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Indonesia; Taiwan: Agreement to Combat Human Trafficking

(Oct. 5, 2012) On October 3, 2012, a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in combating trafficking in human beings took effect between the <?Republic of Indonesia and the Republic of China (on Taiwan). The MOU is reportedly Taiwan’s first such agreement with a Southeast Asian country. (Grace Kuo, ROC, Indonesia Combat Human Trafficking, TAIWAN TODAY (Oct. 4, 2012).)

According to Hsieh Li-kung, Director-General of Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency (NIA) under the Ministry of the Interior, the Indonesia-Taiwan pact legalizes immigration information exchanges between the two sides, despite the lack of diplomatic ties between them, and safeguards human rights. He added that it also enhances day-to-day work efficiency, to help prevent human trafficking and the smuggling and exploitation of illegal immigrants, and facilitates the exchange of information to combat terrorism. (Id.) At present, he noted, there are 181,236 Indonesian nationals resident in Taiwan, 100,000 of them laborers. “With human trafficking going beyond national borders,” Hsieh stated, “no single country can effectively stop it without close cooperation with other countries.” (Liu Chien-pang & Sofia Wu, Taiwan, Indonesia Sign MOU on Stemming Human Trafficking, FOCUS TAIWAN (Oct. 3, 2012).)

The NIA pointed out that formerly, only persons involved in the Taiwan side of human smuggling operations could be charged in Taiwan, pursuant to investigations; obtaining information on gang leaders or intermediaries in Indonesia was problematic. The agency now hopes that because the MOU provides for relevant intelligence to be exchanged, it will be able “to track down those ultimately responsible.” (Kuo, supra.) An additional potential benefit of the MOU, Hsieh pointed out, is access to Indonesia’s immigration blacklist, “which could help Taiwan in its efforts to block entry of cross-border criminal suspects.” (Liu & Wu, supra.)

Related Developments and Background Information

Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior hosted the 2012 Asia Regional Forum on Combating Human Trafficking, held in Taipei from May 29 to June 1. Over 30 immigration officials and non-governmental representatives from 12 neighboring countries – Australia, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam – and eight diplomatic officials from the American and several other representative and trade offices in Taipei attended the event. (Taiwan Celebrates Its Consecutive 3-Year ‘Tier 1’ Ranking, Interior Ministry Blog (Aug. 29, 2012, 10:06 A.M.).

In addition, on June 19, 2012, the U.S. Department of State released its 2012 Trafficking in Persons report. (U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE, TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS REPORT 2012 (June 19, 2012).) For the third consecutive year , Taiwan was ranked as a “Tier 1” jurisdiction, in recognition of its progress in eliminating human trafficking from its territory. (Taiwan Celebrates Its Consecutive 3-Year ‘Tier 1’ Ranking, supra.) Tier 1 countries are those “whose governments fully comply with the [U.S.] TVPA’s [Trafficking Victims Protection Act] minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.” (A Guide to the Tiers, TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS REPORT 2012, supra at 40.)

According to the State Department report on Taiwan,

Taiwan is a destination, and to a much lesser extent, source and transit territory for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Most trafficking victims in Taiwan are migrant workers from Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, mainland China, Cambodia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and India, employed through recruitment agencies and brokers to perform low-skilled work in Taiwan’s manufacturing and fishing industries, and as home caregivers and domestic workers. (Taiwan (Tier 1), TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS REPORT 2012, supra at 333.)

The report recommended that Taiwan sustain and improve efforts to apply its June 2009 anti-trafficking law, ensure that convicted offenders are given sufficiently stringent sentences, and adopt and implement changes to the new labor law, among other measures. At the same time, it praised Taiwan’s “significant progress” in anti-trafficking law enforcement measures, continued “significant efforts to protect victims of trafficking,” and progress in its efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period. (Id. at 334-335.)

Indonesia is ranked as a Tier 2 country by the U.S. State Department, i.e., a country whose government is not fully compliant with the TVPA’s minimum standards but is “making significant efforts” to bring itself into compliance with the standards. (Indonesia (Tier 2), id. at 186; A Guide to the Tiers, supra.) According to the State Department report on human trafficking in Indonesia:

Indonesia is a major source country and, to a much lesser extent, a destination and transit country for women, children, and men who are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Each of Indonesia’s 33 provinces is a source and destination of trafficking, with the most significant source areas being the provinces of West Java, Central Java, East Java, West Nusa Tenggara, and Banten. A significant number of Indonesian migrant workers face conditions of forced labor and debt bondage in more developed Asian countries and the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. The government reports that there are 4.3 million documented Indonesian migrants working outside the country and estimates another 1.7 million undocumented workers, including an estimated 2.6 million workers in Malaysia and 1.8 million in the Middle East. (Indonesia (Tier 2), supra.)

Other Southeast Asian Agreements Against Human Trafficking

A regional anti-trafficking framework, the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative Against Human Trafficking (COMMIT) already exists among Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, and Vietnam, all of which signed an MOU on Cooperation Against Trafficking in Persons in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region in 2004. A bilateral accord concluded between Cambodia and Thailand in 2003 was reportedly the first anti-trafficking MOU in that region; subsequently, seven such bilateral agreements have been concluded among the various COMMIT member states. (Miwa Yamada, Comparative Analysis of Bilateral Memoranda on Anti-Human Trafficking Cooperation Between Thailand and Three Neighboring Countries: What Do the Origin and the Destination States Agree Upon?, at 3-4, IDE [Institute of Developing Economies] Discussion Paper No. 349 (Mar. 2012),