In Taiwan, Southeast Asian immigrants finally earn their place in society

In Taiwan, Southeast Asian immigrants finally earn their place in society

Nearly 200,000 immigrants from Southeast Asia live in Taiwan and they are now seen as exemplary models of integration.

File photo of Taipei's skyline, taken on February 25, 2013

TAIPEI: Taiwan is home to more than half a million immigrants who are married to Taiwanese citizens. Nearly 200,000 of them come from the 10 Southeast Asian nations that form ASEAN.

And over the years, they have become an integral part of Taiwanese society to the extent that the government now sees this second generation of children as Taiwan's future.

Happy New Residents is the Island’s first ever entertainment programme solely dedicated to Southeast Asians. The cast is made up of mainly immigrants from Southeast Asia, who have made Taiwan their home.

Created by producer Allen Chien and his Vietnamese wife Phyllis Tran, the show is broadcast in Vietnamese, Indonesian and Thai.

“The programme is designed to provide television entertainment for immigrants from ASEAN that belongs to them and in their native tongues,” he said.

The launch of the show highlights the extent to which immigrants from ASEAN nations have been assimilated into Taiwanese society. Government and businesses here are recognising that this community can help pave the way to building closer ties with the Southeast Asian market.

Right now, the majority of immigrants from Southeast Asia living in Taiwan are from Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand. And they have come a long way to get here, says Ms Tran. She is one among the 170,000 foreign spouses who are from Southeast Asia living in Taiwan, and she said life was not easy when she first moved here 14 years ago.

“Just because many foreign spouses couldn’t speak Mandarin, local media reports would say they had poor education and lack of skills that could become a burden to the society,” she said. “But this was not true.”

Ms Tran has dedicated herself to fighting these prejudiced views by teaching Vietnamese and Vietnam's culture. Her efforts are now paying off, with the community finally receiving the recognition it deserves. Her two children, along with an estimated 130,000 other children by immigrant parents, are now seen as Taiwan’s future.

“The second generation can help Taiwanese businesses to expand their overseas markets,” said Ms Tran. “And since they’re also part Taiwanese, they can act as representatives of Taiwan to promote the island’s culture abroad.”

Taiwan is now spending US$30 million a year to support immigrant children by helping them learn their homeland’s culture and language. And by strengthening this second generation, the island hopes to expand its cultural and business influence in the rest of ASEAN

Source: CNA/rw