Palau stays deportation of foreign dependents
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Koror (Island Times) --Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr has issued a stay of deportation under Presidential Directive 22-51, preventing the deportation of dependents of foreign nationals who do not meet the minimum income requirement for dependents.
“Really? Is it really true?" a young Filipina worker asked tearfully, hardly believing that it was true. She said she and her spouse with their two young children have been stressed for months.
Their working hours had been reduced by their employers, resulting in incomes below the required minimum. Employers wanted to keep them and provided free housing and benefits but earned incomes did not reach the minimum requirement.
Current law requires that a foreign national must earn $15,000 a year or above to have dependents while in Palau.
The Covid-19 pandemic affected jobs across the country and in particular, the private sector which employs foreign nationals. Several jobs were either lost or had hours significantly reduced. It is estimated that 2,600 jobs were affected and about 1,800 of those were non-Palauans.
As a result, many of the workers with dependents failed to meet the minimum income requirement. Dependents whose visas either expired or were about to expire were given notice of non-renewal and deportation order.
Not all were elated with the news. One non-resident worker was also tearful but for the opposite reason. Her young son was sent home to live with relatives while she stayed behind to work. She was tearful because her son was born here and never lived away from her or with other people.
The Division of Labor under the Ministry of Finance received negative reactions from the public as a result of its efforts to enforce this particular law.
Lack of transparency and lack of humane consideration allegations were thrown about as many non-resident workers struggled to find ways to keep their children from being sent away.
Presidential Directive cites that Covid-19 had significantly impacted Palau, especially the dependents of non-resident workers and the government is “committed to supporting families in Palau through the unprecedented time.”
Further, the directive said in line with Palau’s commitment to international human rights and the welfare of children, and as authorized under 13 PNC Section 1010, the stay of deportation is issued to dependents impacted by Covid-19.
“Dependents must not be separated or deported from their families based on, or indirectly, from their parents’ inability to meet the minimum income requirements,” stated the directive.
The Division of Immigration was tasked with implementing the stay of deportation to all dependents whose dependents’ visas have expired or are invalid due to a lack of ability to meet the minimum income requirement as called for under the law.
It is further ordered to formulate regulations to clarify dependent visas in cases of emergency or disasters. It is tasked to evaluate the economic status of the dependents in six months and provide a report to the president with recommendations on whether to extend the stay of deportation.
The directive does not address the resident visa applicants whose visas were denied due to determination that they do not have the adequate means to financially support their stay in Palau.
It also does not apply retroactively to those who have departed Palau based on the prior decision not to renew their dependents' visas