36 Vietnamese stowaways came from China, tested for coronavirus

Five more Vietnamese illegal migrant workers captured in southern Taiwan

Five more stowaways captured on Sept. 16.

Five more stowaways captured on Sept. 16. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As five more Vietnamese stowaways trying to illegally immigrate to Taiwan were captured on Wednesday (Sept. 16), news surfaced that they had transited from China and were tested for the Wuhan coronavirus after some showed symptoms.

On Tuesday (Sept. 15), as the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) closed in on fishing vessel Chin Shun Man (金順滿號) off the coast of Kenting in Pingtung County, passengers wearing life jackets jumped overboard and swam to the shoreline.

The officers discovered that some of the passengers were swimming to shore at Dingbaisha. The patrol boats soon arrested the Vietnamese citizens still onboard as well as five crew members (two Taiwanese and three Philippine nationals), including the captain.

By the end of the day, a total of 28 Vietnamese nationals had been arrested. However, according to the captain, surnamed Chen (陳), a total of 36 Vietnamese stowaways had originally been on the ship.

Early on Wednesday morning, five more Vietnamese stowaways were arrested in an abandoned bunker on the north side of Baisha Bay in Kenting, bringing the total number of persons captured to 33, including 18 men and 15 women, according to CNA.

Vietnamese man being screened for the coronavirus. (CNA photo)

When police questioned Chen, 40, and the vessel's chief engineer Tsai (蔡), 46, they said the Vietnamese had first taken a Chinese vessel from Fujian, China, before boarding their ship in the Taiwan Strait. Each passenger had paid NT$10,000.

However, the two men denied any knowledge of who was involved in the human smuggling network that brought them to China or who would transport them once they arrived in Taiwan. After being questioned by police, the Taiwanese and Philippine crew members were transferred to the Pingtung District Prosecutor's Office to be investigated for violating the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法).

One of the Vietnamese stowaways was found to have a fever, while another was suffering from abdominal pains, reported UDN. Both were tested for the coronavirus and sent to a hospital to undergo treatment.

Rapid coronavirus tests for both patients have come back negative, and the results of more comprehensive tests are still pending. Their symptoms have reportedly already improved after receiving medical treatment.

According to an initial investigation, most of the stowaways had worked in Taiwan previously and had been repatriated after overstaying their visas or working illegally in the country. As the pay for the same jobs in Vietnam is said to be less than in Taiwan, the workers were willing to gamble on such a perilous cross-strait journey.