BOOK REVIEW “Visiting Refugees” Yamamura Junpei, Gendai Kikaku Shitsu (2000)

Koyama Hideyuki, SJ
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 165 / June 15th, 2012

Mr. Yamamura, a medical doctor that treats refugees free of charge in a clinic of Yokohama is the author of this book. He has been attending refugees and victims of natural disasters in various countries and as a member of a team for refugees of Amnesty International participates in seminars and symposia concerning refugee issues. He also actively assists refugees jailed in Ushiku’s immigration prison in Ibaraki prefecture. (Those interested please check the web of Amnesty International)

One of his edited books, “Kabe no Namida” also published by Gendai Kikaku Shitsu (2007), is a live report of the situation of foreigners jailed in Ushiku.

When the volcano Pinatsubo (Philippines) erupted in 1991 killing thousands of residents, doctor Yamamura was sent to a shelter camp to assist medically hundreds of victims there. It was his first medical mission abroad. He says “Whenever a social accident happens the ones to suffer most are the socially weak people, like minority groups, women and children. I really experienced that when I met with an extremely thin girl. They are treated as people that cannot be seen, outcasts and persons alienated from the system. As a result, they become easily sick but since they are not able to receive treatment their bodies are eaten away due to a continuous cycle of diseases. The main causes are poverty or rather the mal-distributed wealth and discrimination. I became aware that social structures play a strong role in all such situations”.

 Mr. Yamamura brings to light a series of basic questioning regarding development assistance out of his rich experiences in the Philippines, Burma, Rwanda, Zaire and Afghanistan. Can people be saved by medical care? How can we rescue people? In the first place, what is assistance about? In case of natural disasters what is that that really occasions damage? What is race about? Why is it that people become refugees? What is national violence about?

Mr. Yamamura came back to Japan and started to examine foreigners as well as those in immigration jail. His book crystallizes his experiences attending refugees and other foreigners, like persons from Afghanistan, Iran, Burmese and Kurds. The book portraits Japanese social structures, and refugees created by modern society. Those interested in racial issues and realities of refugees should read the book.

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