Contrary to popular belief that the Republic of China (Taiwan) is a ‘closed country,’ it welcomes new migrants from all over the world, although its demographic profile comprises largely of people from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and South East Asia.
As at the end of July 2018, there were 733,361 ‘New Migrants,’ settled throughout Taiwan, with Taoyuan City accounting for the largest number (116,949), followed by New Taipei City, the Capital (102,323). The Japanese ‘occupation’ began several decades ago and today accounts for about 535,000 people. The main business district and downtown of the New Taipei City boasts of significant Japanese inhabitants speaking fluent Mandarin.
The population of Taiwan is about 23.7 million, spread across a total land area of 36,000 Sq kms. It is the 17th most densely populated country in the world with a population density of about 650 people per square metre.
The original population of the island of Taiwan and its associated islands, (not including Kinmen and the Matsu Islands) consisted of Taiwanese Aborigines, speaking Austronesian languages and sharing mitochondrial DNA contribution with island peoples of Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
Immigration of Han Chinese to the Penghu Islands started as early as the 13th Century, while settlement of the main island occurred from the 16th Century, stimulated by the import of workers from Fujian by the Dutch in the 17th Century.
According to official statistics, more than 95% of the population of Taiwan is now made up of Han Chinese, while 2.3% are Taiwanese aborigines. Half the population are followers of one or a mixture of 25 recognised religions. Around 93% of the religious population are followers of a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, while a minority 4.5% are followers of Christianity.
Promoting Special Programmes
National Immigration Agency (NIA) of the Interior Ministry is in charge of the country’s immigration policy and border control, implementation of programmes to support proper settlement of migrants and other related issues.
NIA Chief Secretary Lin Hsing-Chun told a visiting delegation of Indo-Pacific journalists (including this Reporter) in Taipei on August 12, 2018 that Taiwan welcomes new migrants and supports them through a sustained strategy of settlement, education and naturalisation.
“As a part of our ‘New Southbound Policy’ (NSP), our government is keen to promote the welfare of foreigners and new migrants. We have introduced our ‘New Immigrant Care and Assistance Programme’ and established our ‘New Immigrant Development Fund.’ Our activities range from providing orientation courses, medical assistance, health insurance, language training education for parents and imparting knowledge for expectant mothers and raising children and hotlines for counselling,” he said.
Mr Hsing-Chun said that Care and Service Visits for new migrants begin with their initial border entry followed by lectures on family education and legal propaganda.
He said that Taiwan recognises multiculturalism and that its immigration policy aims to encourage new migrants to effectively integrate into the mainstream society.
Fund for Immigrants
In Taiwan, government policies are implemented through the ‘Executive Yuan,’ according to which, the ‘New Immigration Development Fund’ helps to build a friendly society.
Mr Hsing-Chun said that the Executive Yuan established the ‘New Immigrant Affairs Coordination Board’ on June 16, 2015 to protect the rights and interests of new immigrants.
“The scale of ‘The New Immigrant Development Fund’ is NT$ 1 billion (about US$ 32.52 million) per year. This is to enhance the assistance to the immigrants and their children,” he said.
Combating Human Trafficking
“Illegal immigrants impact on social stability, economy, public order and sanitation. Therefore, we carry out management of illegal immigrants through prevention, crackdown, detention, and repatriation,” he said.
Taiwan hosted the 2018 International Workshop on Strategies for Combating Human Trafficking in Taipei on July 26, 2018, at which Vice-President Chen Chien-jen and Interior Minister Hsu Kuo-yung ‘activated four blue-core crystal balls, standing for the four Ps, namely, Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Partnership to tackle human trafficking.
Citizenship and Voting Rights
Mr Hsing-Chun said that foreigners who are white-collar workers, can apply for Taiwanese citizenship after five years of Permanent Residence and that they would be allowed to vote after five years of obtaining citizenship.
“However, they can contest in local and national elections only after ten years of citizenship. Taiwan offers a friendly environment for foreigners and helps them feel at home. We propose to allow dual citizenship from next year to people from Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. We also have a comprehensive plan in place to welcome people from the ten NSP countries including Australia and New Zealand,” he said.
Lin Hsing-Chun and Ned Chou, First Secretary on Home Assignment at the Foreign Affairs Ministry (11th and 12th from left) with officials and the visiting press delegation from Indo-Pacific countries at his office in Taipei on Monday, August 12, 2018.