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87 of 148 missing Vietnamese tourists found: immigration agency

2019/01/20 21:10:07

CNA file photo

Taipei, Jan. 20 (CNA) A total of 87 of the 148 Vietnamese tourists who went missing shortly after entering Taiwan in four tour groups in December last year have now been located, the National Immigration Agency (NIA) said Sunday.

The NIA said it had located 54 men and 33 women from the tour groups, 39 of whom had been arrested.

The other 48 had voluntarily turned themselves in to the authorities, the NIA said, adding that it was still trying to locate the remaining 61 people -- 44 men and 17 women.

According to the NIA, 152 of the 153 Vietnamese nationals who entered Taiwan on Dec. 21 and Dec. 23 left their tour groups shortly after arrival and did not make further contact with them.

It was later determined that three of the visitors had departed Taiwan and one other person had been in contact, which left 148 unaccounted for, the NIA said.

According to a Dec. 26 report in the Vietnamese online newspaper VnExpress, the itineraries of the tourists were arranged by International Holidays Trading Travel Co. in Vietnam.

The tourists entered Taiwan on e-visas, which Taiwan allows for tour groups of five or more people from Vietnam and five other Asian countries, as long as the trips are arranged by "quality travel agencies" recognized by Taiwan's Tourism Bureau, the newspaper said.

After the groups' arrival in Taiwan, ETHoliday travel agency, which was responsible for receiving the Vietnamese tourists, reported to the Tourism Bureau, the NIA and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) that the visitors had gone missing, VnExpress said.

On suspicion that the Vietnamese tourists had faked the purpose of their visits, the Tourism Bureau then asked MOFA to suspend any future e-visa applications for groups from International Holidays Trading Travel, the newspaper reported.

MOFA not only canceled the visas of the 152 missing tourists, but also suspended e-visa processing for Vietnamese tour groups, VnExpress said.

According to Taiwan media, some Vietnamese spend between NT$20,000 (US$650) and NT$70,000 to gain entry to Taiwan as part of a tour group and then disappear with the help of friends once they arrive in the country.

Some of them leave their tour groups with the aim of staying in Taiwan to find work, according to local media reports.

Meanwhile, the NIA is offering a reward of up to NT$4,000 for information leading to the arrest of each of the 61 Vietnamese who have not been located.

(By Huang Li-yun and William Yen)