For immediate release
Human rights advocates from across Asia urge the Taiwanese Government to swiftly pass Refugee Act
Taipei, 26 April 2017, 10.00: This week civil society and refugee experts from across Asia met with the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to promote the passage of Taiwan’s pending draft refugee legislation. The objective of the trip was to show international solidarity and support for the development of Taiwan’s refugee protection system. The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) together with the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR) convened the closed-door roundtable, which focused on positive practices and lessons learned from across East Asia and the world. During the roundtable, non-governmental and government representatives engaged in open and frank discussions on a number of refugee protection issues. This included the need to cross-reference the Refugee Act to other international conventions such as the UN Refugee Convention and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Also emphasized was the need for government and civil society to work hand-in-hand for smooth implementation after the law passes.
Taiwan is at the cusp of passing national legislation for refugee protection, joining the ranks of other progressive East Asian nations such as South Korea. As a region with many upper-middle income countries with capacity to support those in need, East Asian nations are well placed to play a key role in supporting persons that have been forcibly displaced. Despite officially only having a handful of people claiming asylum in Taiwan each year, it is estimated that many more live on the fringes of society with no access to any type of support or protection. Upon ratification of a national law, refugees will be entitled to a fair and robust refugee status determination procedure and additional welfare support, as well as pathways to residency.
E-Ling Chiu from the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, a locally based non-governmental organization that has been working to support and advocate for refugees for more than fifteen years, notes that “Taiwan is about to reach an important milestone in the development of its systems at an international standard. With the swift passage of this law, Taiwan can join other East Asian states that have also made strides towards refugee protection in recent years. Taiwan must act quickly and ensure this legislation reaches fruition.” With regard to the treatment of Chinese nationals seeking protection in Taiwan, she added, “Chinese nationals must be provided due process and the core principle of non-refoulement must be adhered to.”
In addition to the roundtable, the international delegation also held a number of individual meetings with civil society, legal practitioners and government officials. A public film screening was also held to raise the profile of refugee issues in East Asia to the local community. Yiombi Thona, APRRN’s Chair and a refugee himself said “We are very excited and supportive of the steps taken so far by the Taiwanese Government. As a refugee myself who has lived in South Korea for the past fifteen years, I understand first-hand what it is like to flee for your life. I arrived in a country where there is no law or process in place for refugees. Without any support, I was left for many years to struggle just to eek out an existence. It was not a life I would wish upon anyone. By Taiwan implementing a refugee law, some of the most vulnerable people in need of safety would finally get the protection they need.”
Throughout each of the meetings the need for a well-planned, robust and meticulously accurate legal framework in accordance with international norms and best practices was reiterated. Allan Mackey, Project Director at the International Association of Refugee Law Judges highlighted a number of areas where improvements can be made. In particular, he emphasized, “The Refugee Act should include a specific non-refoulement provision that covers both refugees and other protected persons. Taiwan should also explicitly reference the 1951 Refugee Convention as this is the globally accepted and agreed standard.”
The delegation also noted that for a system to be implemented well, the government must take a proactive approach in a number of different areas including legal aid, interpretation and translation, humanitarian support provision, and enhanced stakeholder cooperation.
Evan Jones, Programme Coordinator at the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network noted that “the constructive dialogue entered into by the Taiwanese Government is very promising. However, it is just a first step, and even after this law is passed, the government must work hard to ensure that it is implemented effectively. As we are in the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, it is everyone’s collective responsibility to protect people fleeing persecution. Our network remains ready and committed to support the Government of Taiwan in the lead up to, and after the passing of this historic law”.
Notes to the editor:
This week the government of the Republic of China hosted a delegation from the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network to discuss the pending draft refugee legislation and the preconditions for successful implementation. Held in Taipei, Taiwan from 25-26 April 2017, the meetings brought together government officials, lawyers, civil society activists and representatives from the International Association of Refugee Law Judges (IARLJ). The international delegates who travelled to Taipei are all members of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network and each brings with them an expertise in refugee legal aid, advocacy, government engagement and service provision.
In July 2016, the Taiwanese Legislative Yuan passed the first of three readings of Taiwan’s draft refugee legislation. This positive move is welcomed by civil society and is seen as a strong example of Taiwan’s positive and important role in the region. As a non-member state of the United Nations, Taiwan is unable to ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, but there is nothing stopping Taiwan from implementing the Refugee Convention and Protocol the same way it has the ICCPR, ICESCR, and CEDAW.
Furthermore, during Taiwan’s second review of its obligations under ICCPR and ICESCR in January 2017, the independent expert panel noted that, despite a previous recommendation in 2013, refugee legislation has still not been enacted. Article 7 of the Concluding Recommendations from this report reiterated the need for domestic refugee legislation to be passed.
The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network is a vibrant network of over 300 civil society groups and individuals from 28 countries in the Asia Pacific region committed to advancing the rights of refugees, through joint advocacy, capacity-strengthening, resource sharing and outreach.
Evan Jones, Programme Coordinator, Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN)
Tel: +66 2 252 66 54 | Email: Evan@aprrn.info | Fax: +66 2 689 62 05