Taipei, A total of 67 of the 148 Vietnamese tourists who "went missing" shortly after entering Taiwan in four tour groups in December have been located, the National Immigration Agency (NIA) said Wednesday.
The agency said that as of 5 p.m., it had located 41 men and 26 women from the tour groups, 34 of whom had been arrested.
The other 33 had voluntarily reported to authorities, the NIA said, adding that it was still trying to locate the other 81 people -- 57 men and 24 women.
The agency said 152 of the 153 Vietnamese nationals who entered Taiwan on Dec. 21 and Dec. 23 broke away from their tour groups shortly after arrival and did not make contact again with the groups.
It was later determined that three of the visitors had departed Taiwan and one other person had been in contact, which left 148 "missing," according to the NIA.
According to a Dec. 26 report in the Vietnamese online newspaper VnExpress, the itineraries of the "missing" tourists were arranged by International Holidays Trading Travel Co. in Vietnam.
The tourists had entered Taiwan on e-visas, which Taiwan allows for tour groups of five or more people from Vietnam and five other Asian countries, as long as the trip is arranged by "quality travel agencies" recognized by Taiwan's Tourism Bureau, the newspaper said.
After the groups' arrival in Taiwan, ETHoliday travel agency, which was responsible for receiving the Vietnamese tourists, reported to the Tourism Bureau, the NIA and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) that the visitors had "gone missing," VnExpress said.
On suspicion that the Vietnamese tourists had faked the purpose of their visit, the Tourism Bureau then asked MOFA to suspend any future e-visa applications for groups from International Holidays Trading Travel, the newspaper reported.
MOFA not only canceled the visas of the 152 missing tourists, but also suspended e-visa processing for Vietnamese tour groups, VnExpress said.
According to Taiwan media, some Vietnamese had spent between NT$20,000 (US$650) and NT$70,000 to gain entry to Taiwan as part of a tour group and then "disappear" with the help of friends once they arrive in the country.
Some of them break away from their tour groups with the aim of staying in Taiwan to find work, according to the local media reports.
Meanwhile, the NIA is offering a reward of up to NT$4,000 (US$129.85) for information leading to the arrest of the other 81 Vietnamese who have not been located.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel