Comments Concerning the Ranking of Taiwan by the United States Department of State in the 2024 Trafficking in Persons Report

Publication Date: 

June 13, 2024


Global Labor Justice and Greenpeace USA on Behalf of the Seafood Working Group

On behalf of the Seafood Working Group (SWG), Global Labor Justice and Greenpeace USA, with the endorsement of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, Serve the People Association, and Greenpeace Taiwan, make the following submission to the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons for its 2024 Trafficking in Persons Report on Taiwan.


The authors submit this year’s Comments Concerning the Ranking of Taiwan by the United States Department of State in the Trafficking in Persons Report to demonstrate the continued inefficacy of the Taiwanese government’s efforts to address forced labor among the migrant worker population in Taiwan’s fishing industry — a form of trafficking in persons under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, as amended (TVPA). The government’s efforts remain largely unsuccessful to date because its anti-trafficking approach has failed to uphold migrant workers’ fundamental labor rights, particularly the freedom of association and right to collective bargaining, which are essential to addressing the root causes of forced labor and preventing future abuses. Rather than being the outcome of a few bad actors, forced labor is a widespread problem in Taiwan’s fishing industry fueled by structural drivers that require a systemic solution — one that prioritizes respect for migrant fishers’ fundamental labor rights as a means to empower fishers and prevent and remedy forced labor. 


Based on the evidence in this submission, the SWG recommends that the U.S. Department of State downgrade Taiwan to Tier 2 in 2024. Policy analysis, interviews with experts, and field investigations, including a survey and interviews with migrant fishers, have shown that during the reporting period, April 1, 2023–March 31, 2024, Taiwan did not fully comply with the TVPA minimum standards, having not made “serious and sustained efforts” to eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons, particularly in the seafood industry, even though it remains high-risk for forced labor. Organized under the “3Ps” — Prevention, Protection, and Prosecution — these Comments provide evidence of the following during the reporting period: 


  • Prevention: First, the Taiwanese government continued to impede migrant fishers’ ability to exercise their freedom of association, which is essential to addressing and preventing forced labor in the industry. The government failed to resolve the issue of employer interference with a migrant fishers’ union in a timely and credible manner, and coordination by government officials with employers further impeded the resolution process. The government also failed to enact protections against retaliation for migrant fishers’ union activity and intimidated union members for speaking out about conditions on Taiwanese vessels. Further, the government refused to mandate Wi-Fi access on distant water fishing (DWF) vessels, thereby forcing migrant crew to work in total isolation in a de facto “no union zone,” where they are unable to contact their unions and report abuses for months at a time. Second, the government did not revise its laws and policies to end structural discrimination against migrant fishers in DWF that makes them highly vulnerable to forced labor by maintaining its unlawful, discriminatory two-tiered employment system, as well as failing to reach a bilateral labor agreement with Indonesia, a predominant sending country, to ensure equal protections for migrant workers in DWF as for other workers. Third, despite amending the Action Plan for Fisheries and Human Rights during the reporting period, the government did not enact or implement laws in accordance with international labor standards to effectively prevent forced labor, thereby allowing all 11 ILO indicators of forced labor to pervade Taiwan’s fishing industry. Fourth, the government continued to not effectively regulate key stakeholders in Taiwan’s seafood industry, including recruitment agencies, Flag of Convenience (FOC) vessels, and actors higher up in the seafood supply chain, perpetuating governance gaps that keep migrant fishers at high risk of forced labor.


  • Protection: The Taiwanese government continued to take inadequate steps to identify survivors of forced labor due to persistently weak labor inspections of DWF vessels during the reporting period, stemming from a lack of legal authority by Fisheries Agency inspectors and inadequate training of officers. The government also continued to not provide survivors of forced labor with access to an effective grievance mechanism or remedy in accordance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. 


  • Prosecution: The Taiwanese government’s informal mediation of cases with forced labor indicators in DWF continued to discourage prosecution of cases during the reporting period. Likewise, the lack of transparency and accountability regarding FOC vessels hindered prosecution efforts. 


In light of these shortcomings in the government’s efforts, the SWG recommends that Taiwan adopt the following laws and policies:


  1. Respect migrant workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining; 
  2. End structural discrimination against migrant fishers; 
  3. Amend the Action Plan for Fisheries and Human Rights and enact and implement laws and policies to meet international labor standards;
  4. Close governance gaps through effective regulation of recruitment agencies, FOC vessels, and industry players higher up in the seafood supply chain;
  5. Strengthen labor inspections of DWF vessels;
  6. Guarantee migrant fishers’ access to an effective grievance mechanism and remedy; and
  7. Ensure survivors of forced labor have access to justice through fair and timely dispute resolution processes. 


Publication Type: 

  • Report