The Legislative Yuan’s Internal Affairs Committee today passed a second reading of a refugee bill that, if passed in a third session, would make it possible for Taiwan to allow in political refugees from China in accordance with the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area.

The bill states that foreigners and stateless persons displaced by war or natural disasters, or who are forced to leave their country due to differences in religion, race, ethnicity, or political beliefs, can apply for refugee status in Taiwan.

If refugee status is not granted, the Ministry of the Interior can set a deadline for the applicant to leave the country; if they do not leave, they can be forcefully repatriated unless the person is more than five months pregnant or has a life-threatening disease.

The draft bill also includes legislation to avoid overburdening the country’s resources, stating that the relevant authorities should set a quota for the number of refugees who are allowed to settle in Taiwan. If there are large numbers of applicants, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and NGOs should form a task force and work with the United Nations to handle the situation.

The refugee bill was first introduced in 2005, but was not passed then. Deputy Minister of the Interior Hua Ching-chun (花敬群) said the Ministry will work to implement a vetting process for refugees and plans for a refugee center as soon as possible.

Chinese political dissident Tang Baiqiao (唐柏橋), who was denied a Taiwanese visa last month, said Taiwan should have clear guidelines for accepting refugees, and the immigration authorities should have their own hearing courts to approve refugee applications and to avoid wrongful repatriations.

First Editor: J. Michael Cole
Second Editor: Olivia Yang