My ‘Hole’ Story: Two Months of Hell in Taipei Detention Center

Dear ‘M’,
Do you have some time to write about your experience of spending 2 months in the Taipei Detention Center? We’d like to publish this on The Wild East, as it really concerns a lot of people, especially foreigners in Taiwan.

Hi. Yes, sure, no biggie. I myself am writing a book about it and the ‘hole’ story, so I would like to share my experience with you. It does concern a lot of people, and I hope things improve in Taiwan in the future, because right now, my only opinion is that the Taiwanese laws are a bunch of horseshit. I ‘m not saying I shouldn’t have been deported, because I did overstay my visa for more than 2 years, but I’m kinda angry because I wasn’t deported faster and because of some other things that happened while I was inside the detention center.

In my opinion, if a person is caught overstaying visa there should be only payment, punishment and immediate deportation — not ‘doing time’ the same as hookers, physical abusers, drug dealers and people with no documents whatsoever. I guess in Taiwan everybody falls in the same basket, okay, maybe some do a bit more time than others, but everybody is treated exactly the same behind bars.

So after I was prosecuted (N— must have told you why I was taken to the police station in the first place) and my only legal offence was an overstayed visa, I was cuffed, and taken to the immigration agency in Banciao. The police officers saw I had nothing but my bag with me, no food, no clean clothes, no water, no money. They bought me a sandwich and a bottle of water, two pairs of disposable underwear and socks and allowed me to smoke one more cigarette before turning me in to the immigration authorities. I smoked my cigarette and said, “I’m ready”.

We entered the Banciao immigration office. One guy took my passport, glanced at it and said with gloating smile, “Ahhh. Ha ha ha.” There was a conversation about my “bad, bad country” and then he told me I had to put my fingerprints on some documents. They were all in Chinese, and I didn’t understand the characters. I put my thumb on the paper, that evil red ink… I’ll never forget that feeling… I saw a date on the paper: December 20th to February 19th.

He looked at me and told me to follow him, telling me to take care of the document very well and try not to lose it. I followed him and then I saw “it” — The Cage. It was a room filled with sleeping bags, clothes and underwear hanging everywhere, toilet/shower area inside that caged room and women sleeping on the floor inside. He ordered me to take of my shoes, leave them in one small box and told me to get inside and sleep.

I will never forget the sound of the cold metal door when it closed behind me.

I was tired, dirty, thirsty and so helpless… I couldn’t help it but yelling “Sir, sir… how long will I stay here? Please, come back… helloooo…” He didn’t even look back at me. He left.

The room was about 2-3m-square wide and long. There were three walls and one metal door… I couldn’t cry because I was in shock… I was feeling like a caged animal.

The women inside were nice to me. They offered me a sleeping bag and each one told me to come and rest next to her. Most of them were Indonesian or Philippine maids. I was just staring and shaking my head in disbelief. This was the way I was going to spend Christmas Eve and all the holidays… N— was gone, my dog was gone, all my friends. My life turned into a complete hell just in 24 hours. Everything seemed surreal.

I saw a girl (Nancy) that was crying. She was Thai. We looked at each other and I knew we felt exactly the same, hopeless.
My biggest problem was I am afraid of small, closed places and I felt like I just want to crawl out of my skin. I curled up inside one sleeping bag and just wanted to die. I had no idea what would happen next, how long, my mind was racing… I squeezed my ‘pillow’ — more like a pancake like little thing — and I repeated over and over in my head, “sleep, try to sleep.”

You must sleep and when you wake up, all this is going to be a bad dream… You’ll wake up next to N—, you’ll be home, your head won’t hurt; you’ll be able to go out… sleep…”

I woke up… women were chatting and having a ‘great time’ laughing, joking with the guys next to us (there was a cage for the men too). They were washing their clothes in one bucket, singing, taking turns in the ‘shower’, ordering food to the guard next to the door (he had his computer desk and stayed there at all times).

It was probably the worst day of my entire life. I realised I was stuck, I didn’t know how long was I out, there was no clock, no calendar, no light. One day turned into two, then three. I still hadn’t eaten anything; I washed myself with one tiny scooping plastic dish. And I stood there… naked, finally crying. One of the women came to me, she gave me her hand, looked at me and told me “You are going to be better tomorrow. Here, take these clothes, they are clean, take… eat, this… Don’t say no. eat…” She smiled at me like an older sister would do and touched my face. “No tears, beautiful foreigner… You’re a nice girl… come, come with me…”

I was finally wearing something clean, ate just a bite or two, and got a hug. Things were a bit better. The metal door opened and bunch of police officers started making a lot of noise, lining us up, yelling, panicking.

We were going to another place. We were about to go to Sanxia, the detention center where I’d spend almost 2 months. We all got cuffed again, in pairs, two girls each. We were rushed into big vans and driven to the next location.

They warned us this place was going to be bigger, louder, stricter, crowded…

To be continued: Part 2

15 thoughts on “My ‘Hole’ Story: Two Months of Hell in Taipei Detention Center

  • April 17, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    Interesting and has provided me with a great deal of information I desperately need. I have a filipina “friend”, Sarrah, that I have been chatting with for about a year now. She has been working illegally for about three years and was arrested March 31, 2013.

    In spite of my repeated advice, recomendations, etc., she not only refused to turn herself in to the Phillipines embassy, she failed to provide me with family, friend contact information in the event she was arrested.

    I finally heard from her dim-witted cousin who has provided me with two phone #’s to contact her, both of which do not work.

    The full story is actually interesting, I think because she was “befriended” by a fellow filipina in Taiwan that not only talked her into “running away” from a bad assignment, but scalped her of every cent she earned for over three years.

    I told her back in July 2012, while this friennd was still in Taiwan, that she needed to talk to the emabssy attourney. The friend is now in Canada and the girl is penny-less.

    Sarrah sounds stupid, right? No, just naive, trusting and in her own words, “pigheaded”

    I believe I have finally found the center and phone in which to contact after her day gets started.

    Honestly, I am torn between bailing her 30K NTD (~1K USD) or letting her ride it out. I am also concerned about sending bail and losing it without her release.

    I will continue reading….and learning…

    I really dont know how this bloggoing stuff works…should i start my own blog? Is tjhis interesting enough to share? Heck, I don’t even know the rules or edicate on blogs but I think it would help me through the process….

  • March 20, 2013 at 11:34 am

    I have read and re-read all the stories posted by M and it seems she had a hard time adjusting to life in the detention centre. If she felt she was dealt a bum deal landing in a detention centre maybe she should count her blessings she wasn’t lumped in a real jail. Technically speaking she could have been arrested and detained until her case was sorted. The taiwanese authorities tend to lump jail and detention centres together-as long as you are under lock and key who cares where you’re resting your head.
    2 months seems a long time and she has an even longer story to tell and that includes writing a book as well? has she sold the movie rights as well?
    I hope M doesn’t remain bitter about her taiwan experience, most foreigners have positive things to say about the place. One thing that interests me is can M return to the island ever again or is she permanently persona non gratia?

  • July 5, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    “In my opinion, if a person is caught overstaying visa there should be only payment, punishment and immediate deportation — not ‘doing time’ the same as hookers, physical abusers, drug dealers and people with no documents whatsoever. I guess in Taiwan everybody falls in the same basket, okay, maybe some do a bit more time than others, but everybody is treated exactly the same behind bars.”

    You expected to be treated while in detention better because in ‘your opinion’ the punishment does not fit the crime?

    What is the difference between ‘people with no documents whatsoever’ and someone who overstayed 2 years. They both knowingly break the law.

    In this paragraph you are casting judgement on people that you have no understanding of. “doing time the same as hookers”. That is an extremely callous and insensitive remark putting women that for reasons you most likely have no understanding of have worked in the sex-trade.

    You knowingly broke the law, and in this article cast judgement on other offenders and the system you deliberately attempted to take advantage of.

  • June 28, 2011 at 12:11 am

    this makes me thinking……

    I am staying in China (yes, not lovely Taiwan – f***ing crazy China!) without a visa for a year now.
    Been living there for 8 years and one day they refused to give me a new visa – so I had to sneak back through the vietnamese forests.
    Might tell you my story of their detention centers later 😉

    • July 1, 2011 at 4:12 am

      Would love to read your story, nobody. It sounds totally Wild and we like that here. Hope it’s more about Vietnamese forests than detention centers.

  • June 27, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    I’ve heard of people overstaying for longer than two years and just having to do some paperwork, pay a fine. Maybe M couldn’t pay the fine?

  • June 16, 2011 at 5:30 am

    I’ve know people in Taiwan who overstayed over ten years and never had this problem. Was it lack of money for the flight out?

  • June 15, 2011 at 2:17 am

    M seems to come from Eastern Europe.I wonder what happened to people there who overstayed their visas,especially when they were communist.[not so long ago]M seems to think the laws in Taiwan are,in her own words “horsehit”How about the laws in her newly free country?

  • June 13, 2011 at 6:50 am


    S: Excellent, I have been looking forward to reading this… Hurry up with the other parts:)

    P: I overstayed my visa once and was treated with great patience. The police assisted me to clear up the matter. But my passport is from a “good” country and that is what matters here in Taiwan, a little island of indeterminate political status that loves to crow on about its supposed “respect” for human rights.

    B: Pfff…if you come from a politically powerful country you can be sure you will be treated differently anywhere in the world…who gives a fuck about Eastern Europe, right…I’m anxious to read part 2 of the story…Thank Trista for publishing the story…

    J: Damn.

    A: WOW, I just got around to reading it. What a nightmare. I’m so glad she is out of there now. Similar things happen to people who overstay their visas in the U.S., depending on where they’re from originally. I have a lot of friends who are i…mmigrants to the U.S., as my family once was (about 150 years ago). Apparently, as a whole, we haven’t evolved much in the last 200,000 years. We can go to the moon but we cut down the trees that give us oxegyn to breathe. Now, is that smart? Who said we were smart. WE DID. Since humans are the only species of its kind on earth, as far as we know, who are we to decide that we are smart. I guess we can’t ask the whales. Whoa this just opened a whole can of worms for me … and drove me to go reading about human evolution on Wiki. Ok, I’m done (for now;)

  • June 12, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Hi there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok. I’m absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

  • June 12, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    1. Its not the perpetrator that decides either the seriousness of the offence, or the punishment.
    2. When visiting another country its recommended to follow their customs, rules and regulations.

    I might agree with “M” that spending two months in jail sounds a bit harsh, but compared to what? Hey, we’re not home, did you notice that? Its not the rules of back home that apply in Taiwan.
    Foreigners don’t set the rules in Taiwan, they just have to follow them.

    Commit the crime – serve the time

    ps. I still feel its a good thing “M” shares her experience, maybe other people has the same mindset about law and order in Taiwan and it would be a pity if more people has to experience the same rude awakening as “M” had.

  • June 10, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    Ahhh :))MR.perfect f…in Carl..Nobody wants your symhaty anyway.You obviously don’t get the point why this story is beeing shared with others-not for pitty or so it can be all”poor me”story.I was careless,yes,I know.. can’t you see the point why this is being written?!I guess this is why we have such shitty treatment of people all over the world,because people like you justify the B.S instead of wanting changes to better.Thanks for the comment anyway.Stay well..

  • June 10, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    I’m curious. You overstayed your visa two years and thought it was no big deal?
    Are you mature enough to live alone? Sounds like you need to be living with mom and dad who can look out for you.
    Sorry, no sympathy from me.

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