Refugees in Taiwan, accompanied by rights advocates, yesterday called on the government and the legislature to pass legislation regarding refugees without delay so that they can live in the country without worries.
“No one would want to become a refugee. I have come to Taiwan because I was involved in a campaign for democracy in China, and was jailed and then placed under 24-hour surveillance,” exiled Chinese democracy activist Yan Peng (燕鵬) told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan. “I’ve been in Taiwan for nearly 10 years, but I still don’t have legal residency here because I came to Taiwan by swimming to Kinmen, which is considered illegal entry.”
“However, I am a refugee. I was pursued by my own country. Is it possible that my country would allow me to leave it safely and enter into Taiwan legally?” he said.
Yan said that without legal residency, he could not get cellphone service or a bank account under his own name.
“I even get a weird look from doctors because I don’t have any health insurance,” he said.
Sanjay Dawa, an exiled Tibetan who has been married to a Taiwanese woman since 2010, said he has also been denied residency even though he is married to a Taiwanese.
Sanjay Dawa said he could not apply for residency because the Taiwanese government does not consider a refugee document issued by the Indian government a valid travel document, and thus considers him a stateless person.
“I can only get a two-month visa with two extensions allowed, meaning that I can only stay in Taiwan for up to six months at a time,” he said. “In addition to the trouble this causes, it’s frustrating that a healthy and able person like myself cannot work, and can do nothing to help my wife, who works so hard to feed the family.”
Sanjay Dawa said that before coming to Taiwan, he thought Taiwan was a democracy that values human rights, but was disappointed to find that his refugee status was not recognized here.
Taiwan Tibetan Welfare Association president Dachompa Yama first expressed his appreciation for Taiwanese support for exiled Tibetans, but called on the government and the legislature to pass the refugee bill as soon as possible.
“The refugee issue is a survival issue. If a country cannot protect the fundamental right to life of a citizen, other countries should provide assistance to the person based on humanitarianism,” Taiwan Association for Human Rights chairman Wellington Koo (顧立雄) said. “I think Taiwan has the conditions to provide such help to refugees.”
National Immigration Agency official Chen Chi-yuan (陳啟源) and Mainland Affairs Council representative Lu Chung-min (魯仲民) said that the government is fully supportive of legislation for refugees and has submitted proposed amendments to the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and Mainland Area (台灣地區人民與大陸地區人民關係條例) as well as a draft refugee act to the Legislative Yuan, which are pending review by the legislature.
Democratic Progressive Party legislators Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) and Yu Mei-nu (尤美女), as well as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Apollo Chen (陳學聖), attended the news conference and vowed to support passage of the refugee law in the next legislative session.