Missing Vietnamese confess they hoped to work in Taiwan illegally

By Phan Anh   December 28, 2018 | 05:00 pm PT
Missing Vietnamese confess they hoped to work in Taiwan illegally
The main entrance of Fengjia night market the largest night market in Taichung, Taiwan. Photo by Shutterstock/Yen Lin
Seven of 152 Vietnamese ‘missing’ tourists admit they were trying to work illegally in Taiwan, a local report says.

The Apple Daily reported Friday that three Vietnamese tourists found and detained by authorities have confessed their intentions to the police.

The three were among the 152 who made global headlines after disappearing upon arrival in Kaohsiung city last week.

The trio, one woman and two men, said they spent between NT$20,000 and NT$70,000 ($652 and $2,282) to apply for a travel tour to get to Taiwan, before getting help from friends to do their disappearing act.

They will be detained in either Nantou or Kaohsiung before being deported at an unspecified time in the future, the Apple Daily report said.

On Wednesday, four other Vietnamese tourists turned themselves in at a local police department in Taoyuan city, and also admitted they were hoping to stay on Taiwan to work illegally. Their family names have been revealed by the police as Nguyen, Tran, Vu and Lu.

After having arrived in the Taoyuan International Airport last Sunday, they strayed off from the tour groups and went to Kaohsiung, where they stayed in a local hotel at 6 p.m.

Later, they contacted their friends in Taiwan to pick them up on Monday, and then checked into a local hotel in Taoyuan at about 4 a.m. However, after watching the news and seeing how their going missing had made global headlines, they decided to turn themselves in.

As of Friday, Taiwanese police have found 17 missing Vietnamese tourists, while another has been contacted and three have decided to go back to the airport and return to Vietnam. The remaining 131 are still missing.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism has stated that the missing tourists took advantage of special electronic visas which had simplified visa procedures to work illegally in Taiwan. The visas were issued under a program launched in 2015 that aims to foster closer ties between Taiwan and selected nations.

It is also investigating whether any human trafficking ring was involved in bringing Vietnamese citizens to Taiwan to work illegally.

On Tuesday, Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency had said that of all but one of 153 Vietnamese tourists who arrived in the south-western city of Kaohsiung on December 21 and 23 in four groups had strayed and gone missing. The one remaining was a 17-year-old boy.

Taiwanese travel agency ETholiday was responsible for receiving the tourists.

The news of 152 people going missing was an unprecedented incident that shocked the public and authorities in Taiwan and Vietnam. The group included a four-year-old girl and a 62-year-old man, while most of the rest are between 20 and 38 years of age.

In response, Taiwan’s foreign ministry had first canceled the visas of the 152 missing tourists and that of 182 other Vietnamese applications submitted under the same program.

Taiwanese authorities have since temporarily suspended the program for Vietnamese citizens.

A representative from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in HCMC said the issuance of other visas for Vietnamese tourists would remain unchanged.

Vietnam’s tourism ministry has ordered the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) to work with the Taiwanese Tourism Bureau and police officials to review the incident.

The HCMC Department of Tourism has been requested to inspect and report on the operations of HCMC-based International Holidays Trading Travel Company, which was responsible for completing the visa applications of the missing tourists.

"This is a serious incident which could tarnish the reputation of Vietnam in the eyes of international friends," said Nguyen Ngoc Thien, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Taiwanese authorities are now searching for the rest of the missing Vietnamese tourists.

In recent years, Taiwan has emerged as a promising destination for Vietnamese workers looking for jobs overseas. As of 2017, there were around 164,000 Vietnamese working under official contracts in Taiwan, accounting for nearly 30 percent of the country’s overseas workforce, according to official statistics.

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