Deputy Director of National Immigration Agency (NIA) in Taiwan, Steven Wu, said that placing victims of human trafficking in detention centers is to protect them from criminals.
Wu made the remarks during yesterday's digital video conference on "Protection of Trafficking Victims" organized by the American Institute in Taiwan. Wu was responding to comments by Father Peter O'Neill of the Catholic Hope Worker's Center, which operates shelters for migrant workers and human trafficking victims, that the government should not keep the victims that they have identified in detention centers.
O'Neill said that the government should send the victims to shelters operated by non-governmental organizations such as his, citing U.N. protocol. The United Nations' recommended guidelines on the rights of human trafficking victims was presented during the conference by American University, Washington professor Janie Chuang from Washington D.C. According to the guidelines, governments should provide shelter to protect victims of human trafficking at the identification stage, but not in immigration detention facilities. Wu said that the government will work on persuading the victims to stay in Taiwan to help the prosecution of human traffickers in order to prevent further flow of human trafficking.
Wu said that the government will take a "social worker" attitude rather than that of a police when investigating possible cases of forced marriages involving foreign brides. Taiwan has been a common target of human smuggling operations originating from countries in southeast Asia and mainland China, often under the guise of marriages to Taiwan citizens.
On Wednesday, 51 suspects were arrested in Keelung for smuggling Indonesian girls into Taiwan using false marriage certificates. Police rescued 35 Indonesian girls, who were arranged by the human smuggling ring to work in small restaurants and as caregivers for families who could not hire legal foreign caregivers. The girls said that they had to work 18 hours a day with no days off, and said that they were beaten when they did not obey orders from the ring leaders.
An organization for the protection of human trafficking victims said that in that particular case, the group had to request that the newly established National Immigration Agency make arrangements on providing shelter for the Indonesian girls. O'Neill said that his organization has met with officials in Thailand and that the Thai government has set up a program preventing underground labor trafficking and sex trafficking to Taiwan. NIA will hold an international conference for human trafficking on April 12, 2007.
Adapted from: Stephen Che. "NIA: Trafficking victims detained for protection." The China Post. 24 March 2007.
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