Mon, Jan 01, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Immigration office faces challenges

By YangYung-nane 楊永年

Based on media reports, most of the top spots in the new immigration office have already been decided on, and the office will be ready to start operating tomorrow. The media are mainly focusing on the question of who will be heading the office, but regardless of who that person is, he or she will be forced to immediately deal with both internal and external pressures and challenges.

Without support from within and outside the government, it will be difficult for the office to fill the role it really should have. It therefore becomes necessary to initiate a debate about, and to organize, supervision of current immigration affairs issues.

The office's first challenge will be the lack of a strong supervisory system. When dealing with immigration affairs, officials will have law enforcement powers similar to those of the police, albeit without the establishment of any kind of supervisory system.

Not long ago, disciplinary issues surfaced in the National Police Agency's (NPA) Immigration Office. This led to worries that the lack of internal control mechanisms will result in lax standards or disciplinary issues in the new immigration office.

One example is the slackness that resulted from the lack of a supervisory mechanism after city and county fire departments became independent from the police about a decade ago.

Although the fire departments have now realized the importance of such a system, their failure to establish one earlier was a missed opportu-nity. The problem is that adding a supervisory system involves changes to both organization and job positions -- things that the new immigration office will not be able to solve.

The question of how to add internal control mechanisms in the absence of a supervisory system will thus be the office's first challenge.

The second challenge comes from the pressure applied by human rights organizations. The interviews, investigations, approvals, supervision and management that constitute immigration policy also involve sensitive human rights issues.

The policies created by an immigration administration are therefore the focus of human rights organizations and other non-governmental groups.

One example of this is the interview procedure, where human rights groups and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) provide assistance and supervision. The design of the interview process must deal with questions such as whether the interview should take place in or outside Taiwan, whether the interview questions invade the interviewee's privacy, follow-up supervision and accommodation management, repatriation and assistance to individuals -- especially for new immigrants, if they have fallen victim to unfair treatment or prejudice -- and ensuring that everyone receives the assistance they are entitled to.

The second challenge is thus the question of how government should respond to the pressure and demands from human rights groups and NGOs.

The third challenge involves the necessity to put an end to human trafficking. The US State Department last year demoted Taiwan from the tier-one -- the highest rating -- to the tier-two watchlist in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report.

Tier two means that active efforts are being made to meet tier-one standards. The fact that Taiwan's rating fell last year means that human trafficking is a serious problem in Taiwan.

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