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Anti-human trafficking efforts garner praise at int'l workshop

TAIPEI--Speakers at an international anti-human trafficking workshop being held in Taipei yesterday praised Taiwan for its efforts to combat human trafficking in recent years.

Guests from Australia, Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia gathered at the one-day workshop, organized by Taiwan's National Immigration Agency (NIA), to discuss forced labor issues and their efforts in cracking down on human trafficking.

Brent Christensen, deputy director of the Taipei Office of the American Institute in Taiwan, said Taiwan has achieved “significant improvements” in its efforts to combat human trafficking in recent years.

“For example, it has imposed heavier penalties on human traffickers, stepped up education of its prosecutors and judges, and established multilanguage hotlines for foreign workers to report illegal conduct,” Christensen said in Chinese.

He added that the United States supports the passing of a domestic workers protection act in Taiwan, which would extend protection to the nearly 200,000 foreign domestic workers and caregivers in the country and an unknown number of Taiwanese nationals.

Vice President Wu Den-yih said at the opening of the workshop that Taiwan has adopted and implemented two United Nations human rights covenants in 2009.

It has also received a Tier 1 ranking in the Trafficking in Persons Report compiled by the U.S. Department of State for three consecutive years since 2010, he said, which he described as the result of a joint effort between people from Taiwan and abroad.

The NIA said it hopes the workshop, attended by over 100 participants, will enhance collaboration between the Taiwanese government and international NGOs.

Political Commitment Key to Tackling Trafficking: Expert

An anti-human trafficking expert from Australia said yesterday in Taipei that political commitment, instead of massive resources, is the key to improving labor exploitation and human trafficking conditions.

“Not everything requires massive resources,” Anne Gallagher, who was named a 2102 Trafficking in Persons Report Hero by the U.S. government, said on the sidelines of an international workshop on strategies for combating human trafficking.

“I really believe if there is a genuine political will behind improving the situation of domestic foreign workers in Taiwan, and the law is part of that, it will happen,” Gallagher said.

The lawyer and scholar was asked what suggestions she would make on the issue to Taiwan's government, which has drafted a law to protect domestic workers and caregivers in the country but lacks law enforcement officers and resources to carry out labor inspections.

“The enforcement will always be a problem,” Gallagher said but added that it was equally important to raise the awareness of migrant workers and give them contacts to which they can reach out.

Taiwan should also not feel constrained by its lack of mutual legal assistance with most countries because of its diplomatic plight because a lot of informal cooperation can also take place, Gallagher said.

Taiwanese law enforcement agencies can reach out to more of their counterparts in human trafficking countries of origin, Gallagher said, noting that a lot of intelligence can “flow back and forth” when these agencies trust and understand each other's work.

Taiwan can also do more to tackle the problem of labor recruitment agencies that often overcharge foreign laborers, said Gallagher, leader of the Asia Regional Trafficking in Persons Project that is funded by the Australian Agency for International Development.

“This is a difficult area to regulate, but I think if Taiwan can advance in that direction that would really provide some good lessons for other countries where this kind of reform is needed,” Gallagher said.

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