recommendation, in August 2021 the NIA established a “Plan for Supporting Investigators during the Identification Stage of Suspected Human Trafficking Cases” that designated 90 social workers, administrative personnel, and staff from labor rights organizations to assist law enforcement in victim identification and case management. However, only one such individual provided consultation during the reporting period. NIA also completed a checklist for improved victim identification, referral, and law enforcement liaison procedures to benefit foreign seafarers on fishing vessels, but authorities had not approved it by the end of the reporting period.
MOL and NIA continued to fund civil society organizations to provide protection services to trafficking victims as outlined under the HTPCA. MOL maintained its annual budget for overall victim protection at 10 million NT ($360,920)— an 8 million NT ($288,740) decrease from 2020 allocated to match the previous year’s total expenditures. NIA allocated 13 million NT ($469,200) for operation of two shelters, equaling its 2020 earmark; both ministries may have redirected some of these funds to pandemic-mitigation activities, although official contacts denied having done so. NIA operated two shelters dedicated to foreign trafficking victims who had not acquired work visas. Citing security concerns, authorities limited shelter access for victims from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to NIA shelters, while other nationals could access a wider array of NGO shelter services. Taiwanese authorities reported referring a total of 89 victims to protection services, including 52 sex trafficking victims and 37 forced labor victims (compared with 83 total referrals in 2020). Officials separately reported 230 victims received some form of protection service from government or government-supported NGOs, including 174 sex trafficking victims and 56 forced labor victims; it was unclear if the aforementioned 89 were included in this figure (unreported in 2020). NIA shelters provided both male and female trafficking victims with medical and psychological services, legal counseling, accompanied interviews, vocational training, small stipends, language interpretation, and repatriation assistance. According to partial data, authorities offered these services to foreign trafficking victims in a total of at least 384 instances, including 186 instances of interpretation assistance and 198 instances of accompanied interviewing (compared with 1,162 instances of service provision, including 517 cases of interpretation assistance and nine instances of legal aid in 2020). Following reports that the requirement to verbally explain their circumstances to shelter providers discouraged some foreign victims from accessing protection services, NIA implemented a new policy requiring shelters to record and translate written victim testimonials in any of four key languages (Bahasa, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese); more than 1,000 shelter residents, many of them trafficking victims, reportedly benefitted from this service in 2021. NIA operated an additional 22 “resettlement institutions,” through which it reportedly provided psychiatric counseling and other consultative services in more than 350 instances during the reporting period.
Taiwan implemented a new policy allowing migrant workers to petition for work permits and/or residency extensions through a third-party intermediary— a step intended to expand these services for migrant workers who were unable to administer these processes on their own. Authorities reported granting foreign victims 65 temporary residency extensions and 78 work permits in 2021 (compared with 58 new temporary residency permits and 69 temporary work permits in 2020). During pandemic-related travel restrictions, they also granted immigration extensions to 78 foreign victims unable to return to their home countries for them to benefit from shelter services and other new forms of assistance, including in special private residences provided as a public health precaution when shelters were deemed unsafe (unreported in 2020). On a case-by-case basis, authorities also allowed foreign victims to extend their prior work and residency permits repeatedly in six-month increments, rather than deporting them. Eight victims who received shelter services in 2021 were foreign nationals in Taiwan without work documentation. NIA officials reportedly worked with shelter organizations to facilitate the repatriation of 10 foreign trafficking victims in 2021, including seven victims of sex trafficking and three victims of forced labor (compared with 17 total in 2020 and 59 in 2019); authorities attributed this decrease to pandemic-related travel and entry restrictions. Authorities encouraged victims to participate in their traffickers’ criminal investigations by conducting video interviews as a public health measure during the pandemic, allowing them to provide written statements for trials, and enabling them to testify through video equipment. They permitted victims to obtain compensation through out-of-court settlements or file civil suits against traffickers but required them to provide all relevant evidence themselves. During the reporting period, four foreign survivors filed civil trafficking suits; district courts concluded two of these cases, awarding a total of 106,000 NT ($3,830) to the victims (compared with four civil suits concluded in favor of plaintiffs with compensation orders totaling more than 7.93 million NT, or $286,210, in 2020). The other two cases remained in process at the end of the reporting period. According to an NIA survey conducted in a prior reporting period, the most common complaints among foreign trafficking victims at the conclusion of their publicly funded protection services involved the quality of legal counseling, the lengthy duration of judicial proceedings, and general difficulty in obtaining compensation from their traffickers.
The FA maintained guidelines on victim identification and law enforcement notification procedures for inspections of fishing vessels operating in both the DWF and in domestic waters; these included updated trafficking indicator questionnaires for migrant fishermen and senior vessel crew intended to detect cases of debt-based coercion, restricted freedom of movement, wage irregularities, physical abuse, retention of travel and identity documents, and other such forced labor indicators. They also outlined specific responsibilities among stakeholder agencies for the proper detection and referral of potential trafficking cases to police, MFA, and/or foreign government counterpart agencies, depending on available evidence. According to NGO observers, some migrant fishermen were hesitant to relay their experiences to the FA or coast guard interviewers due to fear of reprisal and concerns over personal safety.
Taiwan law provided victims with immunity for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. Authorities reportedly screened individuals initially detained for commercial sex acts and positively identified several victims in the process. Unlike the previous reporting period, there were no specific allegations of victim penalization in 2021 (compared with one illustrative case in 2020). However, civil society contacts reported limited or inconsistent understanding of trafficking among front-line law enforcement officers and judges, compounded by high turnover impacting institutional memory, continued to constrain victims’ access to protective care while leaving them vulnerable to temporary detention, fines, and jail time. In 2021, authorities cooperated with the Government of North Macedonia to repatriate 48 Taiwanese individuals who had been subjected to forced criminality in telecommunications fraud schemes there. Authorities did not provide further information on these cases, including as to whether they received adequate protection services. In prior years, Taiwanese law enforcement treated survivors of similar Europe-based forced criminality as both victims and criminals, generating some concern over adherence to victim protection standards.
Authorities increased efforts to prevent trafficking. Taiwan maintained its “2021-2022 Anti-Exploitation Action Plan” outlining steps to prevent sex trafficking and forced labor among key vulnerable groups. A cabinet-level minister-without-portfolio continued to implement the national action plan and oversee an interagency working group that met semiannually. The working group maintained two subgroups—one to focus on domestic workers and the other on migrant fishermen—that convened meetings more frequently and included participation from NGOs and academics. Pandemic-related restrictions prevented some central- and local-level meetings on coordination of prevention efforts. Various agencies continued to fund advertisements, public service announcements, and other materials on trafficking, and held trainings for vulnerable populations, including youth, foreign workers, and fishing sector workers. Due to pandemic-related restrictions on public gatherings, authorities held many publicly funded anti-trafficking information and education campaigns via videoconference.
The FA continued to conduct unannounced inspections of some DWF vessels moored in Taiwanese ports, in foreign ports, and on the high seas; the violations they detected through this process culminated in a total of 14.84 million NT ($535,600) in fines (compared with 18 million NT, or $649,660, in 2020), as well as the three-month annulment of operating licenses in two cases. The authorities required vessel owners or brokers to record videos of mandatory discussions informing all foreign crewmembers of their basic rights prior to signing employment contracts; the FA randomly selected an unspecified number of such video recordings from 54 brokers during the reporting period to screen for compliance with these required discussions and proof of employee consent (compared with 82 recordings from 16 brokers in 2020). Authorities reported an 81 percent compliance rate from this audit but did not provide information on the circumstances of, or consequences for, the 18 percent of cases in violation (compared with 96 percent compliance in 2020).
Taiwan’s Labor Standards Act did not protect fishing workers hired to work aboard DWF vessels, who instead fell under the jurisdiction of the FA. Civil society groups noted overlapping mandates and procedural gaps between the MOL and the FA continued to hinder effective oversight of labor conditions in the fishing industry. The FA maintained regulations that standardized fishing workers’ employment contracts, set a minimum wage with direct payment options, provided medical and life insurance, unified working hours and rest time, and established access to new complaint mechanisms. However, NGOs remained concerned the minimum compensation established in these regulations was below Taiwan’s broader minimum wage, and senior vessel crew continued to delay or withhold salary remittance in violation of contractual pay schedules, leaving some foreign fishing workers vulnerable to debt-based coercion. Civil society activists called for the elimination of all such worker-paid fees and instead advocated for their imposition on the employers of seafarers and land-based migrant workers alike. They also described the FA’s purview over Taiwan fishermen’s associations—which played a role in the approval of labor recruitment systems—as a possible conflict of interest. Observers reported insufficient FA staffing and oversight mechanisms in the DWF were permissive of forced labor and other abuses. In an effort to enhance this oversight, in 2019 authorities agreed to pursue regulatory “harmonization” with the contents of the International Labor Organization’s Work in Fishing Convention (C188); the regulatory language required standardized working conditions and benefits and raised the minimum wage for DWF and coastal-offshore migrant fishermen. However, implementation measures remained under consideration at the end of the reporting period for a third year. In 2020, authorities amended the Regulations on the Approval of Investment in or the Operation of Foreign Flag Fishing Vessels to revoke or deny licensure to Taiwanese individuals who owned foreign-flagged fishing vessels engaged in forced labor; they did not provide information on the implementation of this amendment for the second consecutive year. The FA distributed multilingual cards containing information on worker rights and hotline numbers to foreign crewmembers during unannounced inspections of ships docking at certain foreign ports. It did not provide updates to a 2020 pilot program to provide free satellite-based wireless internet for crew aboard fishing vessels to facilitate contact with family members and channels for communication of labor and safety grievances; labor rights groups noted many seafarers were unable to access complaint mechanisms in the absence of this connectivity.
Notably, during the reporting period the Executive Yuan led an interagency process in consultation with civil society groups to draft and finalize a Fisheries and Human Rights Action Plan that included provisions outlining maximum time at sea; direct payment to crewmembers from Taiwan-based entities in order to eliminate predatory third-party intermediaries based in sending countries; and closed-circuit television onboard vessels to expand oversight of working conditions. Authorities had not yet approved the plan at the end of the reporting period, but civil society groups commended its contents as a significant step toward safeguarding vulnerable seafarers. Additionally, in late 2021 the FA published for comment a draft amendment to the Regulations on the Authorization and Management of Overseas Employment of Foreign Crew Members that would require Taiwan-authorized labor agents to work solely with legally authorized foreign brokers; this remained under review at the close of the reporting period. Authorities required all Taiwan- flagged DWF vessels to have an International Maritime Organization identification number or Lloyd’s Register number to obtain a DWF operating license, and to log these registration numbers along with their radio callsigns, vessel names, license numbers, authorized fishing areas, and crew lists in a standardized FA database for 24-hour monitoring. While many civil society observers lauded this as a positive step, they noted these regulations did not apply to Taiwan-owned, foreign-flagged vessels; they also stressed that increasing the transparency of the vessel monitoring system—particularly by publishing information on vessel ownership and operating location—would significantly improve anti-trafficking coordination between the authorities and maritime labor NGOs. The FA continued to sponsor a national university to conduct a two-year field study on labor rights within the DWF that concluded at the end of the reporting period. The Control Yuan also issued three reports issuing recommendations to the authorities on improving migrant fishermen’s rights. During strict pandemic-related entry bans in the first half of 2021, many migrant seafarers were required by law to remain on their vessels, faced fines if they attempted to come ashore, or transferred to employment on other ships through informal arrangements that may have catalyzed additional trafficking vulnerabilities. Civil society groups expressed public concern that this policy might increase vulnerabilities to trafficking among migrant seafarers stranded on fishing vessels in Taiwanese ports; in response, authorities issued an exemption allowing DWF crewmembers to come ashore for quarantine, medical care, and transfer to new maritime or land-based employers.
An online Direct Hiring Service Center (DHSC) allowed employers to hire foreign workers without utilizing brokers who may charge illegally excessive fees; nearly 5,000 employees and more than 6,000 employers reportedly benefited from this service in 2021 (compared with more than 5,000 and nearly 6,000, respectively, in 2020). In prior years, NGOs noted the DHSC was not used widely enough to significantly reduce brokerage vulnerability. Most employers continued to deem it easier and more expedient to use brokers, and labor rights groups continued to call on the authorities to eliminate legal loopholes that enable excessive fees. Taiwan maintained a broker evaluation system initiated in 2015 that could revoke the business licenses of low-scoring brokerage firms and impose fines for certain violations, including imposition of illegal fees. In 2021, the MOL fined 159 brokers for charging illicit fees, reporting false information, failing to safeguard migrant workers’ rights, and operating illegal recruitment systems— a significant increase from 12 brokers fined in 2020. The FA also reported using a similar evaluation system to conduct annual reviews 54 authorized DWF recruitment agencies (compared with 49 in 2020), of which it suspended three (compared with one suspension and one license revocation in 2020). Authorities did not fine any DWF recruitment agencies in 2021 (compared with three receiving fines of 1 million NT, or $36,090, in 2020; two in 2019; four in 2018; and six in 2017). Civil society observers continued to express concern the evaluation system could not be sufficiently objective or accurate in detecting abuses, including forced labor, because the authorities provided brokers with advance notification prior to inspections. Some recruitment agencies were able to circumvent accountability through this system by falsifying worker data during self-evaluations, and by voluntarily shutting down their operations and re-opening under a different agency name and license. Human rights NGOs claimed the system would be more effective with unannounced inspections; if the authorities granted NGOs a role in the formal approval and licensure review process; and if the authorities worked in closer concert with counterparts in sending countries to ensure protections inherent to recruitment practices and contract provisions were sufficient. Authorities continued to operate international airport service counters and foreign-worker service stations around Taiwan to assist foreign workers and educate them on their rights. MOL maintained regulations to impose fines between 60,000 NT and 300,000 NT ($2,170 – $10,830) for employers who illegally dock migrant workers’ pay; authorities did not report implementing this policy for the second consecutive year.
NGOs and official stakeholders continued to stress the need for Taiwan to pass a long-stalled domestic worker protection bill that would mandate hours of rest, days off, and annual leave. Amendments to the Employment Services Act that entered into force in 2018 required employment agencies to report abuses their clients committed against migrant workers—especially foreign household caregivers—or face severe fines. The amendments also banned employers from retaining passports, work permits, or any identity documents of migrant domestic workers and fishermen without their consent. Civil society groups continued to argue these amendments were insufficient to deter forced labor, as employers were reportedly easily able to coerce migrant workers into “voluntarily” turning over their identity documentation. Lawmakers reported easing respite care regulations in 2018 to encourage employers to grant workers annual leave, ostensibly mitigating a key freedom of movement concern for migrant workers employed as household caregivers. However, NGOs previously claimed these administrative changes did little to enhance migrant domestic worker protections in implementation; instead, they continued to call for an amendment to bring migrant domestic workers under the broader protections and jurisdictions outlined in Taiwan’s Labor Standards Act, or to adopt and implement new legislation to enhance relevant protections.
In 2021, Taiwan added provisions to the draft HTPCA amendment that would prohibit persons or companies convicted of human trafficking crimes from participating in public procurement processes, being awarded public contracts, or receiving work as a subcontractor on a public procurement contact for five years; this amendment remained under review in the beginning of 2022. Despite Taiwan’s unique diplomatic status, it maintained bilateral trafficking memorandums of understanding with 22 foreign countries. It also entered into law enforcement coordination agreements that included anti-trafficking equities with four new countries in 2021—Belize, Nauru, Poland, and Slovakia. Some bilateral agreements did not outline adequate screening for forced labor aboard Taiwan-owned and -flagged or Taiwan- owned, foreign-flagged fishing vessels docking at certain designated foreign vessel harbor areas. Authorities made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, including through Tourism Bureau awareness campaigns and industry training sessions.
As reported over the last five years, human traffickers subject foreign men and women to forced labor and sex trafficking in Taiwan, and they subject local men and women to forced labor and local women and children to sex trafficking. Traffickers also subject Taiwanese people to forced labor in some European countries. Taiwanese traffickers increasingly use the internet, smartphone apps, livestreaming, and other such online technologies to conduct recruitment activities, often targeting child victims, and to mask their identities from law enforcement. Taiwanese traffickers also exploit persons with disabilities in sex trafficking.
Traffickers lure women from the PRC and Southeast Asian countries to Taiwan through fraudulent marriages and deceptive employment offers for purposes of sex trafficking. Many trafficking victims are migrant workers from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and, to a lesser extent, individuals from the PRC, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka. Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Thai nationals continue to represent the majority of foreign sex trafficking and forced labor victims in Taiwan. Taiwan is host to nearly 700,000 foreign workers, most of whom are hired in their home countries through recruitment agencies and brokers—including some from Taiwan—to perform low-skilled work as home caregivers and domestic workers (34 percent), or in farming, manufacturing, meat processing, construction, and fishing. In order to pay brokers’ often exorbitantly high recruitment fees and deposits, some foreign workers incur substantial debts, which the brokers or employers use as tools of coercion to obtain or retain their labor. After recruitment fee and guarantee deposit repayments are garnished from their wages, many foreign workers in Taiwan earn significantly less than the minimum wage. Foreign workers who leave their contracted positions—more than 55,000 at any given time—are at particularly high risk of trafficking because they lose their immigration status and access to formal sector employment; some of them initially flee due to abusive work conditions, including forced labor. Domestic workers and home caregivers are also especially vulnerable to exploitation, since they often live in their employers’ residences, making it difficult to monitor their working and living conditions. One NGO survey found that 90 percent of all migrant domestic caregivers have their travel and identity documents withheld by their employers, constituting a significant freedom of movement concern. Brokers in Taiwan sometimes assist employers in forcibly deporting “problematic” foreign employees should they complain, enabling brokers to fill the empty positions with new foreign workers facing continued debt-based coercion. Some traffickers use Indonesian-owned stores in Taiwan as illegal remittance channels, confining Indonesian workers and subjecting them to sex trafficking. Traffickers reportedly take advantage of relaxed visa requirements under Taiwan’s “New Southbound Policy” to lure Southeast Asian students and tourists to Taiwan and subject them to forced labor and sex trafficking. According to NGOs, a large number of for-profit universities in Taiwan aggressively recruit foreign students and subsequently place them into exploitative labor conditions under the pretense of educational opportunities. These students are often unaware of the work component prior to arrival and reportedly experience contract switching, excessive working hours, and poor living conditions contrary to their original agreements. University students from Sri Lanka and Eswatini who traveled to Taiwan under similarly deceptive circumstances have been subjected to coerced labor with extremely harsh working conditions in slaughterhouses and meat processing factories.
Documented and undocumented PRC, Indonesian, Filipino, and Vietnamese fishermen working on Taiwan-owned and -flagged and Taiwan-owned, foreign-flagged fishing vessels have experienced non- or under-payment of wages, long working hours, physical abuse, lack of food or medical care, denial of sleep, substandard safety equipment, and poor living conditions while indebted to complex, multinational brokerage networks through the continued imposition of recruitment fees and deposits. Migrant fishermen have reported senior crewmembers employ such coercive tactics as threats of physical violence, beatings, withholding of food and water, retention of identity documents, wage deductions, and non-contractual compulsory sharing of vessel operational costs to retain their labor. These abuses are particularly prevalent in Taiwan’s DWF, comprising 1,140 Taiwan-owned and -flagged fishing vessels, as well as on 230 Taiwan-owned, foreign-flagged fishing vessels operating thousands of miles from Taiwan and without adequate oversight. According to FA estimates, approximately 8,000 Filipinos and more than 20,000 Indonesians work onboard DWF vessels. Senior crew force migrant workers to fish illegal stock, including threatened, endangered, and protected species, placing them at higher risk of criminal repercussions. Many ships remain at sea for years at a time, selectively disabling their transponders and stopping at “refrigeration mother ships” or remote, uninhabited islands to resupply, transfer victims to other ships, and offload illegally caught fish while avoiding detection by law enforcement. Vessel owners and operators take advantage of maritime jurisdictional complexities and ambiguities to perpetrate these crimes with relative impunity; they also frequently change their fishing vessel’s names and nationalities of registry to evade detection by law enforcement. Some migrant fishermen subjected to forced labor onboard international fishing vessels transit Taiwanese ports, especially Kaohsiung, en route to other maritime locations. Taiwan’s pandemic-related entry restrictions have at times compounded trafficking vulnerabilities for migrant fishermen stranded on board vessels beyond the length of their original contracts, placing them at risk of being “sold” to other recruitment agencies through unregulated channels. Some Taiwan-based labor brokerage firms reportedly supply fishing vessels operating under the auspices of the PRC’s highly vulnerable DWF with migrant workers as well. Traffickers in several European countries lure Taiwanese men and women with false promises of high-paying employment opportunities and then subject them to illegal confinement and forced criminality in telephone scams. There are reports that the Taiwanese managers of some foreign-based companies in Lesotho subject local workers to conditions indicative of forced labor.