Now that Russia has invaded Ukraine in an attempt to revive its empire, many Ukrainians in Taiwan are unsure about what will happen if and when their visas run out.
Taiwan has long been criticized for its immigration policy. Even though Taiwan bills itself as a representative for freedom and democracy in the world (which in many respects is warranted), it often falls short of many people’s expectations when it comes to admitting refugees. This inability or unwillingness to accept refugees has been especially apparent in recent cases of asylum seekers, though some progress has been seen regarding those from Hong Kong. With Ukraine being so destabilized by Russian aggression, many worry that those in Taiwan that cannot extend their visas could face deadly consequences if they are forced out of the country.
Thankfully, perhaps due to a few high profile cases like that of basketball player Ihor Zaytsev, it seems that Taiwan may do the right thing and help extend visas. Foreign Minister Joseph Wu stated that he will work with the Ministry of the Interior to find solutions, and that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be magnanimous in its approach. The current Minister of the Interior, Hsu Kuo-yung, has said that if visa extensions are applied for they will be accepted and that there are no limitations on the number of times that applicants can request said extensions. Whether Taiwan will accept asylum seekers fleeing Ukraine seems less likely, but with growing support amongst both government and citizens, it is possible.
While this decision to extend visas seems to be good news on its face, there are a number of nightmare immigration stories from Taiwan, and just relying on the current system could create problems. Taiwan needs to ensure that people facing life threatening situations should they be deported, have a clear path to remain in the country, at the very least until the issues have subsided. The country also needs to take a long, hard look at its immigration and, lack of, asylum laws. This is especially the case if they want to truly embody the image of an international defender of freedom and democracy.