Sun, Nov 26, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Report calls for caution on visa-free entry plans

By Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff writer, with CNA

A Control Yuan report released on Friday urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Immigration Agency, the National Police Agency and others to respond to concerns regarding national security and public safety caused by the government’s plans to grant visa-free entry to nationals of more countries.

The research report, initiated by Control Yuan members Chen Hsiao-hung (陳小紅) and Bau Tzong-ho (包宗和), said the government has been researching and drafting a plan to grant visa-free entry to the nationals of 11 Latin American and Caribbean allies, as well as countries targeted in the New Southbound Policy and six South Pacific allies.

Since the policy has been proposed, illegal activities — including drug dealing, smuggling, prostitution and other crimes — by nationals of several foreign countries has already raised national security and public safety concerns, the report said.

Promoting diplomatic relations and boosting tourism are positive goals, and the visa-free entry program will support the government’s New Southbound Policy, the report said.

However, the foreign ministry should also take into account other factors beyond political considerations, it said.

The report urged the ministry to perform an detailed assessment of the effects of the policy, including its realistic economic effectiveness in terms of boosting tourism, its effects on border security and other consequences.

It also encouraged the ministry to take into consideration professional advice and statistics provided by related agencies.

If the effects can be expected to be negative overall and the selected countries do not move to grant Taiwan reciprocal treatment, the ministry should immediately end or shorten the period of the trial to preserve Taiwan’s national dignity, the report added.

In the case of Thailand, 157 Thai nationals have been arrested for crimes in Taiwan since the trial visa-free entry program was rolled out for Thailand and Brunei in August last year, according to the report.

The National Police Agency organizes criminal cases by nationality, but it does not do the same for prostitution and other violations of the Social Order Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護法), the Control Yuan members said.

The government could establishment a “big data” database to better organize and analyze criminal activity, manage the source of criminal activities more strictly or establish a penalty system for foreigners.

These measures should be taken as soon as possible, they said, adding that if such policies proved ineffective, visa-free privileges should be readjusted immediately.

The countries that are being granted visa-free entry in accordance with the government’s New Southbound Policy are also the main countries from which Taiwan is recruiting foreign workers, the Control Yuan members said, expressing concern that cases of missing workers, illegal employment and visa overstays could worsen after visa-free entry is granted.

They also asked whether it would be more difficult to control criminal activities by foreign nationals if more visitors were to enter the country through the visa-free entry program.

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