An Indonesian man who was facing deportation has shared the story of how neighbors and lawyers came to his rescue in a new book.
The man, nicknamed A-tsai (阿財), spoke on Friday at a Legal Aid Foundation book launch in celebration of its 12th anniversary.
His story was highlighted in the book titled Let Us Change Through the Telling of Their Stories (說他們的故事，讓我們改變) that discusses two cases of migrant workers who gained residence with the foundation’s assistance.
A-tsai, who now lives in New Taipei City’s Lujhou District (蘆洲), said he came to Taiwan from Indonesia 29 years ago at the age of 21. After six months the industrial laundromat he worked for closed and his employer took his passport. He spent the next 28 years as a stateless person with no identification and no healthcare.
He said he had worked as a lifeguard at a beach in Baisha Bay (白沙灣) in New Taipei City’s Shimen District (石門), where he saved more than 20 people from drowning over the years.
He said that he has no siblings and has forgotten how to speak Indonesian and that Taiwan has become his only home.
Although he cannot read or write Chinese characters, he can speak fluent Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) and has become close to his neighbors, helping to clean drainage pipes and take the neighbors’ children to and from school.
A-tsai was arrested in May last year and sent to the Sansia Foreigners’ Detention Center, where preparations were made to deport him to Indonesia.
However, Indonesian authorities expressed little interest, leaving A-tsai stateless.
Neighbors, social workers and lawyers from the Judicial Reform Foundation and the Legal Aid Foundation helped prepare lawsuits against the administration, while simultaneously making heartfelt appeals to immigration authorities.
Those appeals were answered in November last year when the Department of Immigration issued him an Alien Residence Certificate, he said, allowing him to apply for health insurance for the first time since arriving in Taiwan.
A-tsai said he looks forward to his new life as a legal resident and hopes to become a Taiwanese citizen.
Taiwan Association for Innocence chairman Law Bing-cheng (羅秉成) at the launch called on the government to bolster the role of legal aid in judicial reform, implement a defense process for those under investigation by the police, leave debtors with sufficient means to survive, establish a culturally sensitive legal aid center for Aborigines, implement an aid mechanism to assist victims of crimes related to natural resources and increase the budget for legal aid to ensure the protection of human rights.
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