The increase in the number of new immigrants, most of whom emigrate to Taiwan because of marriage, is a recent phenomenon appropriate for discussion, but not a "problem," academics said on Wednesday, encouraging the public and the government to accept new immigrants with open arms.
The number of marriage migrants to Taiwan has surpassed 390,000 -- including 140,000 coming from Southeast Asian countries and 250,000 from China -- making new immigrants a "fifth ethnic group" that Taiwanese society cannot afford to overlook, said Michael Hsiao (蕭新煌), a researcher at Academia Sinica.
The 390,000 new immigrants, who are often called "foreign spouses," and 330,000 foreign workers add up to 720,000 people, Hsiao said. That number exceeds the number of Taiwan's indigenous peoples -- one of the so-called "four ethnic groups" -- in addition to the Hoklo, Hakka and Mainlanders.
Hsiao pointed out that immigration is a global phenomenon with a record high of 200 million people now living in foreign lands worldwide.
"Taiwan is not alone," he said.
In Taiwan, Hsiao said, the phenomenon emerged in the early 1990s as more and more immigrants, mostly Vietnamese, relocated to Taiwan through cross-border marriages. But this should be seen as an issue, and a "new chapter" in Taiwanese society instead of a problem, he stressed.
"Who knows? In 20 or 30 years, we may elect a president whose mother is Vietnamese. And believe it or not, new immigrants will have a huge impact on future elections in Taiwan as a focus group," he said.
There are still many stigmas to be eliminated in Taiwan about new immigrants, for instance that most children with "foreign mothers" have learning difficulties -- a false concept that has been disproved by various research, Hsiao said.
As one of the most experienced Asian countries in dealing with immigration issues, Taiwan still has a lot of room for improvement, he said. The government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) should be offering counselling to whole families rather than individuals, and communities and neighborhoods should play supportive roles.
"I would say that Taiwan's government has been trying to tackle the issue head-on. However, it has sometimes rushed to find solutions. What it should do, I think, is relax and seek to understand the issue before acting," Hsiao said.
DOING ENOUGH? The HPA budgets NT$1.3 billion to prevent the health hazards of tobacco, but has no separate budget to fight teen drinking, a doctor said The government should step up alcohol education and prevention efforts, and allocate more of the budget to it, doctors said on Friday, citing the high consumption of alcohol among Taiwanese adolescents. One out of four 12-to-17-year-olds has consumed alcohol, said Yen Tsung-hai (顏宗海), director of Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital’s Department of Clinical Toxicology. The Health Promotion Administration (HPA) budgets NT$1.3 billion (US$43.9 million) annually to prevent the health hazards of tobacco, but it has not allocated a separate budget for preventing teenage drinking or excessive alcohol use, Yen said. “There is no so-called ‘safe drinking level’ for minors,” because any amount consumed
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The National Taiwan Museum’s Railway Department Park in Taipei is to open to the public today. The park in Datong District (大同) near the North Gate (北門, Beimen) is one of the museum’s four branches. During the Japanese colonial era, the site housed the railway department of the Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan’s Bureau of Transportation. After World War II, it served as the headquarters for the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) for several decades. In 2007, it was listed as a national monument under the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (文化資產保存法). At an opening ceremony yesterday, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung