After a haitus of almost six-months, a mechanism of cross-strait repatriation was restarted last week, with 150 male and 166 female illegal immigrants being sent back to China.
"The long detention of illegal immigrants from China has become a burden for Taiwan, said Jeff Yang (楊家駿), the director of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC)'s Department of Legal Affairs. "Especially when China refused to abide by the Kinmen Accord to regularly take back such illegal immigrants."
Indeed, according to statistics from the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF,
According to the Kinmen Accord, once those illegal immigrants have been arrested, a verification procedure should be completed within 20 days, and arrangements for repatriation should be followed.
However, in the past 10 years, China has frequently unilaterally delayed such arrangements resulting in a distorted situation of crowded detainees waiting endlessly in four so-called Chinglu Detention Centers (
This situation had not only cost Taiwan a great deal of money to take care of their living and health conditions, but also put pressure on the police who are responsible for the security of the Chinglu Detention Centers.
"Those are invisible prices paid by Taiwan society," said an official surnamed Lin in the Bureau of Immigration.
"Except for an estimated NT$80 dollars a day that has been paid for each individual in such centers, medical treatment, salaries of police officers and cost of administration work are hard to calculate."
Lin, who is responsible for the deployment and adjustment of police human resources in Chinglu Detention Centers, told the Taipei Times that China's refusal to regularly take over such illegal immigrants bothered the police units since such centers are not official and long-term institutions in the police system.
It is reasonable to speculate, said Lin, that political considerations are behind the Chinese authorities' dragging their feet on repatriation.
Historically, China has seriously delayed such repatriations twice.
The first time was when the DPP's Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was elected in March 2000. From March onward that year, China refused to take over any Chinese illegal immigrants since March. The next repatriation arrangement was scheduled six months later.
The second time happened this year. Media reports speculated that political considerations were again at work when Chinese authorities refused to cooperate after President Chen described Taiwan and China as "one country on each side" [of the Taiwan Strait] in August.
After a total 316 illegal immigrants were sent back to China in this mid-October, currently still more than 1,000 such Chinese illegal entrants have been left in Chinglu and police detention centers across Taiwan proper waiting next chance to go home.
Among those repatriated this time, there are nine newborn babies with their mothers. These babies -- some of whom were born during their mothers' stays in detention centers due to illegal prostitution -- are in danger of being infected with sexually transmitted diseases.
"The test latest test result found two illegal female Chinese immigrants infected with HIV, while many others were infected with syphilis," said Yang.
According to Yang, this problem was especially prevalent among women who had being in Taipei and Kaohsiung, since the sex industry is active in these two cities.
After the infected Chinese women were arrested and sent to the detention centers, extra medical treatment was given to them based on humanitarian concerns.
There have been other problems. In 1999, illegal Chinese entrants at Ilan's detention center held two policemen hostage to draw attention to the overcrowded living conditions in such centers.
Since that event, the government initiated news plans to build new Chinglu Detention Centers and renovate current ones.
In addition, in order to provide convenient and comfortable care of female detainees, police units trained more female police personnel to deal with security.
But some people have asked if the cost of such measures is too high.
"As long as China regularly takes them back, there will not be any problem at all for Taiwan," Lin said.
"But based on humanitarian considerations, providing a better environment for them is still necessary," Lin said..
Chang Cheng-liang (張增樑), a professor at the Central Police University who devotes his efforts to studying Chinese illegal immigrants, said that illegal immigrants from China cannot be wholly prevented as long as the economic disparity between Taiwan and China contniues to exist.
Facing a possible coming age of direct transport and trade links with China, Chang predicted that illegal immigrants from China would increase rather than decrease.
"The only solution for this, is for both Taiwan and China put aside ideologies, and cooperate to prevent illegal immigrants in a pragmatic manner," he said.
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