Washington, DC - The U.S. State Department released its 2021 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report last Thursday, maintaining Taiwan at Tier 1 for the twelfth consecutive year despite ongoing concerns around human trafficking in the fishing industry. Taiwan’s distant water fishing industry has been implicated in numerous investigations and reports for labor trafficking and the government has failed to sufficiently address this problem. In 2020, Taiwan was added to the U.S. Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor for fish products and Taiwanese vessels were subject to multiple trade bans by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The Taiwanese fishing industry supplies seafood companies around the world, including well-known canned tuna brands in U.S. and EU markets.
In April, the Seafood Working Group -- a global coalition of 30 labor, human rights, and environmental organizations -- submitted comments to the U.S. Department of State recommending that Taiwan be downgraded to Tier 2. The working group noted that Taiwan had not met the minimum standards set forth in the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.
Despite the 2021 TIP Report finding that “Taiwan authorities fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking”, it includes detailed evidence and examples of the Taiwan government’s shortcomings in addressing forced labor and human trafficking in the fishing sector, such as:
- 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 increased law enforcement efforts, but they did not commit adequate resources to or sufficiently prioritize the detection, investigation, or prosecution of forced labor crimes in the coastal-offshore or DWF fishing industries.
- Authorities increased protection efforts, but the 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.
- Only nine of the 32 international ports authorized for use by Taiwan DWF vessels had assigned FA [Fisheries Agency] inspectors (an increase from eight in 2019), and observers noted this personnel operated under mandates that were largely limited to detection of environmental abuses, rather than labor abuses.
- Some migrant fishermen have alleged significant lags in hotline response times, and that hotline staff had relayed expressed complaints directly back to senior vessel crew, thereby exposing callers to potential retaliation.
- Authorities also allowed migrant workers with residence permits that had been expired for less than 90 days to renew these permits and avoid deportation through payment of a fine. However, this relief did not apply to migrant seafarers, many of whom were required to remain on their vessels, face fines if they attempted to come ashore, or transfer to employment on other ships through informal arrangements that may have catalyzed additional trafficking vulnerabilities.
In response to the news, Yi-Hsiang Shih, Secretary-General of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), commented:
“There is a systematic governance failure in Taiwan’s foreign labor policy towards the distant water fishing industry, and this is the main reason why migrant fishermen are likely to become victims of forced labor and human trafficking. However, Taiwan was still listed as a Tier 1 country in this TIP report, resulting in the Taiwanese government celebrating its achievement in maintaining the minimum standard, and lacking the determination to solve the problem.”
Andy Shen, Greenpeace USA Senior Oceans Advisor, commented:
“Taiwan’s Tier 1 ranking is not justified and risks misleading U.S. corporate buyers,
investors, and consumers who look to the TIP report for guidance on their purchasing and investment decisions. The U.S. Department of Labor List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor continues to include Taiwan for seafood harvested by forced labor in its distant water fishing fleet. While the State Department lists Taiwan as Tier 1, its own analysis finds that forced labor is prevalent in its fisheries sector and the government has failed to take sufficient action to address the crime. All stakeholders, especially U.S. buyers and investors, must remain vigilant and continue treating Taiwan’s distant water fisheries as a high-risk sector.”
Lennon Yin-Dah Wong, Director of the Dept. of Policies on migrant workers at Serve the People Association (SPA), commented:
“It’s really regrettable that the U.S. government granted Taiwan the Tier 1 status for twelve years despite the constant reports of severe, systematic violations of the human rights of migrant workers. The most fundamental root cause of the exploitation of migrant workers in Taiwan is excessive brokers’ fees and the debt bondage resulting from it, as well as the “zero fee from the manufacturing employers”. These issues have never even been openly recognized and targeted by the Taiwan government, not to mention the lack of enforcement and protection afforded to migrant fishermen and domestic workers. It is systematic negligence on the part of the Taiwan government that perpetuates forced labor and human trafficking of migrant workers. If a country that is failing this poorly is able to meet the minimum standards of the TIP Office, then what does this say about the credibility of the TIP Report?
Rev. Peter Nguyen Van Hung, Director of the Vietnamese Migrant Workers and Immigrants Office (VMWIO), commented:
“The 2021 TIP Report again ranks Taiwan at Tier 1. Such an award helps Taiwan’s image internationally, yet it harms many fishermen, domestic workers and migrant workers in hazardous jobs. Forced labor has caused so many physical and psychological wounds in the lives of numerous victims. Regarding the TIP Report’s ‘Prioritized Recommendations’, which focus overwhelmingly on the fishing sector, one discovers the hypocrisy in Taiwan’s ranking. Taiwan’s flaws in addressing these issues should be honestly acknowledged to pave the way for change.”
Alison Lee, Secretary-General of Yilan Migrant Fishermen Union (YMFU), commented:
“While Tier 1 is the highest ranking in the U.S. TIP Report, it is essentially the minimum standard. Maybe this is why Taiwan managed to be rated as a Tier 1 country for twelve consecutive years despite its notoriety around the world. The Tier 1 ranking has been widely regarded by Taiwanese NGOs as an impediment for the Taiwanese government to strengthen its anti-trafficking efforts, as the government has been ‘celebrating’ its ‘achievements’ in maintaining the minimum standards.”
Yuton Lee, Greenpeace Taiwan Campaigner, commented:
“For years, forced labor and human trafficking in Taiwan’s distant water fisheries have been specified in U.S. Department of State’s TIP Reports, and this year is no exception. Complaints about alleged exploitation of migrant fishers on Taiwan's distant water fishing vessels have been received and exposed by Greenpeace since 2019; however, as professional labor inspections are absent for distant water vessels and the discriminatory two-tiered employment system continues to exist, migrant fishermen remain highly vulnerable. Taiwan authorities’ failure to conduct critical legal reforms and adopt relevant international conventions further reveal its reluctance to change. Therefore, we strongly believe that Taiwan did not meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.”
Kimberly Rogovin, Senior Seafood Campaign Coordinator for Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF), commented:
“Maintaining Taiwan at Tier 1 in the 2021 TIP Report does not reflect well-documented trends in the fishing sector as reported by frontline organizations. This status is also not consistent with the U.S. Department of Labor’s decision to include Taiwan in its ‘List of Goods Produced by Child and Forced Labor’ for Taiwan-caught fish. For too long, migrant workers in Taiwan’s fisheries have suffered egregious abuse due to a discriminatory legal framework and lack of access to unions for distant water fishers. We urge the Taiwan government to end the two-tiered employment system and ensure all fishers can exercise rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining to prevent forced labor and labor trafficking concerns.”
Photo Credit: Rerum Novarum
【2021年7月8日臺北】海內外10個NGO共同舉辦國際記者會，針對美國國務院上週發布《2021年人口販運問題報告》(TIP Report) ，維持臺灣名列第一級，表示不認同。多項調查和報告中指出臺灣的遠洋漁業涉及人口販運，但政府始終未能充分改善問題。 去年，臺灣遠洋漁獲首次被列入美國勞動部的《童工與強迫勞動製品清單》，臺灣船隻也被美國海關暨邊境保護局（CBP）發出暫扣令。此外，臺灣漁獲銷售到世界各地，包括美國和歐盟市場上知名的鮪魚罐頭品牌，正因如此，漁業中的強迫勞動與人口販運行為必須立即處理。
今年四月，由全球30個勞工、人權和環境組織組成的「海鮮工作倡議聯盟」向美國國務院提交一份報告，指出臺灣並未符合美國 2000 年《人口販運受害者保護法》規定的最低標準，因此建議將臺灣降為第二級。事實上，今年的人口販運報告列舉多項臺灣政府在打擊漁業中的強迫勞動和人口販運問題的不足，例如：
- 臺灣遠洋漁船可停靠的 32 個國際港口中，只有 9 個港口設有檢查員，很大程度上僅限於檢查非法漁業或破害環境等事項，缺乏勞動相關檢查。
越南移工移民辦公室主任Rev. Peter Nguyen Van Hung表示「今年的人口販運報告再次將臺灣列為第一級，有助於臺灣在國際上的形象，但卻傷害了許多從事危險工作的漁工、家事移工和許多外籍移工。 強迫勞動給無數受害者的生活帶來許多身心創傷。 報告中的「優先建議」，主要集中在漁業領域，也呈現臺灣在排名上的虛偽。臺灣政府應該誠實面對處理這些問題的不足，才能積極改進。」
國際勞工權益基金會（GLJ-ILRF）資深海鮮倡議協調人Kimberly Rogovin表示「將臺灣維持在第一級，並未反映在第一線服務的相關組織之觀察，也與美國勞動部決定將臺灣遠洋漁獲列入《童工與強迫勞動製品清單》的決定不符。 長期以來，由於歧視性的法律框架，以及遠洋外籍漁工缺乏加入工會的管道，漁工遭到嚴重的剝削。我們呼籲臺灣政府應結束管理外籍漁工的雙軌制，確保所有漁工都能行使結社自由和集體談判的權利，以防止強迫勞動和人口販運問題。」
綠色和平／陳瓊妤，0987-060-898，mchen [at] greenpeace.org
台灣人權促進會／施逸翔，0920-719-347，riverrain308 [at] tahr.org.tw
Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum
Humanity Research Consultancy
新事社會服務中心（Rerum Novarum Center）
勵馨基金會（The Garden of Hope Foundation）