Is it love or is it madness? Perhaps it’s just a bit of both.
On February 20, a 23-year-old Dutch national arrived at Taoyuan International Airport with his pregnant Taiwanese girlfriend. The couple were not married and had apparently come to Taiwan so that he could meet the girl’s parents. But things did not go too well for them.
During a previous sojourn in Taiwan the man had overstayed his visa and had been banned from entering the country for three years. When he arrived at the immigration inspection, he was informed that he could not leave the airport and had to be repatriated. His girlfriend, however, had already passed the passport control.
While awaiting repatriation at the airport the man kept talking on the phone with his girlfriend and cried. Then he received a message: “I miss you.”
After reading these words he lost his mind. He jumped over the barrier of the immigration inspection and ran out of the airport. He walked for 3 kilometers on a highway and managed to get to his girlfriend’s house without being caught. However, around 7 hours later the police found him and arrested him.
According to local reports, the man and his pregnant girlfriend left Amsterdam on February 19 and arrived the following day in Taiwan to break the ‘good news’ to her parents. But when he went through the customary immigration inspection the official found that he had overstayed his visa in the past and was therefore banned for three years. His girlfriend had no choice but to leave the airport alone. The man purchased a return ticket and waited at the airport. The immigration staff kept an eye on him as he talked with his girlfriend on the phone and cried.
When he received her message, he made up his mind to try to leave the airport and meet his girlfriend.
It was already past midnight. He saw that the immigration inspection was quiet and that several counters were empty. The immigration officials that were still there were far away from him and were doing some paperwork. He quietly approached one of the counters and jumped over the barrier. Little did he know that the barriers are equipped with infrared ray detectors. The alarm immediately sounded and the immigration officers saw him run away. A female official followed him but could not catch up with him.
The man managed to leave the airport and reach a highway, then he walked for 3 kilometres until he arrived at Dayuan Interchange. He took a taxi and went to Shilin District, in Taipei, where he reunited with his girlfriend.
In the meantime, the immigration authorities tried to track him down. After examining the passenger name list they concluded that he might have gone into hiding in his girlfriend’s house. 7 hours later the police found him there as expected. He did not resist arrest. After saying goodbye to his girlfriend he was handcuffed and taken to the district prosecutor’s office, where he was charged with violating the Immigration Act, a crime that can be punished with three years in prison or a fine of up to 90,000 TWD (around 2,800 USD). However, due to the circumstances of the case, the prosecution decided not to put him on trial. He was taken back to the airport and was repatriated, but he was banned from entering Taiwan for 10 years.
While reading the whole story I couldn’t help thinking how the woman’s parents may have reacted. Dealing with Taiwanese parents-in-law is often a difficult task in itself. But how will they deal with a 23-year-old Westerner who got her daughter pregnant, overstayed his Taiwan visa and got himself arrested for running away from the airport illegally?
Many reactions from Taiwanese netizens have been surprisingly lenient. “He ran away for love,” wrote one netizen. “Can’t they be a little bit more indulgent? After all, he didn’t commit murder or arson. The government should be more flexible and show foreigners the kind and warmhearted side of the Taiwanese people.” “If you kill someone when driving drunk you won’t be punished so severely,” wrote another. “He didn’t hurt anyone but was banned for 10 years? The law harms the good people.”