Taiwan News
Groups eye help for foreign spouses
Dec 19, 2018 | By Ann Maxon

To mark International Immigrants Day, the Alliance for Human Rights Legislation for Immigrants and Migrants yesterday called for more relaxed immigration laws allowing foreign spouses to keep their residency after a divorce if they were not responsible for the marriage’s dissolution.

“While the government has been marking International Immigrants Day since 2011 by holding a festival every Dec. 18, it has been ignoring the lack of legal protection for immigrants and their families,” Shih Hsin University sociology professor Hsia Hsiao-chuan (夏曉鵑) told a news conference held by the alliance at the Legislative Yuan.

“Holding dances and music festivals alone will not solve the legal problems that immigrants face,” she added.

Under the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法), foreign spouses lose their marriage-based residency after a divorce unless they have underage children and certain custody rights, Legal Aid Foundation attorney Frank Wu (吳富凱) said.

“Why is having a husband and a child necessary for those residents to be acknowledged by the law?” he said. “It is treating them as a marriage object and a childbirthing tool, and that clearly contravenes the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.”

While the act allows foreign spouses subject to domestic abuse to remain after a divorce, their residency extends only as long as any restraining order, said Lee Pei-hsiang (李佩香), a Cambodian immigrant and executive secretary of The TransAsia Sisters Association.

“In cases where the marriage dissolved because the Taiwanese spouse cheated or was abusive, the foreign spouse would still lose residency unless she was beaten half-dead and obtained a restraining order — and even then she would have to leave the nation once the order expires, usually after six or 12 months,” she said.

Spouses should be allowed to keep their residency if they were not responsible for the divorce, especially those who have lived in Taiwan for many years, she said.

“A law that grants foreign spouses residency only when their children are underage suggests to foreign women that once you have given birth to children and raised them to adulthood you can get out of our country,” Hsia said, “Is this really the kind of gender equality and justice that we hope to have?”

The alliance, which has more than a dozen groups and several academics, has since last year been calling for the Immigration Act to be amended so that foreign spouses can keep their residency after a divorce if they were not responsible for its dissolution, she said.

Amending the act would improve immigrants’ rights and help the government recruit talent from Southeast Asia and improve diversity, key goals of the New Southbound Policy, she said.

“As the government works on encouraging Southeast Asians to spend money and work in Taiwan under the New Southbound Policy, it must not ignore their rights when they marry Taiwanese and become immigrants,” she said.


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