14 years a slave - migrant workers held by human trafficker

Four rescued from tofu factory in Kaohsiung

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Kaohsiung police raided a dried tofu factory and rescued four migrant workers who had been held against their will for up to 14 years and worked 15 hours every day.

An Indonesian woman named Fan told the police that she came to Taiwan to work as a caregiver initially, but when she arrived at the airport, someone sold her to a dried tofu factory where she worked illegally. She said her employer had been keeping her locked inside on the second floor of the factory without any days off for almost 14 years.

Fan accused the employer of keeping her and three other migrant workers' ID, forcing them to work from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day with no days off or overtime pay.

Two Indonesians, a Vietnamese and a Filipino were reported as escaped migrant workers by their broker, who deceived them into paying brokerage fees to stay in Taiwan with no exit requirement.

The Indonesian worker bought a cell phone from her Taiwanese coworker and texted her husband who is in Indonesia to call the police. She was finally rescued earlier this month.

The employer and broker are charged with human trafficking, with a police request of increasing their penalty in order to eradicate inhumane treatment, human trafficking and illegal labor.

According to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in 2015, most trafficking victims in Taiwan are migrant workers from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, as most of Taiwan's over 550,000 migrant workers are hired in their home countries through recruitment agencies and brokers, who charged them exorbitantly high recruitment fees, resulting in substantial debts used by brokers or employers as tools of coercion to obtain or retain their labor.

Brokers in Taiwan often assist employers in forcibly deporting “problematic” foreign employees should they complain; this enables the broker to fill the empty positions with new foreign workers and continually use debt bondage to control the work force.

Documented and undocumented migrant workers, mostly from mainland China, Indonesia, and Vietnam, have experienced indicators of trafficking on Taiwan fishing vessels including non- or underpayment of wages, long working hours, physical abuse, lack of food, and poor living conditions, according to the report.