State Department Report Underplays Taiwan’s Abuse of Migrant Fishers

June 29, 2020

Greenpeace responds to annual Trafficking in Persons report

Washington D.C., June 29, 2020: The US State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2020 [1] fails to address the abuse of migrant fishers as it declines to downgrade Taiwan to Tier 2. The report downplays insufficient efforts to address rampant forced labor and human trafficking in Taiwan’s distant water fishing (DWF) industry.

The continued ranking of Taiwan in Tier 1 this year is particularly outrageous given the numerous NGO reports produced by Greenpeace [2], Environmental Justice Foundation and Human Rights at Sea that documented systemic labor trafficking in Taiwan’s DWF fleet and the government’s failure to make serious and sustained efforts to eliminate this scourge.

In response, Pearl Chen, Ocean Campaigner from Greenpeace East Asia said:

“The US government can and should play a more constructive role in pushing the Taiwan government to address the root causes of labor trafficking in its DWF industry. Instead, it downplays the abuse of South East Asia migrant fishers on Taiwanese-flagged or owned fishing vessels. Abolishing Taiwan’s overseas employment scheme for migrant fishers has long been a priority for Greenpeace and other members of the Taiwanese ‘Human Rights for Migrant Fishers’ coalition. The State Department chose again to omit this critical issue from its prioritized recommendations despite the Taiwanese government’s insistence on maintaining this discriminatory system that renders migrant fishers more vulnerable to abuse [3] by subjecting them to much lower labor standards.” 

Andy Shen, Senior Oceans Adviser at Greenpeace USA said: 

“The State Department’s unprincipled approach to labor trafficking in Taiwan’s DWF industry is shameful. Regardless of geopolitical considerations, the US must be objective in its evaluations or shoulder much of the blame for the continued exploitation of migrant fishers for the benefit of American companies sourcing from the Taiwanese fleet. America should not accept modern slavery anywhere in the seafood supply chain, much less reward those enabling abuses with the highest distinction. 

“The US Department of Labor has a chance with its upcoming List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor to set the record straight on forced labor in the Taiwanese DWF fleet. Failure to put Taiwan-caught tuna on that list would further undermine international efforts to end forced labor, illegal fishing, and overfishing in one of the most abusive fisheries in the world. At a time when American leadership on human rights is desperately lacking, the Department of Labor must fill the void and protect migrant fishers in the Taiwanese fleet from forced labor and trafficking [4].”

[1] Trafficking in Persons Report 2020

[2] Greenpeace report: Choppy Waters: Forced Labour and Illegal Fishing in Taiwan’s Distant Water Fisheries

[3] Greenpeace briefing: The Two-Tiered System: Discrimination, Modern Slavery and Environmental Destruction on the High Seas

[4] Greenpeace Briefing on Taiwan for the US Department of Labor 2020 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor


Media Contact:

Tyler Kruse, [email protected], (808) 741 2791

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