Fri, Oct 10, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Draft law rejects refugee status for PRC citizens

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chinese nationals will not be eligible for refugee status in Taiwan, although the draft refugee and asylum law (難民庇護法) currently being reviewed by the Executive Yuan stipulates that the law would apply to refugees without discrimination on the grounds of race, religion or country of origin.

A Cabinet official, who asked not to be named, said national security should be taken into account. According to the official, the Cabinet is soliciting opinions from the relevant government agencies.

"We hope to gather their opinions within a month before discussing every article of the draft," the official said.

Another Cabinet official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the law should be brought in line with international conventions relating to the status of refugees.

"The government should cooperate with foreign countries, especially those that are signatories of international conventions concerning refugee status. Once applicants are granted refugee status, they should fall under the jurisdiction of the immigration office," the official said.

A review committee would be established under the law to screen applications. The committee would grant asylum permits to refugees who meet the requirements. These permits would be valid for a year and could be extended for another year if necessary. Those lawfully staying in the country for five years would be eligible to apply for naturalization.

Refugees would also be able to apply for travel documents, unless compelling reasons of national security or public order prevent this.

To obtain sufficient information on refugees, the draft would empower the committee to authorize relevant agencies to conduct interviews, which can be recorded with a tape recorder or camcorder if necessary.

The draft defines refugees as people who are outside the country of which they are nationals and who are unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or their political opinion.

A refugee is also someone who does not have a nationality and is outside the country of his or her former habitual residence as a result of certain political events and is unable or, due to fear of prosecution, unwilling to return to it.

People who have committed a crime against peace, a war crime or a crime against humanity would not be eligible for refugee status. Refugees who have committed a serious non-political crime outside Taiwan prior to their admission as a refugee, or have been guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the nation, would be denied asylum.

Those who receive protection or assistance from organs or agencies of the UN or other foreign countries would also be denied refugee status, as well as those who have acquired a new nationality and enjoyed the protection of the country of their new nationality or whose asylum status might jeopardize the nation's national interest.

The draft also stipulates that the government should accord to refugees lawfully staying in its territory the most favorable treatment accorded to nationals of a foreign country in the same circumstances, as regards the right to engage in wage-earning employment and health insurance policies.

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