Fri, Nov 11, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Foreign spouse bill passes review

ALIEN HELP The government is also aiming to establish a new fund designed to help foreign partners of Taiwanese citizens adapt to their new life in Taiwan

By Jean Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The "Foreign Spouse Care and Counseling Fund" (外籍配偶照顧輔導基金) proposed by the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) passed its preliminary review by the Home and Nations Committee of the Legislative Yuan yesterday, while some controversial articles were put aside for further cross-party negotiations.

According to Minister of Interior Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全), the number of foreign spouses in Taiwan reached 350,000 as of September this year. The budget for the foreign spouses fund was set at NT$3 billion (US$89.27 million) for a period of ten years -- NT$300 million per year, Su said.

The fund will be used for providing medical subsidies, community services and legal aid for foreign spouses, as well as offering classes and counseling sessions.

Su said that the fund will be distributed to local governments and civic groups who would each play a role in executing the plans.

People's First Party (PFP) Legislator Wu Ching-chih (吳清池) said that he doubted whether civic groups had the ability to carry out the government's plans since they could be manipulated by interest groups and said that the government should hold on to the reins.

Unlike most budget proposals, the foreign spouse fund takes the form of a "fund" and not an official budget, because the former can accumulate while the latter has to be used up by the end of the year. The surplus money from the yearly budget of NT$300 million can be put aside for the next year, Su said.

Whether the fund would serve its purpose of improving policies related to foreign spouses raised concerns among legislators during the meeting.

An immigration agency was officially established yesterday under the MOI to take charge of all immigration affairs and hopefully resolve problems related to foreign brides from China and other Southeast Asian countries, Su said.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆), expressed concern about the decrease in Taiwan's birth rate, and said that immigration agencies should be set up abroad to encourage foreign spouses to come.

In response, Su said that agency representatives will be sent abroad to economic affairs councils in respective countries to encourage immigration.

Another PFP Legislator, Feng Ting-kuo (馮定國), said another potential problem with the existing policies is that most husbands with foreign brides are of low socio-economic status in the first place and may expect their wives to work with them. At the moment work permits for foreign brides are not easily obtainable, especially those from China.

Feng said these spouses should be allowed to legally enter the job market after their marriage to a Taiwanese citizen and obtain work permits so that they can improve their economic situation. Feng's proposal was taken into consideration by the ministry for reference.

Provisions for the education of the children of foreign spouses were not included in the budget, which also sparked criticism from legislators.

According to the Ministry of Education (MOE) figures, an average of 8.2 percent of elementary school children born to Southeast Asian mothers are slow in speech and language development, causing them to fall behind in school.

Su said that the education ministry was cooperating with the MOE in the education of these children and that extra classes were offered for them after school to improve the situation.

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