A group of 110 Tibetans in exile in this country without legal status may soon be granted temporary residency, Mongolian and Tibetans Affairs Commission (MTAC) Secretary-General Chien Shih-yin (錢世英) said yesterday.
“We’ll try two things at the same time. First, we’ll ask the Executive Yuan to hold a ministerial meeting on the issue,” Chien told the Taipei Times in a telephone interview after a meeting members of human rights and Tibet-support groups, including the Taiwan Friends of Tibet, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights and Amnesty International Taiwan.
“Second, we will try to fulfill their needs for food and shelter right away,” Chien said.
The Tibetans — who entered Taiwan on forged Indian and Nepalese passports five to six years ago — have been staging a sit-in demonstration at Liberty Square in Taipei for the past two weeks, asking the government to grant them asylum.
Most of them escaped to India before arriving in Taiwan. As they have no legal status here, they face constant challenges in gaining employment or healthcare.
Local human rights activists have been helping the Tibetans in negotiations with various government institutions.
The Cabinet would likely recommend a revision to the Immigration Act (出入國及移民法) to make a special case for the 110 Tibetans, Chien said.
“Meanwhile, we will send them to a shelter for illegal immigrants, grant them temporary residency and hand them over to non-governmental organizations,” Chien said.
The Immigration Act states that foreigners whose visa has expired must be deported to their home country. In cases where a foreigner cannot return home, he or she must stay in the custody of the National Immigration Agency.
“They supposedly have to stay in custody before the law is amended, but I don’t think they would feel comfortable about it,” Chien said.
“That’s why we’ll ask some social groups to shelter them after a simplified legal process and grant them temporary residency as they wait on the revision process,” Chien said.
Temporary residency would allow them to live here, but not work, so “at least they won’t have to worry about getting arrested as illegal immigrants,” Chien said.
Taiwan Tibetan Welfare Association secretary-general Lobsang Tenpa said that although the solution was not perfect, “it is acceptable as we can feel their sincerity in helping these people.”