TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The number of Vietnamese attempting to illegally enter Taiwan has increased this year, with the Coast Guard having intercepted boats attempting to smuggle them in on two separate occasions in the first half of 2020 — one on March 20 involving 31 Vietnamese nationals and the other on July 6 involving 30, according to a Liberty Times report on Wednesday (July 8).
Most of the illegal Vietnamese immigrants came from rural northern Vietnam and paid high fees to be smuggled to Taiwan.
Huang Shih-hsien (黃世賢), deputy chief of the Investigation Branch of the Coast Guard Administration, said Wednesday that almost all of these illegal immigrants had once worked in Taiwan legally but were deported because they had either overstayed their visas or run away from their employers before their contracts had expired. In order to reenter Taiwan, they first snuck across the China-Vietnam border to Guangdong Province with the help of human smugglers, then boarded Chinese fishing boats before transferring to Taiwanese fishing vessels in the Taiwan Strait.
In the past, Vietnamese nationals had to pay US$7,000 apiece in order to be smuggled to Taiwan, but due to the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the price has gone up to US$10,000 — a large amount for farmers in northern Vietnam, many of whom had to spend all their savings or borrow from family and friends in order to make the trip, per Liberty Times.
Last year, each of the boats caught trying to smuggle in Vietnamese carried just over 10 illegal immigrants each, Huang continued. However, he noted that each of this year's ill-fated operations involved three times that number.
The latest bust happened 10.4 nautical miles off the coast of Linbian Township in Pingtung County on July 6 at 11:50 p.m., when the boat transporting 7 women and 23 men was intercepted, according to the report.
The boat owner, surnamed Tsai (蔡), said he was paid NT$100,000 (US$3,393) to transport them to Taiwan from the middle of the Taiwan Strait.
The Coast Guard said that among the 30 Vietnamese, 29 had previously worked in Taiwan and most had no criminal record in the country. No longer eligible for employment in Taiwan, they had chosen to enter illegally, first passing through China's Fukien Province and then taking a fishing boat bound for the Taiwan Strait, where they transferred to Tsai's vessel.