Taiwan to continue empowering immigrants: interior minister

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(CNA photo)

The government will continue to empower immigrants and their children through financial assistance and relaxation of immigration policies, Minister of the Interior Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said in a forum Sunday.

More than 300 immigrants, mostly from Southeast Asian countries who married Taiwanese citizens, attended the "New Immigrant Forum" at the National Immigration Agency (NIA). The event was aimed at disseminating government empowerment measures for immigrants.

Hsu said there are an estimated 550,000 immigrants currently living in Taiwan.

Hsu welcomed the immigrants, saying that new residents have enriched Taiwan's national strength with their contributions to society. He also encouraged immigrants to speak in their native languages with their children to enhance their competitiveness in the future.

The story of Cheng Tsui-hsuan (鄭翠玄) a 19-year-old Vietnamese girl who came to Taiwan two years ago when her mother married a Taiwanese, was cited by Hsu as an example of how success is attainable for every immigrant with hard work.

Cheng, whose original surname was Nguyen and was adopted by her Taiwanese stepfather, had to work as a vendor in a market to support the family after both her parents fell ill. Aside from that, she has to take care of her younger sister.

Despite her difficulties in life, including the language barrier, she passed the accounting competency test for senior high school students last year and was ranked first in the whole of Yilan County.

Cheng expressed hope to be a human rights lawyer to look after immigrants and their children in Taiwan.

According to the NIA, residency restrictions for immigrants who marry Taiwanese citizens have been relaxed, giving them more leeway to stay in Taiwan should they get divorced or if their spouses die.

Other empowerment measures include a NT$20,000 (US$654)-NT$70,000 subsidy for second- or third-generation immigrants to visit their grandparents abroad. Another project, titled "New Residents and Children Dream Plan," provides up to NT$80,000 to help immigrants and their children to fulfill their dreams, as well as scholarship programs for disadvantaged students, outstanding students and those with special talents.