Fri, Jun 21, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers, groups call for passage of refugee act

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

Democratic Progressive Party legislators, including Chen Man-li, front second left, and Yu Mei-nu, front third right, attend a news conference yesterday in Taipei.

Photo courtesy of Taiwan Association for Human Rights

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators and civic groups yesterday called for the passage of an act that would guarantee residency for refugees.

Refugees arrive in Taiwan from China, Hong Kong, Tibet, Syria, Turkey and other nations every year, but many are deported or stay illegally due to the lack of a legal basis to accept refugees, Taiwan Association for Human Rights secretary-general Chiu Ee-ling (邱伊翎) told a news conference to mark World Refugee Day.

Earlier this year, the government deported six Kurdish people back to Syria and sent an Iranian mother and her son to back to Nauru against medical advice, she said.

The deportations contravened the non-refoulement principle and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which stipulates that no one should be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, she said.

While laws on refugees are urgently needed, the Legislative Yuan has been stalling refugee bills since the DPP proposed the first draft in 2005, she said.

Although the bill was listed as a priority in 2008, it did not clear a first reading until 2016 and has since made no progress, she said.

“We are very worried that if the bill does not pass, the legislation would go back to square one after the legislature is reshuffled by the general election in January next year,” Chiu said.

Amnesty International Taiwan deputy secretary-general Annie Huang (黃尚卿) said that there are an estimated 25 million refugees worldwide.

All nations, especially those with stronger economies, are responsible for helping refugees, she said.

“The real problem is not with the refugees, but countries that caused them to leave home and countries that cannot see their value,” Huang said.

Turkish national Yavuz Avci, who moved to Taiwan in 1993, said that he has been unable to obtain Republic of China citizenship following the Turkish coup in 2016.

The Turkish Trade Office in Taipei would not provide the paperwork he needs for naturalization and even took his passport, he said.

“I work in international business, but now without a passport where can I go?” he asked.

While he was able to obtain marriage-based residency, he has more than 20 friends who are not as lucky, he said.

Many of them can speak Chinese and are very talented, he said, adding that he hopes a refugee bill would be passed soon.

DPP Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) said that the main reason behind the bill’s slow progress is the common misconception that refugees burden the economy.

“We must keep educating people so that refugees would no longer be stigmatized. When we achieve that, the bill should be expected to pass,” she said.

More Hong Kongers are expected to seek political asylum in Taiwan, DPP Legislator Chen Man-li (陳曼麗) said.

In a resolution passed on Monday, the legislature urged the government to provide assistance to Hong Kongers whose freedom and safety have been threatened due to political reasons, she said.

She and other legislators would work hard to promote the refugee bill, she added.

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