Prosecution of Trafficking in Taiwan: Why the Country Is a Standout
By Mitzi Perdue
The U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report ranks countries according to how effectively they are combatting human trafficking. The rankings range from:
• Tier One, countries that are working hard and effectively to acknowledge and combat human trafficking
• Tier Two, countries that are making significant progress towards achieving Tier One status
• Tier Three, those that are not making significant efforts or progress in combatting human trafficking
If you look at the Wikipedia map of how countries are doing according to this ranking, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trafficking_in_Persons_Report an interesting fact appears about Taiwan. On this map, Taiwan is a bright green Tier One Country.
Almost all of the countries nearby, are either yellow, signifying Tier Two, or a bright red, signifying Tier Three.
What Is Taiwan Doing to Be Such a Standout?
According to Dr. Jenwha Ma, recently retired Deputy Head of Criminal Investigation Bureau, National Police Agency who currently work as Chief Security Officer in a Taiwanese enterprise, “The country has made prosecution it’s number one priority.”
Making prosecution the number one priority has some immediate practical consequences. The crime of trafficking too often goes unpunished because it’s often difficult to get the victims to testify. In the absence of consequences, trafficking flourishes.
Increasing the Odds of Being Prosecuted
Taiwan has laws and systems for increasing the odds that a trafficker will pay a price. For example:
In the past, when a trafficking victim was rescued, he or she might never testify against the trafficker. That’s because the trafficker could see to it that the victim was spirited out of the country before testifying. Today, law enforcement in Taiwan, works with the Taiwanese Immigration Department to ensure that the victim stays in the country until he or she has testified.
Incidentally the problem just described happens in the United States, and Jeffrey Epstein is the classic example. In the case of the original prosecution of Jeffrey Epstein, one of the several reasons he got an absurdly lenient sentence was, most of the witnesses were moved overseas and were therefore unavailable to prosecutors.
Taiwan works to ensure that Epstein-type miscarriages of justice don’t happen. Keeping potential witnesses in the country is one reason prosecution of traffickers is becoming more effective.
Another problem for law enforcement is, frequently a trafficked person may not speak the country’s language. To counteract this, members of Taiwanese law enforcement go out of their way to ensure that interpreters are available whether the victim speaks, Japanese or Thai or Indonesian or any other language.
Still another problem with prosecuting traffickers is, where does the victim stay while waiting to testify? In the case of a prostituted girl, she may have no other marketable skills, and since she needs food and a roof over her head, she is at risk of being re-trafficked.
Taiwan has an answer for this also. “In Taiwan,” says Dr. Ma, “we have safe housing run by the Immigration Agency. We call them ‘Protection Centers.’”
“While at the Protection Center,” continues Ma, “we look out for their welfare, and we give them occupational training.” A stay in a Protection Center could last several months depending on the trial date and also depending on diplomatic arrangements between Taiwan and the country they were trafficked from.
According to statistics from Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior, the total number of human trafficking cases in 2018 was 133. Of these, sexual exploitation accounted for 71% and labor exploitation 29%
“Each case may have more than one person involved and arrested,” points out Ma, “The total number of suspects involved in the 133 cases is 433 individuals.”
Dr. Ma’s statistic of 433 individuals is an impressive one because these are the people doing the trafficking. Word spreads among the traffickers that there are consequences, usually in the form of jail time. Prosecutions mean some people are put away and therefore not continuing to abuse their victims. For other traffickers, the reality that they may be prosecuted is a deterrent.
Cooperation between Taiwan and the US
Dr. Ma is pleased with the close cooperation between the US and Taiwan law enforcement agencies in fighting against international sexual and labor exploitation. The two countries cooperate on exchanging information.
He wishes, however, that Taiwan could be a member of Interpol. Interpol is currently unavailable to Taiwan since the United Nations doesn’t recognize Taiwan as a nation separate from China. “This is a big problem,” explains Ma, “since it keeps us from cooperating with many countries. It means we are not in the ring of information, and we are late in receiving tips, whether about drugs or human trafficking.”
He wishes this would change.
Mitzi Perdue is a business owner, speaker. and author of the book, 52 Tips for Combatting Human Trafficking. Contact her at Mitzi@MitziPerdue.com or call her at 410 860-4444.