The Coast Guards' Southern Coastal Patrol Office in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Photo: Google Maps

Authorities have arrested 20 Vietnamese men and women for suspected illegal entry after intercepting a fishing vessel as it returned to Taiwan on Monday night.

The captain and five crew members were also arrested for allegedly smuggling illegal immigrants.

Following an intelligence tip-off, the Southern Coastal Patrol Office from Kaohsiung intercepted the vessel around 3.4 miles off the Linbian River and the coast of Pingtung County. The vessel had been involved in smuggling illegal Vietnamese immigrants on April 19 this year, China Daily News reported on Wednesday, citing a statement by the Coast Guard Administration.

A total of 13 men and 7 women, aged between 25 and 30, from Vietnam without valid traveling documents, were found crowded inside the vessel’s small cabin. Nine of them were identified as runaway migrant workers previously deported from Taiwan.

Preliminary inquiries suggested that each had paid a human trafficking syndicate US$5,000 to travel from northern Vietnam to Fujian in China, where they were able to board the fishing vessel to cross the Taiwan Strait, China Times reported.

The captain, surnamed Hsu, told the authorities the smuggling operation was lucrative, as they could reap NT$300,000 (US$9,885) for each person successfully delivered to Taiwan.

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