In early July, HRC received the information of a 24-year-old Taiwanese girl being sold four times and forced to conduct online scamming in the ‘scamming camps’ in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. She refused to submit and was therefore physically abused severely before being rescued. “Tens of thousands of people are being held captive in those camps. I saw victims of many different nationalities.”
We immediately realised that this is a new type of modern slavery that hasn’t been understood by governments and the NGO sector. In early July, besides one YouTuber and the Global Anti Scam Org (GASO), HRC was virtually the only organisation in Taiwan that was responding to this emerging type of human trafficking.
Until early July, the Taiwanese government’s response was somewhat limited. Though the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affair has documented more than 270 complaints from victims and families from June 2021 to Aug 2022, including victims’ freedom being restricted and being beaten by the stun baton in these ‘companies’, the Ministry framed it as ‘jobs searching traps’ but didn’t refer it as human trafficking or modern slavery.
HRC strategised to increase the Taiwanese public awareness and influence key government officials to respond to this crime. We mobilised our network of trusted journalists about this emerging human trafficking crime. One of the outcomes is this excellent report, written by our experienced journalist friend Alicia Chen and published by the well-respected Taiwanese media ‘The Reporter’: https://www.twreporter.org/a/cambodia-taiwanese-human-trafficking-survivors
‘The Reporter’ is a Taiwanese non-profit online media well-known for its high-quality investigative journalism. The article interviewed several survivors and documented how they were lured, treated, and escaped the horror in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. The report was a great success to gain the public’s attention to the crime.
“The victims should not be ridiculed or blamed for falling into traffickers’ traps. It’s not the trust and innocence that should not exist, it’s the crimes that should not exist.” Quotes from Mina Chiang, the founder of HRC, in the article.
Through a) raising public awareness and demands, and b) influencing the right officials together with other anti-human trafficking organisations in Taiwan, the Taiwanese government now act proactively in tackling this crime. Initiatives include:
- Police officers patrolling the airport, stopping young people from jumping on flights to high-risk countries for jobs and companies they don’t know
- Conducting a country-wide survey to track Taiwanese nationals who have left for Cambodia. More than 4000 families have been surveyed, and more than 300 confirmed human trafficking cases are awaiting rescue
- Allocating 128million NTD (around 4 million USD) to establish a special task force to counter the crime.
- Arrested several individual traffickers and trafficking gangs.
Though in the early stage, we are excited to see the Taiwanese government taking proactive actions to counter this emerging type of human trafficking.
International collaboration is still much needed and HRC welcomes collaborations with international NGOs. Victims of ‘slave for scams’ are also from China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, India, Bangladesh, and many more countries. Citizens in western countries are being targeted as online scam victims for their life savings.