Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

Women and Children in the Asia-Pacific remain victims of human trafficking

October 8, 2013

  By Elizabeth Nye, Former CCAO Intern and CVUSA

Columban Father Peter O'Neill took part in a protest against the abuse of migrant workers in Taiwan.

Trafficking in Persons continues to be one of the greatest challenges of our time. As consumerism grows, so too does the amount of people subjected to forced labor and prostitution throughout the world. Human trafficking occurs everywhere, but is particularly relevant in the Asia Pacific region where many of manufactured goods are made for the Western World. Columbans in these countries have seen the effects of forced labor and continue to work with populations of migrants in the Asia Pacific that are most often the targets of forced labor due to their desperation.

The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report seeks to describe conditions, improvements, or collapse of human trafficking reduction in each country as per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) standards. The TIP Report is released by the U.S. Department of State annually and includes a ranking for every country based on their findings as well as suggestions and areas for improvement. This “tier” system is numbered 1-3, Tier 1 being countries whose Governments “fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act” minimum standards, Tier 2 being countries that are “making significant efforts to do so.” Tier 3 is the lowest possible ranking in which governments are not making any significant efforts to reduce the rate of human trafficking.

Asia Pacific countries are particularly interesting to monitor in this case as there is a high influx of people migrating to places such as China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan in hopes of finding work. There are also a number of countries referred to as “source” countries such as Fiji, The Philippines, and Burma. Columbans are working on the ground in each of these countries, monitoring the effects of forced labor and prostitution as well as offering services to those who need it.

Surprisingly, Taiwan continues to be labeled as a “Tier 1” Country. Although it continues to be one of the greatest destination for migrant workers that are forced into hard labor, the TIP report finds that Taiwan “fully complies” with the TVPA. Columbans also work on the ground with migrants in Taiwan, many of whom are Filipino or from mainland China. The Columban-run New Life Workers Center in Taoyan and the Hope Workers’ Center in Chungli continue to offer services to migrant workers and women. Being a legal as well as spiritual support, the Columban presence is well-respected and embedded in the Taiwanese labor community.

During a meeting with members of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travellers on May 24 of this year, Pope Francis called human trafficking “a disgrace for our societies.” It is our call as Catholics who believe in the human dignity of all people to call for the United States to continue to put pressure on countries that tolerate trafficking in humans and forced labor.

Progress of Columban Countries in the Asia Pacific Region 2010-2013

Burma China Fiji Japan Philippines South Korea Taiwan
2010 3 2WL 2WL 2 2WL 1 1
2011 3 2WL 2 2 2 1 1
2012 2WL 2WL 2 2 2 1 1
2013 2WL 3 2 2 2 1 1

Source: Trafficking in Persons Report 2013, The U.S. Department of State