Ugandan asylum-seeker given pathway to stay in Taiwan after 7 years

08/09/2022 10:19 PM
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The National Immigration Agency headquarters. CNA file photo
The National Immigration Agency headquarters. CNA file photo

Taipei, Aug. 9 (CNA) The National Immigration Agency (NIA) said Tuesday it had begun processing the residency application of a Ugandan asylum-seeker stuck in immigration limbo for seven years due to Taiwan's lack of a refugee law.

On Monday, Control Yuan members Chi Hui-jung (紀惠容) and Kao Yung-cheng (高涌誠) expressed concern over the plight of a woman identified only by the initial "A," who arrived in Taiwan in July 2015 and attempted to claim asylum after suffering extreme violence and death threats in Uganda because she is gay.

According to Chi and Kao, the woman has been exempt from deportation but unable to gain legal immigration status due to Taiwan's lack of a refugee law.

In the years since, she has been unable to legally work or enroll in the National Health Insurance system, and has had to rely on financial assistance from NGOs in order to survive, they said.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the NIA said that although Taiwan does not yet have a refugee law, the woman in question has "established a new life" in the country and is eligible under current laws to apply for residency.

The NIA added that she had subsequently submitted a residency petition to the NIA, which it was working to process as quickly as possible.

In the statement, the immigration agency said recent amendments to the "Regulations Governing Visiting, Residency and Permanent Residency of Aliens" would make it easier to resolve such cases in the future without resorting to deportations.

It was likely referring to new language in Article 24 of the act, which states that foreign nationals who cannot be deported to their home country for "other special reasons" can be issued a provisional alien registration permit.

Meanwhile, the NIA said it plans to continue drafting a refugee law based on international precedent and public sentiment, with plans to introduce it at a "suitable time."

Despite campaigns by Taiwanese civil society groups since the mid-2000s -- most notably during the 2019 Hong Kong pro-democracy protests -- efforts to pass a refugee law in Taiwan have repeatedly stalled in the Legislature.

(By Huang Li-yun, Chen Chun-hua and Matthew Mazzetta)

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