Tue, Dec 18, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Tourists from southbound nations missing

Staff writer, with CNA

Nearly 2,000 people from countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Oceania who entered Taiwan visa-free from Aug. 1, 2016, to March 31 cannot be accounted for, the Legislative Yuan Budget Center said yesterday.

As of the end of March, 1,946 people from the 18 countries targeted by the government’s New Southbound Policy had overstayed their visas and their whereabouts were not known by Taiwanese authorities, the center said, citing data from the National Audit Office.

A total of 1,441 visitors from South and Southeast Asian countries, including Australia, New Zealand and India, were found to have used another person’s documents to remain in Taiwan, while 606 were found to be working illegally in the nation, the report said.

In August, Taiwan began offering visa-free entry on a trial basis to visitors from New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia as well as Australia, Brunei, Thailand and the Philippines, as part of its southbound policy, the report said.

Only New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia reciprocated, according to the report, which was submitted by the center to the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee during a presentation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ budget for next year.

Visitors from Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and India are eligible to enter Taiwan visa-free under certain conditions, while only Indonesia offers the same opportunity to Taiwanese travelers, the report said.

The policy, introduced by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) after she took office in May 2016, seeks to establish closer ties with the 10 ASEAN member states, Australia, New Zealand and India.

The report said that since November 2015, when the government agreed to allow high-quality tour groups from Southeast Asian countries apply for electronic entry visas, many tourists have left their groups after entering Taiwan, or engaged in activities other than those stated on their visas.

The ministry should evaluate the effects of visa regulations on tourism and security in Taiwan, the center said, adding that the results should be kept in mind as the government decides whether to continue to offer visa-free entry to these countries.

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