Fri, Nov 21, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Illegal Chinese transfer to Ilan

GROWING PROBLEM The two detention centers in Ilan will be upgraded to house illegal immigrants now held in different locations around Taiwan

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

To relieve overcrowding in detention centers for illegal immigrants, the Cabinet has mapped out a three-stage, six-year expansion plan to relocate illegal Chinese immigrants from temporary shelters at police stations and Coast Guard Administration facilities to larger detention centers.

According to a Cabinet official who asked not to be named, the Cabinet hopes to relocate the 1,200 illegal Chinese immigrants staying in temporary shelters across the country to two facilities in Ilan County, Lotung and Tongshan, by the end of the year.

"The all-male shelter in Lotung, which accommodates 244 illegal immigrants, started to take in female immigrants on Tuesday and is expected to accommodate 700 women by the end of the month, when the first-phase of the expansion plan is scheduled to be completed," the official said. "The 244 male immigrants have relocated to a 280-person shelter in Tongshan, which will be expanded to an 880-person facility."

The second phase of the pro-ject involves expanding Lotung to accommodate 900 women.

By 2006, the Cabinet hopes to expand the capacity of the two facilities combined to accommodate 2,200 people, up from 524 now.

In addition to the centers in Ilan, the government operates a 820-person facility in Hsinchu for women and another center in Matsu.

As of the end of July, the facility in Hsinchu had 850 residents, most of whom had been there for more than six months. A new facility, which can accommodate 2,400 people, is scheduled to be completed in 2009 and become operational in 2010, marking the end of the third stage of the expansion project.

The number of illegal female Chinese immigrants has increased more than tenfold over the past four years. While women smuggled from China made up 7 percent of all illegal Chinese immigrants in 1999, the figure had rocketed to 73.3 percent by July this year.

The government has been forced to provide more accommodation for illegal immigrants because of difficulties in repatriating them.

Illegal immigrants are transported back to China once a month under an agreement reached between the Red Cross agencies on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. The Cabinet hopes to increase the frequency to once every 20 days.

About 150 people are repatriated on each trip, totalling about 1,800 a year. However, up to 2,000 illegal Chinese immigrants are caught every year.

This year the situation seems to have improved slightly, with 1,100 immigrants entering detention facilities and 1,530 returning to China, according to the Coast Guard Administration.

Nevertheless, the relocation project has gained urgency since August, when six Chinese women drowned after they were thrown from two Taiwanese boats that were being chased by the coast guard in waters off Miaoli County.

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