More than 150 people from Vietnam who were visiting the island on tourist visas were allegedly picked up by human traffickers and disappeared as soon as they arrived in Kaohsiung City on December 21 and 23.
Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau said on December 26 that the 152 Vietnamese visitors who were traveling in four groups had been unaccounted for since they entered Taiwan, the Taiwan Apple Daily News reported.
Security footage from two hotels that were supposed to receive the Southeast Asian guests showed the Vietnamese fled with their baggage as soon as they were assigned their hotel rooms. Some left in minivans, or sports utility vehicles and a few took taxis.
The incident was allegedly the largest case of visitors going missing in recent years. Over the past three years, there have been about 150 absconders.
It was reported that the bureau asked the foreign ministry to suspend future visa applications from the Vietnamese tourism agency responsible for the missing group.
The company was Ho Chi Minh City-based agency International Holidays Trading Travel Co, which had applied for a total of 232 electronic visas since 2015 through a simplified and friendly no-visa-fee program.
This was also known as a part of the Taiwan government’s New Southbound Policy (NSP), which seeks to establish closer ties with the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, along with Australia, New Zealand and India.
At present visa fees to Taiwan are waived for visitors from Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and India.
According to Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency, only three of 152 missing Vietnamese tourists were found and arrested in the counties of Chiayi, Changhua and Hsinchu.