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Trip to Taiwan

The day after the Film Festival took place, Jackie embarked on a fact-finding tour researching and interviewing Vietnamese victims of human trafficking in Taiwan.  There, she went to visit a detention center at TaoYuan where over a hundred Vietnamese men and women had been detained.  Most are in their twenties and early thirties and have spent from a few weeks to over a year in prison for violating immigration law. 
They had committed no crime except wandering on the streets without proper  documentation on them.  They were caught by the police and put in jail for escaping from either the factories or homes where they had signed contracts to work for two to three years or for working illegally.  
The contracts they had signed in Vietnam with private employment agencies stipulated that they would be paid a minimum wage of around $500 a month, would work 40 hours a week and would be given a day off per week.  In Vietnam, they had had to pay from  $3,000 to $6,000 in order to be able to sign the contracts and work overseas.  Once they landed at the airport in Taiwan, the Taiwanese employment agencies held their passports and placed them in either factories or in homes to work as domestic servants.  They had to sign other  papers attesting that they owed them an additional debt of at least $2,000 and that they would finish their period of employmen.  They would be repatriated if they breached the terms of their contracts.
The detainees said that they had to work overtime without being paid extra and weren’t allowed any day off.  Besides, one-third of their salaries were deducted for health insurance, savings, food, lodging, savings and income taxes.  Another third went to pay debt they were forced to sign without understanding why; so they netted only $100 to $150 a month.  But their biggest complaint was the mistreatment, the beating if they make a mistake for not understanding orders in Chinese or refused to work while they were sick.  The women were also harassed sexually or raped.  

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Jackie met with Mark Taylor, a high ranking official in the Trafficking-in-Persons Office at the U.S. Department of State, and Brad Parker, of the American Institute in Taiwan.  Like her, they were gathering facts – for an Annual Report on Trafficking in Persons in Taiwan to present to the U.S. Congress.  A meeting between them and ten NGOs (non-governmental organizations) fighting for immigrant workers’ rights took place at the Vietnamese Migrant Workers and Brides Office (VMWBO), headed by a Vietnamese priest, Father Peter Hung Nguyen.  These NGOs had banded together to form a Migrant Workers’ Alliance.
Fr. Hung is known as the savior of Vietnamese victims in Taiwan,  having helped about 3,000 cases and having recently won several lawsuits on their behalf.  He has sued factory owners who didn’t provide appropriate health care for Vietnamese employees injured during work hours, or who exploited them in some way.  He also sheltered Vietnamese “brides” married to Taiwanese men who treated them like domestic servants, making them work from early morning until late at night with no pay.  Not only did they have to work like slaves but they also had to underwent beatings from mother-in-laws who demanded they produce sons, as tradition required.  
The Migrant Workers Alliance took care of four nationalities, including workers from Thailand, Indonesia, the Phillipines and Vietnam.  They defended workers’ right to work the normal 8 hour/day or be paid overtime if they were asked to work more.  They said that two Indonesians had died of exhaustion after working 16 hours without interruption in June and July of this year.  They wanted to represent in court workers who didn’t speak or understand Chinese, since the law allows only Taiwanese lawyers assigned by the judges to defend them.  
The Alliance’s members also wanted the police to treat the workers in a civil manner, not jail them as criminals, especially in rape cases, nor deport them against their will to their  country of origin.  They wanted the Taiwanese Department of Labor to allow the workers to switch jobs and work at other factories instead of being forced to go back to the same places they had worked before.  They also lobbied for a service center at the airport to represent workers forced to sign repatriation papers before being deported.  Finally, they wanted the Department of Labor to penalize the brokers’ ringleaders for pocketing most of the workers’ salaries.  Last but not least, they are pressing for evaluations of working conditions by the workers themselves rather than by the brokers.

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