Taipei, More than 2,000 foreign nationals illegally staying in Taiwan have turned themselves in or been seized over the past month under an expanded amnesty program launched because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the National Immigration Agency (NIA) said on Friday.
Since March 20, a total of 2,074 foreign nationals — 1,413 migrant workers who ran away from their employees before their visa expired and 661 foreign spouses and white collar office workers who overstayed their visas — have been reached by law enforcement officers as of Friday.
Under the Expanded Overstayers Voluntary Departure Program effective between April 1 and June 30, a total of 1,094 of the illegal stayers voluntarily turned themselves over to law enforcement agencies, while 980 were seized by relevant authorities, NIA said in a press release.
The agency said it is urging other migrant workers who are illegally staying in Taiwan to turn themselves in as soon as possible during the current pandemic, because it will help them return to their home countries quickly and at a lower cost.
The authorities in Taiwan worry the migrants will become a loophole in their efforts to control the spread of the virus. Illegal migrants work in the black market do not have access to health insurance or medical care.
That’s believed to make them less likely to seek medical attention if they fall ill, including from COVID-19, which could cause them to spread the virus to other people.
Among those undocumented migrant workers who reported to law enforcement authorities in recent weeks, 610 are from Indonesia and 329 are from Vietnam, the NIA said.
Before the expanded program expires, undocumented migrant workers reporting to law enforcement for voluntary departure from Taiwan will be exempt from mandatory detention and will receive a minimal fine of NT$2,000 (US$66.53) and no re-entry ban.
If they do not voluntarily contact immigration authorities, they face a maximum fine of NT$10,000 and will be banned from entering Taiwan for one to eight years.
Chen Ssu-tsun (陳泗村), captain of the NIA’s Pingtung County Specialized Operation, told the press on Friday that 23 undocumented migrant workers in the county have turned themselves in.
Among them was an Indonesian caregiver who ran away from her employer and overstayed in Taiwan to earn more money shortly after she entered Taiwan in 2016, Chen said.
Eager to go home, the Indonesian woman sought help from NIA to help her return to Indonesia earlier Friday, because she did not have enough money to pay for her fine and trip back home after wiring all the money she amassed in Taiwan to cure her ill husband who died recently in Indonesia, according to Chen.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel