TAIPEI: Seven suspected members of a human trafficking ring have been arrested in Taiwan over the disappearance of a group of 152 Vietnamese who came to the island to work illegally, authorities said on Tuesday (Jan 22).
Taiwan authorities have been searching for the missing Vietnamese since last month after they landed on tourist visas under an initiative to attract more visitors from south and southeast Asia at a time arrivals from mainland China have declined.
“The ring collaborated with Vietnamese human trafficking groups to operate in both Taiwan and Vietnam and recruited Vietnamese to come to Taiwan to work under the pretext of sightseeing,” the statement said.
“Some people have fallen victim to sexual exploitation due to rising debt,” it said, referring to the ring’s charge of US$1,000 – US$3,000 per person to arrange a Taiwan visa.
They face deportation and a three- to five-year ban from the island, it said.
The tourism initiative is part of Taiwan’s “southbound policy”, which targets 16 south and southeast Asian countries – as well as Australia and New Zealand – in a bid to boost tourism as arrivals from China decline.
The number of tourists from the mainland has slid dramatically as relations with China deteriorate, with speculation authorities are turning off the taps to pressure the government of the Beijing-sceptic President Tsai Ing-wen, who came to office in 2016.