Sat, Oct 18, 2014 - Page 8

Law a humanitarian crisis

The current situation regarding naturalization and loss of nationality in Taiwan is very clear, both according to the law and in practice: Non-nationals wishing to acquire Taiwanese nationality are required to first renounce their current nationality (Enforcement Rules of the Nationality Act, Article 8), while current nationals who acquire a foreign nationality may — but are not required to — apply to renounce their Taiwanese nationality (Nationality Act, Article 11).

In practice, the vast majority of nationals here are unaware of this discrepancy in the Nationality Act, because for the most part, Taiwanese nationals know that they can be dual nationals without losing Taiwanese nationality. However, they should be very concerned.

The act goes against the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. The 1961 convention requires that loss of nationality should be conditional upon the prior possession of another nationality. However, Taiwan’s act requires the certificate of stateless status to be submitted with the application for naturalization: A person must become stateless without prior possession of — or assurance of acquiring — another nationality.

This results in the horrible situation where a spouse who divorces during the naturalization process after having already renounced their original nationality is stuck in Taiwan as a stateless person. This is exactly what the UN Convention seeks to prevent, as people are left without the protection of any government.

There are many thousands who are forced to remain in the nation, unable to return to their country of origin; many are not even able to reunite with their families or children. Taiwan receives neither economic nor social benefits from these people and yet it is Taiwan’s own nationality law that exacerbates the problem and continues to cause undue harm and suffering.

Further, the law encourages foreigners to make decisions based on the quality of their country of origin, rather than their loyalty to Taiwan. US and European nationals who might want Taiwanese nationality refuse to apply because the price they pay is simply too high, while foreigners from less economically and socially developed countries are happy to make the switch.

According to government figures, since 1982 fewer than 30 nationals from the US and western Europe have acquired Taiwanese nationality, while more than 110,000 individuals from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Myanmar and Cambodia have renounced their nationalities to become Taiwanese.

Is this the system the nation wants? One where people choose nationality based on economic benefits, rather than loyalty to Taiwan?

Here is a proposal for amending the act: Repeal Article 9. Allow other countries to determine when and if nationality should be revoked based on the acquisition of Taiwanese nationality, the same way Taiwan protects its own nationals in Article 11. Thousands of stateless people remain stranded in Taiwan today as a result of Article 9.

Let us call on the government to repeal Article 9 and end this humanitarian crisis immediately.

Edward Greve,

New Taipei City