US envoy calls for end to migrant worker service fees in Taiwan

US envoy advises ending recruitment fees, service fees, deposits for migrant workers in Taiwan

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(CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In a pre-recorded message released Tuesday (Sept. 1), a U.S. envoy called on Taiwan to put an end to recruitment fees, service fees, and deposits for migrant workers.

In a video shown at the 2020 International Workshop on Combating Human Trafficking, which was held in Taipei on Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking-in-Persons John Cotton Richmond praised Taiwan's successes in battling human trafficking, noting the country had received a Tier 1 ranking on the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report for 11 consecutive years. However, he said traffickers in Taiwan still use a number of methods to exploit migrant caregivers, laborers, and foreign seafarers.

Richmond pointed out that some of Taiwan's 700,000 home caregivers and domestic workers incur large debts to recruitment brokers in either their home countries or Taiwan and that these debts are used by traffickers to coerce them into labor. He also cited a survey that found that 90 percent of domestic caregivers have had their travel and identity documents withheld by their employers in order to force them to work longer hours, while fishery workers face nonpayment or underpayment for long periods at sea.

Based on conversations with migrant workers about these issues as well as with Minister without Portfolio Lo Ping-Cheng (羅秉成), head of Taiwan’s interagency Trafficking in Persons (TIP) taskforce, Richmond gave a number of recommendations on prosecution, protection, and prevention.

In terms of prosecution, Richmond recommended increasing inspections of fishing vessels, implementing policies to expedite investigations into forced labor at sea, and utilizing a standardized database system to track all Taiwan-owned and Taiwan-flagged fishing vessels and their foreign crews. To better protect victims, he suggested training maritime inspection authorities in "victim identification, referral to care, and notification of law enforcement procedures."

As for prevention, he advised Taiwan to halt the operation of abusive recruitment agencies by allowing civil society groups to take part in the licensure process. He then declared: "Taiwan should ban recruitment agencies and employers from charging foreign workers recruitment fees, service fees, or deposits — and they should enforce the ban. Employers should bear these costs."

Richmond also called for a full ban on employers retaining workers' identity and travel documents. "Employers just should not keep their employees’ important documents," he said.