PRESS RELEASE: Human rights advocates from across Asia urge the Taiwanese Government to swiftly pass Refugee Act

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.”

除了圓桌論壇之外,這群國際代表團也跟移民署、司法院及立法院院長進行拜會,同時也播放了韓國的難民紀錄片,以提高東亞在地社群對於難民議題的關注及認識。亞太難民權利網絡主席Yiombi Thona教授,自己本身也是難民,他表示,我們非常興奮並支持台灣政府所採取的腳步。作為一個難民,我住在南韓超過十五年,我知道逃離你原本的生活,是怎麼樣的滋味。我到過沒有任何保護難民的法令或制度的國家。多年來,我只能奮力去逃脫這個存在。我不希望任何人過這樣的生活。當台灣通過難民法,希望那些在安全上需要保護的弱勢族群,可以獲得保護。

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.”

透過每場會議,我們再次重申根據國際準則和最佳做法制定一個計劃良好,健全和精心準確的法律框架的必要性。國際難民法官協會的Allan Mackey強調,許多地區可以改善的地方還很多。特別是,難民法應該要包含「不遣返原則」,以保障難民及其他需要被保護的人。台灣必須要參照1951年的難民公約,這個標準已經被全球接受及同意。

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”.

Evan Jones,亞太難民權利網絡的計畫協調員,強調與台灣政府建設性的對話,讓我們感到非常有希望。然而,這只是第一步,當法律通過,政府必須更加努力確保它的有效實施。我們正處於二戰之後最大的難民危機,這是每個人的集體責任,來保護那些逃離迫害的人們。我們的網絡已經準備好來協助台灣政府,透過通過這個歷史性的法案,來引領國際。


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.

About APRRN:

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.

Media Contact:

Evan Jones,
Programme Coordinator, 
Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN)

Tel: +66 2 252 66 54 | Email: | Fax: +66 2 689 62 05

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