Control Yuan orders corrective measures over forced labor on boats
Taipei, May 6 (CNA) Taiwan's top government watchdog body released Thursday a list of demands it has made to several government entities, over their failure to address the issue of forced labor on the country's distant water fishing (DWF) fleets.
The Control Yuan's order comes after the United States listed fish caught by vessels bearing the Taiwanese flag as products of forced labor for the first time in September 2020, in a biennial report on child labor and forced labor.
The report found that "crews on Taiwan-flagged vessels face confiscation of documents, long days with little rest, physical and verbal abuse, and lack of payment."
At a press conference on Thursday, Control Yuan member Wang Yu-ling (王幼玲) said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Labor and the Fisheries Agency have known about forced labor on Taiwanese DWF fleets since as early as 2019, when the environmental organization Greenpeace released a report on the issue.
The three government bodies also knew that Greenpeace would submit its findings to the U.S. government, but took no concrete measures to address the issue, said Wang.
To spur reforms, the Control Yuan has demanded that the three bodies take corrective measures to ensure the rights of fishermen on DWF fleets are protected. It is also urging the Executive Yuan to make changes as well, Wang said.
If this issue is not dealt with, it is possible that Taiwan could be banned from exporting fish to the U.S. and Europe in the future, said Control Yuan member Tsai Chung-yi (蔡崇義).
Among the list of demands made by the Control Yuan is for the Fisheries Agency to assign more personnel to conduct inspections, and for the agency and the Ministry of Labor to educate those working in the fisheries industry on human rights.
Executive departments, as a whole, should ensure that their employees have a clearer understanding of what constitutes forced labor, as sometimes these cases are classified as disputes between employers and employees, according to a Control Yuan statement.
Also listed in the demands are cross-agency communication on the issue of forced labor, both within the executive departments and between these departments and the Judicial Yuan, so that reports of forced labor can be dealt with efficiently and the perpetrators punished, the statement said.
The Control Yuan also urged the Executive Yuan to evaluate whether to implement a ban on products of child labor and forced labor, as well as to review the country's policies on migrant fishermen.
According to the Control Yuan, Taiwan has 1,106 DWF vessels that employ around 22,000 migrant fishermen.
However, the U.S. report in 2020 says an estimated 35,000 migrant workers, mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines, work on Taiwanese DWF vessels, and that Taiwan's fleet is the second largest in the world, after China.
In response to the Control Yuan's demands, the Fisheries Agency said in a statement that it would work to improve so Taiwan will not be included in the U.S.' report on child and forced labor again.
Under Taiwan's law, after receiving corrective measures issued by the Control Yuan, government departments should immediately make improvements or take appropriate actions.
They should also reply to the Control Yuan in writing on those improvements or actions. If the Control Yuan receives no reply within two months, it may seek further details from the department in question.
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