Coast of Taitung county, southeastern Taiwan. Photo: Google Maps

Two Vietnamese migrants attempting to enter Taiwan illegally in a rubber boat died in the attempt early on Monday, while three others suffered from hypothermia, possibly from falling overboard in rough seas.

While the Taiwan Coast Guard was coping with this tragedy, it intercepted a fishing vessel believed to have been involved in a human-trafficking operation. Another 16 Vietnamese passengers were found aboard without legal travel documents.

At 2am, the Eastern Coastal Patrol Office of the Coast Guard Administration took note of a rubber boat detected on radar traveling at high speed 4 nautical miles from the mouth of a river in Taitung county, China Times reported.

Struggling through bad weather and rough seas, the boat took two hours to get to shore. Paramedics arrived at the scene, but two of the five passengers, a man and a woman, were dead. Two other women and a man were suffering from hypothermia. All five were Vietnamese.

Two Taiwanese men who were hiding in the woods were arrested for allegedly attempting to smuggle in the five Vietnamese nationals.

Meanwhile, a suspicious fishing vessel located 14.5 nautical miles from the Taitung coast was intercepted, where 16 more Vietnamese were apprehended.

The owner of the vessel and his five-member crew of fishermen – three Taiwanese, an Indonesian and a Vietnamese – were arrested.

The arrested Vietnamese migrants told the police that they had worked in Taiwan before but had been unable to return by legal means, so they  had paid a human-trafficking syndicate US$6,500 each to get them back into Taiwan, where they wanted to work and remit money back to their home country.

Police are looking for evidence linking the two incidents.

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