Monday, April 16, 2007

US/Taiwan: Human Trafficking Likely to Worsen

TAIPEI, TAIWAN: Once billed as merely a challenge to the government, human trafficking has snowballed to the point of "threatening national security" amid a surge in the number of foreigners who go missing after arriving in Taiwan, immigration experts said yesterday, adding that the crisis will likely worsen as the government fumbles in its efforts to fight it.

Speaking to immigration officials and experts at the International Conference on Human Trafficking in Taipei yesterday, US Deputy Assistant Attorney General Grace Becker called such trafficking the "largest human rights violation in today's world."

The problem is set to further intensify, she added, as the number of people traversing international borders to find work doubles annually, as it has for the past seven years.

Local charity workers said such trends mean the country must heed Becker's advice to foster a progressive attitude in handling trafficked foreigners, many of whom drop off the government's radar and become sex slaves known only to the underworld.

Traveling with US Department of Justice officials yesterday, Becker said the key to fighting human trafficking is to "empower" trafficked people and overlook the crimes -- especially prostitution -- that they were forced or swindled into committing by traffickers.

Earning the victims' trust, Becker added, typically leads to their divulging information that allows authorities to root out the "big fish," the traffickers.

"We believe in the US, like I'm sure you do in Taiwan, that treating victims with care exemplifies our highest values," she said.


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