Brief report of foreigner detention centers in Taiwan


author:Jui-Yu Chen,Taiwan Association for Human Rights 

translator:Pinnhueih LEE, volunteer

editor: E-Ling Chiu,Taiwan Association for Human Rights 


*The report is based on the information provided by each detention center and notes of observors after visiting the foreigner detention centers in 2012.


1. Composition of detainee and legal basis for detention

There are four foreigner detention centers which are part of National Immigration Agency, Ministry of the Interior in Taiwan Island. These four detention centers are located in Taipei (Sanxia), Hsinchu, Yilan, Nantou respectively. Because of the tension relationship between Taiwan and China in the past, Hsinchu and Yilan detention centers were mainly for the PRC nationals. After the changes of Taiwan-China political and economic situations in the recent years, the number of illegal PRC immigrants has dropped rapidly and the PRC detainees are now detained with other illegal immigrants in the four foreigner detention centers in Taiwan. By November 30th, 2012, the remaining number of Chinese detainees was 82. Except Chinese, detainees in these four detention centers on Taiwan Island today are primarily from South-East Asia. They are migrant workers from Thailand and Philippine, or immigrants from Indonesia and Vietnam because of marriage. While there are a large number of illegal immigrants and migrant workers who violate administrative regulations and have to be deported because of overstaying the period of residence or illegal employment, there are also some detainees who involving drugs, forgery of documents, or stealing. There are also few numbers of Chinese dissidents who seek for asylum or refugees who escape civil wars from their homelands.         

The foreigner detention under Taiwan law has two legal bases: one is for PRC nationals, which is Article 18 of Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan and China; the other one is Article 38 of Immigration Act. The purpose of detention is a security measure for the forced deportation. The forced deportation often comes into force for reasons of illegal entry, overstayed a visit or the period of residence, working without a permit, and committed crimes. The detention, however, can only be implemented as the last strategy of the forced deportation. The police authority, in fact, does not take individual assessment before imposing the detention procedure.

According to Article 2 of Regulations Governing the Detention of the Aliens and Article 2 of Regulations Governing the Detention of the PCR nationals (including China, Hong Kong, and Macau), detainees are simply classified into the gender differences. There is no consideration for nationalities, crime levels, pregnancy, or age. Consequently, complicated situations in detention centers are easily created, as well as dominated groups are formed because of certain privileges occurred between different nationalities.   

As to the length of detention, the maximum day for foreigners is limited to 120 days after Article 38 of Immigration Act was amended in 2011. Deportation procedure differs in each detention center; the average duration of detention is from 30 to 60 days. Yet, the PRC nationals are not applicable to this Immigration Act but follow cross-strait agreements which may prolong the detention period.  


2. Detention space lack of privacy, medical resources, and worthy public health environment


Taiwan currently has five foreigner detention centers for foreigners, its maximum capacity of 1,505 detainees (including 622 male detainees and 883 female detainees). By the end of November, 2012, the total number of detainees has reached to 1265 (including 570 male detainees and 695 female detainees). It seems the total number is under the maximum capacity, but when visiting four detention centers located in Taiwan Island, the real situation tells different stories. It is rather overcrowded and the average number of detainees in these four centers has reached over 200 to 300. Therefore, problems with living space, privacy, public health environment are urgent to be solved. 

Firstly, the exterior of the four foreigner detention centers located on Taiwan Island is similar to prisons. Buildings are surrounded by high walls and metal door, the living space is divided by iron bars with the number of detainees from 50 to hundreds. Except high density number of detainees, there are no air-conditions in sleeping area. There are only fans and transom window. Such condition is intolerance especially when we visited the centers in summer. Besides, since toilet and shower facilities are inside the room and without doors, it is no privacy at all. Not to mention the public health condition, a concern of outbreaks of communicable diseases may even occur.     


Article 10 of Regulations Governing the Detention of the Aliens has relevant guidance on medical care for detainees. Yet, it is considerably rough. Except infectious disease prevention and treatment is mentioned, details for the minimum medical care standard for a detainee are lacking. In practice, from the aspect of medical resources, there is only one nurse in the Taipei foreigner detention center, while the rest of the centers have none. Medical care relies on the centers to make arrangements for doctors’ medical consultation on the volunteering basis. Those detainees who need to be hospitalized can be sent to the hospital nearby with escort, but the medical expense must be paid by the detainees. It is a heavy burden for those detainees who do not have the medical insurance. Besides, those with disability, mental illness or pregnant are not separated from other detainees in the overcrowded environment. Only Nantou detention center provides some basic psychological therapy.  

As to the communicable diseases prevention, the health check for those new detainees is rather casual. It only takes a quick health check visually and the body temperature. Although there is a small room especially arranged for new detainees to do health checks, it is unavoidable to outbreaks of transmitted diseases when detainees are already infected and this room is located right next to the rest of living space.


3. Short of staffs, the great disparity in the sex ratios, and lack of outdoor activities


In immigration detention centers, there are judicial polices and draftees, most of them are male staff with a very little number of female staff. Compared to the number female detainees, however, is over half of the total number of detainees, there is a great disparity in ratios of female judicial police staff to female detainees. As a result, numbers of female guards are hired outside for assistance. Even though, the number of female guards is still far too little. Privacy is seriously affected when female detainees use toilets or bathrooms with having male supervisors guarded.

Besides,  there is a lack of working staff members in immigration detention centers. As a result, strict disciplines are adopted to avoid detainees to escape. Handcuffs  are used for hospital transfer or deportation. It is contradicted to Article 72 of Immigration Act, which is over restriction of  freedom of movement.

The shortage of detention staffs also affect detainee’s time for outdoor activities. According to international laws[4], Outdoor activities for detainees should be given at least one hour per day. However, it was discovered that outdoor activities were less than an hour and only 2 or 3 times a week due to lack of sufficient number of staffs and space. This violates international human rights standard as well as affects detainees’ mental and physical heath.  


4. Rights for receiving visits, mailing, and complaining

Concerning receiving visits and mailing, the authorities claim no restrictions for detainees to send or receive mails and calls. Yet, the numbers of phones are too few. Each bedroom only has one or two public phones, and that does equally mean the right for corresponding is restricted. The 4 immigration detention centers have regular hours for the visiting from friends, relatives and lawyers each week. According to Article 8 of Regulations Governing the Detention of the Aliens, forbidding meetings or phone calls are both  measures (punishments) to detainees when they violate the rules in detention centers.

Detainees are not separated from a criminal offence and overstayed  cases in immigration detention centers. It is also found that some of detainees who are involved with crime do not receive appropriate legal assistance when the litigation is in process. Although the detention centers allowed lawyers from Legal Aid Foundation for consultations each month, with the limited consulting hours and lack of interpreters, some detainees still do not gain sufficient answers from their questions related to laws.

Besides, some cases that detainees involved with a criminal offence are applied to Summary Judgment, it won’t  have a court hearing and the judge could make a verdict based on the defendant’s confession. With limited knowledge of the local language and laws, detainee’s rights for having a lawyer to defend his case may be overlooked.

Regarding the center’s management and complains, centers have confinement cells. Article 8 of Regulations Governing the Detention of the Aliens indicates that center staffs have the right to take certain measures when a detainee violates rules and orders, including solitary confinement. However, of the detainees think such measures are inappropriate,  there are no complaint channels for it.