All posts by migrantstokyo

About migrantstokyo

A migration desk at the Jesuit Social Center was opened in October 2010. The head of the Migrant Desk is Fr. Ando Isamu (SJ)

Parents are detained, Kids are put in children’s facilities

(Extraction from Tokyo Shimbun May 13, 2019)
Family separation on the increase

According to documents disclosed by the Ministry of Justice to opposition parties’ members, the number of children sent by Immigration to be protected in children’s centers due to their parents’ detention has been on the increase. Immigration has ordinarily proceed ahead with deportation without any restraint for foreigners with children, Lawyers who are familiar with the human rights of foreigners criticize immigration, “no parent will usually leave behind his/her children and escape. Such detentions are unnecessary and meaningless.”

A person of the Immigration Bureau remarked, “since the detained parents cannot have custody ability, there is no other way except asking the children’s institutions to take care of their children.” However, a 29-year-old man from Turkey, who was denied entry in 2017, at Narita Airport and was immediately detained, testifies that he was separately detained with his wife (24), and their two little children were sent to a children’s center.

Koichi Kodama of the Lower House says “The International Conventions on Human Rights and on the Rights of the Child prohibit intervention into family and family separation by the state. Immigration authorities are acting against these.”

Professor Eriko Suzuki of Kokushikan University (immigration policy) says, “The rapid increase in family separation indicates that the Ministry of Justice has strengthened their policy to drive foreigners into a corner to return home. The mental pain of the parents who are separated from their children is immeasurable, and the existence of parents is essential for the growth of children. We should carefully consider the circumstances of each case and judge the pros and cons of special residence permission under the principle of respect for human rights.”


A Nepalese student lost his life

(Extraction from Mainichi Shimbun April 28, 2019)

“Mother, this life is so heavy.” Five years ago in Fussa, Tokyo, a 26-year-old Nepalese student, Rabin Gemoss (Rabin), left such a note on Facebook and lost his life. Luke Gossine, 33 (Luke), who was a close friend from his same town, has been thinking about him ever since. Their homes in Nepal are a 15-minute walk away. Rabin left Nepal to study at a Japanese language school in Fussa city after graduating high school in October 2010. Half a year later, Luke also left his country to study at the same school as Rabin and they began soon living together. They had the same part-time job. “We were like brothers,” Luke says. But Rabin seems to have gradually become isolated in the life of a foreign country.

One year and nine months after living together, Rabin suddenly said to Luke, “Let’s live separately”. After A big quarrel, the two began to live separately, and even when they were at the same part-time job, they rarely talked to each other. Rabin who liked animation since he was in Nepal had the hobby of collecting Japanese CDs and anime goods.
In May 2014, Rabin called his father from Japan and told him that he wanted to return to Nepal. His father had borrowed 1.2million rupees (about 1.2million Yen) to send him to Japan and said, “Please be patient and remain there a little more.” Almost at the same time, Rabin suddenly visited Luke to his apartment in Fussa city at midnight and asked him smiling, “Let’s live together again”. Luke refused but he begged, “Then, come to stay in my apartment” Luke refused again. Rabin remained quietly thinking for a few minutes and left the apartment. His dead body was found a few days later.

In Nepal, people have the custom to live in communities called “Guti”. The main purpose is for helping each other. In June 2016, Luke made a “Guti” with five friends in Tokyo in order never to let any Nepalese friend commit suicide again. He says, “Having lived here, I realized that Nepal is full of invisible richness such as friendship and affection. How blessed we were.” Jogging one day along the Tamagawa riverbed with Rabin, a little girl suddenly said to us, “good morning”. That made both of us smile and very happy. I can’t forget it.

The fate of Japan, and everyone else

(Extraction from The Japan Times – June 18th, 2019 )

Japan is slowly going out of business; its population is shrinking and it resists immigration. This cannot continue indefinitely.

What is significant about Japan’s situation is that it’s shared, to a greater or lesser extent, by most of the world’s advanced countries. Birth rates are depressed; economies are expanding slowly, if at all; and debt burdens are high and often growing.

The biggest problem is the nation’s aging. A new report on Japan from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — quoted by Taylor and posted on his useful blog, the Conversable Economist — reports this astounding fact: Half of Japanese children born in 2007 are expected to live to 107.

Deaths have exceeded births since 2007, and the population is “expected to decline by 8.2 million in the 2030s, the equivalent of losing Tokyo.”

Based on present trends, the labor force will drop 25 percent by 2050, while the relationship between working-age Japanese (20-64) and the 65-and-over population shifts sharply. There are now two working-age Japanese for everyone 65 and over; by 2050, that ratio is projected to fall to 1.3 working-age Japanese for each elderly person.

The increasing number of older Japanese has already put enormous pressures on the government’s budget. Since 1991, public social spending — mainly for retirement pensions, health care and long-term care — has doubled as a share of gross domestic product, from 11 percent of GDP to 22 percent of GDP in 2018.

Japan’s imbalanced population could be rectified through more immigration. But this has never been popular in a country with such a strong sense of its own identity. True, the number of foreign workers doubled from 700,000 in 2013 to 1.46 million in 2018. Still, that was only 2 percent of Japan’s labor force. The share of foreign residents was only 1.9 percent of Japan’s population in 2017, while the OECD average was 13 percent.

The ultimate cures for Japan’s ills are obvious: women should have more children; people should work longer; economic growth should be accelerated. Despite some small improvements, all have been impossible to achieve.

Whether Japan can find its way out of this box is uncertain. There are good reasons (politically) to do nothing and weak reasons (substantively) to do something. Many advanced countries, including the United States, face similar — though less severe — problems. “The rest of the world will be watching,” says the OECD. It may not like what it sees.

Sumitomo under fire over labor dispute and rights abuses at Philippines banana plantation

(Extraction from The Japan Times – June 19th, 2019 )

Two representatives from a Philippines labor union on Tuesday protested what they claim are unfair labor practices and human rights abuses at a banana plantation run by a fruit company affiliated with Sumitomo Corp.

Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo, Paul John Dizon, president of the local labor union Namasufa, and Jamila Seno from the group’s board of directors accused Sumifru Philippines Corp. of failing to “regularize” its workers, and of harassment following a strike held in October last year.

They called for Sumifru to comply with the Philippines’ labor department order that the over 700 workers laid off following the strike be reinstated, and urged Japanese consumers to boycott the banana brand until it resolves the labor dispute.

The affiliate of the major trading company currently employs workers on fixed-term contracts with low wages and no benefits, regardless of how many years they have been with the company, Dizon said.

Despite a Philippines Supreme Court order in 2017, Sumifru has refused to recognize Namasufa as a collective bargaining agent, arguing that a contracting agency is their employer, he said.

On Tuesday, Sumitomo said it would sell its 49 percent stake in Sumifru Singapore Pte., the owner of the Philippine unit, to joint venture partner Thornton Venture Ltd., who currently holds the majority stake.

The Japanese trading company has been producing bananas in the Philippines since 1970 and cited future growth strategies as the reason for the decision, denying any connection with the ongoing labor dispute in the Philippines.

It said the sale of the stake, the cost of which was not disclosed, is expected to be completed by the end of September this year.

Sumifru’s unit in the Philippines, which makes roughly one-third of all bananas imported to Japan, operates an approximately 2,200-hectare banana plantation and nine packaging plants in Compostela Valley, Mindanao, with a total production capacity of around 19,000 boxes per day.

At the news conference, Seno spoke of harsh working conditions with long hours and adverse health effects from exposure to chemicals used on the bananas.

“The company cares more about the bananas than the workers,” she said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

Dizon and Seno, who had worked at the plantation for five and ten years, respectively, have now been unemployed for more than seven months after their involvement in the strike, but the two said they would fight against the continued harassment of Namasufa members, including the suspected killing of a prominent union member and burning down of property.

“The bananas produced or being sold by Sumifru has the blood of the workers,” he said.

Japan Post Bank to cap international transfers to counter money laundering

(Extraction from The Japan Times – June 18th, 2019 )

Japan Post Bank Co. plans to set a limit on over-the-counter international cash transfers of ¥5 million ($46,000) to combat money laundering, sources close to the matter said Tuesday.

Japan Post Bank, with around 120 million account holders, the most among domestic banks, currently has no limit on overseas remittances and is seeking to address concerns that such transfers could be used for illicit activities, including the financing of terrorism, the sources said.

The move by the state-backed bank comes as Japan faces an assessment this fall by the Financial Action Task Force, an international standard-setting body that promotes steps to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

The FATF singled out Japan as not having sufficient measures in place to fight money laundering.

Japan Post Bank would join other major banks — Mizuho Bank, MUFG Bank and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. — in stepping up anti-money laundering measures.

The three banks implemented stricter identification checks on holders of savings accounts from June 10, including verifying the purpose for opening or holding an account. Regional banks plan to take similar measures.

World Refugee Day: How well is Japan fulfilling its obligations in 2019?

(Extraction from The Japan Times – June 19th, 2019 )

Ahead of World Refugee Day on Thursday, attention has been turning to just how well Japan — the world’s third-biggest economy — has been fulfilling its responsibilities as a signatory of the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention this year.

Justice Ministry data shows Japan, a country known for its strict refugee screening process, has granted refugee status to 42 asylum-seekers so far in 2019 — a figure that is double that of last year. This increase has been welcomed by refugee support groups, but critics have noted that the overall refugee acceptance rate is still very low and the core issues have not been resolved.

The government has maintained that the majority of the applicants are “fake refugees” who are attempting to use their application status to get work permits, which the government had previously issued unconditionally six months after a person applied for asylum. The government restricted that system in January last year.

After the revision, the number of applications drastically dropped by 47 percent to 10,493 applications this year. In short, only about 1 in 250 applicants, on average, is granted refugee status, according to the ministry data. By comparison, Canada, which has a robust program for accepting refugees, accepted 14,790 of 55,388 applications in 2018 — or about 1 in 4.

Critics say the low refugee acceptance rate is partly attributable to Japan’s strict interpretation of “persecution,” which guidelines by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees describes as “threats to life or freedom on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group — as well as other serious human rights violations.”

However, according to the Justice Ministry’s interpretation, “persecution” refers only to threats to life and limb.
Aside from the refugee acceptance system, the government has announced the expansion of its resettlement program — accepting refugees who are staying in an asylum country — and is reportedly aiming to double the number of those taken from 30 to 60 annually, possibly starting in 2020.

The envisioned review of the program is expected to accelerate refugee resettlement in rural areas, with a Foreign Ministry official saying the government is “actively studying” the possibility of selecting locations other than the Tokyo metropolitan area, news agencies Kyodo and Jiji have reported.

“Using this expansion of resettlement as an opportunity, we hope that discussions over the refugee application system will develop and the refugee application system will be revised upwards,” the Japan Association for Refugees said in a statement.

According to a study published by the UNHCR on Wednesday, the number of forcibly displaced persons reached 70.8 million in 2018, up 2.3 million from the previous year — the highest recorded in the last 70 years. This figure surpasses the entire population of Thailand.

The UNHCR will light up 15 towers and monuments across Japan in blue — from the Tokyo Skytree to the Sapporo TV Tower in Hokkaido — to raise awareness on World Refugee Day.

Half of foreign residents “discriminated” in Japan

(Extraction from Tokyo Shimbun April 17th, 2019 )

Half of the foreign students and workers have experienced discrimination in Japan. This fact came to light in the answers to the questionnaire of the group “Anti-racism Information Center (ARIC)” organized by university students.
For instance, at the part-time-job site, there were cases in which customers and colleagues discriminated to them saying words such as “I don’t like foreigners’ cashier” and “don’t speak other than Japanese”. The questionnaire was conducted around stations in Shinjuku area, and 340 people answered, including 285 foreign students. 100 people answered that they had been discriminated at work place and other 67 people answered they had suffered discrimination at other places. The total ratio of respondents who answered having experienced discrimination was 49.1%. Apart from the workplace, there were a many cases of having been refused to rent a room, or enter a shop. There was no one who had consulted public administration offices about it, and it became clear that the existence of consultation desks are not well-known

Last year’s refugee application halved

(Extraction from Asahi Shimbun March 28th, 2019 )

The number of foreigners who applied for refugee status in 2018 was 10,493, half of the applications of the year 2017. The Ministry of Justice sees that this is the effect of operations started in January 18 to make strict selections against “spoofing applications” for work purposes. Regarding the refugee status determination system, the operational change in 2010 made it possible for applicants to work uniformly half a year after application. It was an economic consideration for applicants whose examination has been prolonged, but the number of applications increased rapidly after the change. While there were 2,200 applicants in 2010 it jumped to 19,629 in 2017. From January 2018 the Ministry of Justice made a change so that the examination of the documents presented could be conducted within two months after the application. And as a result, those applicants who do not apparently fall under the refugee status and the re-applicants who do not have “reasonable reasons” are not allowed to work.

Meanwhile, Shogo Watanabe, the representative of Japan’s Lawyers Network for Refugees, said, “Some people coming to us for legal consultation report to us that the Ministry of Justice does not accept the application itself. It would be a serious problem if acceptance itself is tightened. “

“Refugee determination is still insufficient” 
The number of refugees recognized in 2018 was 42 people, an increase of 20 people from the previous year. In terms of nationality, the largest number was 13 people from the Democratic Republic of Congo; there were also 5 from Yemen and Ethiopia, 4 from Afghanistan and China. On the other hand, 55% of the applicants were from 5 countries: Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Philippines, and Pakistan. The Ministry of Justice states that many of the applicants in Japan belong to countries where there are no circumstances that cause a large number of refugees.

However, the number of refugees recognized by the Japanese government is still small compared to the several hundred thousand that are accepted by the other seven major industrial countries (G7). The United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination stated in a report on Japan, last September: “the low acceptance rate of refugee applications is a matter of concern”.

Cases that the Ministry of Justice decides to overturn
A ruling was given in August last year at Tokyo District Court, to annul a disapproval of the refugee status for a lawsuit that an Ethiopian woman had filed against the country. The woman had denied local police’s order to leave a women’s advocacy group in Ethiopia and after being detained had been sexually assaulted in 2008. A month after her release, she arrived to Japan and applied for refugee status. But it was disapproved in 2011 and her complaint was dismissed as well. The woman submitted the documents asked for, but because her statement wasn’t heard she filed a lawsuit. It took 10 years for the court decision to be given.

Debate over the spread of medical interpreters for foreign patients

(Extraction from Asahi Shimbun March 2019 )

Takashi Sawada, director of the Minatomachi Clinic (Yokohama City), points out: “It is difficult for foreigners to receive appropriate medical care without medical interpretation.” He says there are cases of patients who cannot explain the symptoms correctly to the doctor and change hospitals many times without knowing the name of the disease, and as a result their health worsens.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare plans to draw up guidelines to call on medical institutions to develop an interpretation system. However, it is up to the medical institution to decide whether to adopt a medical interpreter or not and to determine who bears the cost for it. According to the ministry, some regions in the United States and the United Kingdom have a public medical interpretation system, with no burden on patients.

Cost burden and development of human resources are the issue
Yoko Ishimoto, vice chief director of the NPO “Multilingual Social Resources Kanagawa” in Yokohama, says, “The biggest reason why medical interpretation does not spread is its cost.” This NPO dispatches a medical interpreter for 3,000 yen for two hours. This way the burden on patients is limited to one third, and the rest is paid by medical institutions. However, for low-income foreign patients, it is often difficult to pay an interpretation fee in addition to medical expenses, and in many cases, medical institutions are hesitant to burden the cost. To respond to multiple languages is also an issue. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is aiming to respond to multiple languages by remote medical interpretation using telephone and video communication.




Multilingual translation tools spread in Japan with new visa system

(Extraction from The Japan Times – June 16th, 2019 )

The use of multilingual translation tools is expanding in Japan, where foreign workers are expected to increase in the wake of April’s launch of new visa categories.

A growing number of local governments, labor unions and other entities have decided to introduce translation tools, which can help foreigners when going through administrative procedures as they allow local officials and other officers to talk to such applicants in their mother languages.

“Talking in the applicants’ own languages makes it easier to convey our cooperative stance,” said an official in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward.

The ward introduced VoiceBiz, an audio translation app developed by Toppan Printing Co. that covers 30 languages.

The app, which can be downloaded onto smartphones and tablet computers, will be used in eight municipalities, including Osaka and Ayase in Kanagawa Prefecture, company officials said.

Toppan Printing aims to introduce the app to 600 local governments by fiscal 2020.

Demand for the app is also high at schools.

As the number of foreign workers increases, the ability to communicate, particularly in schools where their children could face serious problems due to language barriers, is a task that urgently needs to be addressed.

Toppan Printing will pitch the app so that it will be used at 7,000 schools across the nation, according to the officials.

Multilingual translation tools are also being utilized to address labor issues.

Rengo Tokushima, a prefectural arm of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo, started using Pocketalk, a translation device developed by Sourcenext Corp.

Rengo is trying to cope with an increasing number of consultation requests from foreign technical interns seeking help with unpaid wages.

“The good point is that we can use highly specialized vocabulary, including legal terms,” a Rengo Tokushima official said.

The use of translation tools is also expected to spread among transportation service providers, including railway companies, as well as in sectors where the number of foreign workers is seen rising, such as in agriculture and elderly care.


Japan to allow foreign students to apply to switch visa and start their own companies

(Extraction from The Japan Times – June 13th, 2019)

The government on Tuesday made a decision on a regulatory reform measure to allow foreign students to start their own companies.

With the revision, foreign students will be able to switch their residence status while at university to one that allows them to undertake entrepreneurial activities.

The measure was decided on at a meeting of the Council on National Strategic Special Zones, chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It will be included in a new growth strategy to be approved at a Cabinet meeting in late June.

The government hopes that the measure will help increase the number of enterprises launched by foreign nationals, mainly in areas outside Tokyo.

At present, non-Japanese staying on a student visa cannot start a new business unless they quit or graduate from their schools, go back home and then receive a visa allowing for such an activity.

The government also decided on a measure to enable employers to pay salaries through smartphone payment services, mainly to meet the needs of foreign workers.

Japan to stiffen rules for foreign university student enrollment after 1,600 go AWOL

(Extraction from JapanToday – June 12th, 2019)

The education ministry and the immigration bureau said Tuesday they will tighten rules around the enrollment of foreigners in response to a Tokyo university losing contact with more than 1,600 students from abroad.

The move comes as Japan prepares to accept 300,000 foreign students by 2020 under a program aiming to promote Japan through increased awareness about the country.

The ministry and the Immigration Bureau of Japan will disclose the names of universities they found have breached rules around the enrollment of foreign students and ban them from accepting any more.

The decision was prompted by the case of the Tokyo University of Social Welfare which was investigated by the government for losing touch with a huge number of its foreign students.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said it told the school Monday to stop accepting new foreign students in preliminary courses.

“The university bears a huge responsibility for the large number of missing students and illegal aliens,” said education minister Masahiko Shibayama at a press conference.

In three years since the 2016 academic year, the university lost contact with 1,610 foreign students, saw 700 cancel their enrollment and removed 178. A large proportion of the students were enrolled in Japanese language courses as part of a preliminary program to be completed before they advanced to degree programs.

The ministry and the immigration bureau inspected the university’s four campuses in Tokyo and other cities five times between March and May and found it had been accepting many students who did not have sufficient language skills or were unable to pay tuition fees.

They also discovered the university was short-staffed and failed to provide support to students who had missed classes over a prolonged period.

The ministry said it will consider reducing or withdrawing subsidies for the private university, while the bureau will reject visa applications of foreign students who seek to enroll there.

The Tokyo University of Social Welfare, founded in 2000, had been accepting relatively small numbers of foreign students for years but expanded the number to about 1,200 in the 2016 academic year, about 1,900 the following year and over 2,600 in the year ended this March.

Yuriko Sato, an associate professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology who specializes in foreign student policy, called for more public support of foreign students, saying universities have been accepting students without sufficient language skills.

She said if poorly performing language schools can be brought up to a better standard and have their subsidies increased to help free students from their busy part time jobs, Japan can “create an environment in which foreign students can focus on studies without worries.”

Japan to encourage foreign workers to maintain employment outside major cities

(Extraction from The Japan Times – June 11th, 2019)

The government is planning measures to encourage foreign workers with specific skills under the country’s new visa statuses to secure jobs and continue employment outside of big cities, officials said Monday.

The measures are designed to prevent a concentration of such workers in urban areas, according to an understanding reached by some attendees at a meeting of ministers on the acceptance of and coexistence with foreign workers. The measures will be decided officially at a plenary session soon.

Specifically, the government will consider adopting preferential measures for a technical trainee with relatively low professional skills switching to certain visa statuses if the trainee continues to work for the same company.

The measures include simplified procedures for the switch. The government hopes that the measures will help discourage technical trainees working for companies in rural areas from relocating to Tokyo or other urban areas for higher wages.

In cooperation with Hello Work public job placement offices, the government will also select several municipalities where foreign workers will be encouraged to seek employment. The government will provide support to small firms and foreign workers there for two years to establish a model for offering assistance.

The meeting members also decided to create a service that will accept inquiries for consultations on issuing visas, employment and departures from and entry to Japan. The facility is expected to open in the Kanto region, which includes Tokyo, as soon as fiscal 2020.

More residence card forging rings shifting operations to Japan

(Extraction from Mainichi Japan – May 31st, 2019)

NAGOYA – Factories secretly forging residence cards issued to foreign nationals staying in Japan for at least three months have been uncovered one after another.

In the past, these factories were typically set up overseas to avoid crackdowns by Japanese law enforcers. However, many residence card forging rings are shifting their plants to Japan to quickly sell the cards.
Law enforcers are increasingly on the alert against forgers, fearing that these counterfeit cards could be used by those overstaying their visas and illegally working in Japan. Such concerns have arisen as the country is accepting more foreign workers under the revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, which went into force this past April to make up for a labor shortage.

Aichi Prefectural Police and the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau raided factories forging residence cards in Aichi, Osaka and Saitama prefectures between January and April 2019. During the search, law enforcers confiscated forged residence cards for Chinese, Vietnamese and Indonesian people and others, as well as fake student ID cards and health insurance cards, and thousands of forged blank residence cards.

Brokers posted advertisements on social media saying they could deliver the fake cards as early as two days after receiving orders. They then commissioned Chinese men and others to forge cards by printing their customers’ names, headshots and other information on blank cards using personal computers and printers, and sold them to the brokers or foreign customers nationwide for 10,000 to 20,000 yen each.

An increasing number of forgers are shifting their operations to Japan because there is growing demand for certain and prompt delivery of fake cards. By faking residence cards in Japan, forgers can shorten the time required to deliver fake cards to their customers and avoid the risk of their smuggling being uncovered at customs.
Crackdowns on the forgery rings have also shed light on the existence of an organized smuggling network led by Chinese people.

Immediately after the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau cracked down on a forgery plant in Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo, in January, the number of orders an Osaka plant received spiked. As soon as Aichi Prefectural Police raided the Osaka factory in February, a new factory was launched in Saitama Prefecture.

A 34-year-old Chinese national who was at the Osaka factory and is standing trial on charges of forging residence cards under the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act admitted that Chinese people are playing a key role in the ring.
“I responded to a message on SNS that said, ‘There are part-time jobs in which you can make good money.’ A Chinese man (at the Aichi plant) passed on the know-how to me,” he was quoted as telling investigators.
A senior investigator commented, “There are multiple trafficking rings and the factories that have been uncovered are just the tip of the iceberg.”

According to the National Police Agency, police across the country built up criminal cases against a record 438 non-Japanese nationals on suspicion of providing or possessing counterfeit residence cards in 2018. That year, 16,269 foreigners were deported, and 10,086 of them were accused of working illegally in Japan.

The Justice Ministry urges business operators to confirm foreign applicants’ residence cards when hiring them. However, quite a few businesses hire foreigners while knowing their employment would be illegal because of a labor shortage. More than 400 people are accused of aiding and abetting illegal labor each year.

Moreover, forgeries of residence cards are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and an individual linked to law enforcers says, “It’s difficult to tell fake cards from genuine ones at a glance.”

An IC chip is implanted in genuine cards and a hologram is attached to the surface of the card to show the letters “MOJ,” which stand for the Ministry of Justice. When inclined, the colors and the letters on the card look different.
Moreover, the validity of residence cards can be confirmed by inputting the card numbers into the immigration authorities’ website.

(Japanese original by Shintaro Iguchi, Nagoya News Center)

Japan to open up job fields for foreign graduates from universities

(Extraction from The Japan Times – May 28th, 2019)

The immigration agency said Tuesday it will increase the number of business sectors that foreign nationals are allowed to work in after graduating from universities or completing postgraduate studies in Japan, in the latest effort to lure more laborers to the country.

Under a revised Justice Ministry notification that is set to take effect Thursday, foreign graduates will be able to work at restaurants, retail shops and factory production lines under the Designated Activities status of residence.
Up to now, such graduates have usually acquired the Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services visa to work in fields such as engineering and accounting, according to the Immigration Services Agency.

The status has not permitted work in the services sector and at factories on the grounds that they are irrelevant to their expertise. But the agency has now decided to allow holders of the Designated Activities visa to engage in such work.

Under the plan, the revised Designated Activities visa will be issued on condition that the students will be ensured full-time employment and equal or higher wages compared with Japanese colleagues. They must also have a high level of Japanese-language proficiency.
Prior to the change, the Designated Activities visa has been issued to people such as those serving as household employees for diplomats.

The latest move comes as domestic companies are seeking to hire foreign workers with strong Japanese-language abilities on the back of a surge in the number of foreign tourists to the country.
The agency believes that the expanded job opportunities will boost the number of foreign workers in the country by thousands a year.

Japan is stepping up efforts to bring in more workers from abroad to cope with a chronic labor shortage due to the country’s rapidly graying population and low birthrate. New visa statuses were introduced last month to bring in blue-collar workers to labor-hungry sectors.

Facial recognition eyed for My Number Card

(Extraction from The Japan Times – June 3rd, 2019. Written by JIJI)

The government is considering having hospitals introduce a facial recognition system to identify patients using My Number tax and social security identification cards as health insurance cards, sources have said.

The move is designed to help prevent the fraudulent use of My Number cards and promote the spread of online procedures for public services.

The use of My Number cards as health insurance cards at hospitals will become possible as early as March 2021 as the Diet passed related legislation last month.

But such use is raising concerns among hospitals about potential problems that could arise if hospital staff accept My Number cards from patients for identification purposes.

The government is considering having patients themselves take care of the identification procedures for the cards.

Some companies, including NEC Corp. and Panasonic Corp., already sell facial recognition systems. The technology is expected to be used for identification procedures at next year’s Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The government believes the facial recognition technology can help simplify procedures for other public services such as the issuance of residence certificates.

Immigration’s internal documents: “Reducing applications is urgent”

(Extraction from Asahi Shimbun – May 20th, 2019)

According to UNHCR’s 2017 statistics, the number of people recognized as refugees by the Japanese government was only 20 people, the lowest among the G7 countries. The largest number is 147,671 for Germany. Italy is the second smallest after Japan, but still, it has recognized 5,895 people. Japan is the only country with a recognition rate of less than 1%, as it is pointed out by UNHCR.

And according to the 2018 data released by the Ministry of Justice in March, the number of recognized refugees increased to 42 people while the number of applicants decreased by 47% to 10,493 people.

Japan Lawyers Network for Refugees (JLNR) pointed out, “since the restrictions of repeated applications have tightened, it makes applicants shrank, and there may have been situations where the application has to be withdrawn in order to avoid detention.

An internal document indicating that immigration is trying to artificially reduce the number of refugee applicants is the “notification” within Tokyo Immigration Narita Airport Branch, dated November 16, 2018. This notification requires Sri Lankans that are increasingly applying for refugee status to answer questions by writing on paper confirming if he/she “is going to return within the visa period” or “if the person is in a situation not able to return”.

This is not only discrimination against a particular nationality, but it is also an obvious attitude that they do not want to accept the person. Such measures should not be taken by a contracting party to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.” Syogo Watanabe of JLNR says. “There is an absolute contradiction” in the current situation where the same agency carries out immigration control and refugee status determination.

Does not Japan want to accept refugees?

(Extraction from Mainichi Shimbun – May 15th, 2019)

Confronted with a Kurdish father’s long-term detention, his sons cry “Come back”

A Kurdish man from Turkey has been in a detention center since last January. Chorak Mehmet came to Japan in 2004. He has repeatedly applied for refugee status but he was refused and detained when he went to immigration for the extension of his temporary release, last January.

Deportation decrees have been issued to all members of his family, including the second son (11) and third son (8), born in Japan. “The deportation order is contrary to the rules of freedom and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is part of the international human rights treaty, that Japan has ratified, and it is clearly illegal”, according to the attorney, Masaichi Hikawa.

In March, Mr. Chorak, whose long-term detention continued, fell into extremely bad health conditions. His relatives heard the complaint over the phone and arranged ambulances twice, but Immigration officials repulsed them. This issue was taken up by the National Assembly as well.

According to the defense counsel, the recognition rate of Turkish nationals who applied for asylum in the last 17 years is about 35% on average in the world, but in Japan, not a single one has been recognized.

Several Schools refuse children who are “Unable to speak Japanese”

(Extraction from Mainichi Shimbun – May 17th, 2019)

When foreign nationals wish to join a school in areas where Japanese language instruction systems are not in place, there are schools that virtually refuse them because they cannot speak Japanese.

Dangol Lapina (18) came to Japan in 2014 without being able to speak Japanese, to live with her mother, in Akishima (Tokyo), when she was 13 years old. According to her mother, she went to the Akishima City Board of Education to enter school and received a “School Designation Notice.” Nevertheless, she was told that “she could not enter school if she did not understand Japanese”.

The girl learned daily conversation at “YSC Global School”, a Japanese language school operated by an NPO in Fussa city, and after five months she became able to speak simple Japanese and entered the first grade of junior high school.

Nevertheless, there was no Japanese language instruction at school and “all classes were difficult”. There was also bullying.

In the second year of junior high school, a Japanese language instructor was dispatched once or twice a week from the City Board of Education. After summer, she began to understand Japanese, little by little and was also able to make friends.

Five students from Afghanistan

(Extraction from Mainichi Shimbun – May 13th, 2019)

With the spread of foreign children throughout the country, local governments that had never in the past offered Japanese language education are now required to respond to the new needs.

Last spring, five brothers from Afghanistan joined Shimoda Elementary School in Oirase Town, Aomori Prefecture. The five did not understand either Japanese or English, and no interpreter for the Pashto language was found. The school has diverted a room of the broadcast studio into a Japanese class. Since they increased their time to study Japanese there, a change has been noticed from the second semester. Although the children’s Japanese language skills have improved, there are still many challenges ahead.

At present, there are three supporters in charge of Japanese children who need special support but they are also taking care of the five, and some are worried that support for other children may become insufficient.

Support didn’t reach to those “I don’t know”

(Extraction from Mainichi Shimbun – May 12th, 2019)

Due to the stress of not mastering the language, a girl student has become school refusal from the first grade of junior high school. Her mother is Japanese and the father Korean.

In April 2015, she returned from Brazil, where she spent six years and moved into the fourth grade of elementary school. Since the government’s support for Japanese language education was cut off, she had no one to whom she could tell her trouble.

Around July after she became a first grader in junior high school, others noticed something wrong in her. The final exam scores were single digit except in English.

After that, she became a school refusal. Her mother and the school had been thinking she could master Japanese because she had no problem in daily conversation. However, in class, specialized expressions and words have used that need to be understood.

Letters are meaningful

(Extraction from Mainichi Shimbun – May 11th, 2019)

A third-grader boy in Saitama City used to live in Turkey as a Kurd, but came to Japan when he was 5 years old. When he was second grader of Elementary school he attended the Japanese language school “Asobisha Tenkirin”. Hiroko Haga, the school representative at the time, seeing the compositions written by the children attending the school, noticed that the boy was writing letters without understanding their meaning. She used hiragana cards to teach hiragana, and the boy became able to read aloud gradually. The city had dispatched, on a yearly basis, instructors to public schools for foreign students who needed Japanese language guidance. However, it usually takes 5 to 7 years to master a “foreign language”

Living in Japan-Foreign Children ― 

After moving from a dispersed area, Japanese language skill have been greatly improved
(Extraction from Mainichi Shimbun, May 9th, 2019 – Series Articles)

The contents of help for foreign nationals who require Japanese language education differ greatly depending on the region. Ramires Annis (10), a five-year-old boy who spent two years in a “dispersed area” with few foreign children, could speak only fragmented Japanese, but after taught at a school in a Japanese language class of “special curriculum”, his Japanese has greatly improved so much that he could write a composition. He has moved to Hirose Elementary School, where 20% of the children are foreign nationals.

According to the MEXT survey in 2004, 10,418 of the 43,947 children who needed Japanese language instruction were involved in such a curriculum.

My experience in Fukuoka ― not all trainees working in Japan have negative views of Japan

Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 206 / April 15th, 2019
Jessie Tayama, Migrant Desk (Jesuit Social Center staff)

The Catholic Commission of Japan for Migrants, Refugees and People on the Move (J-CaRM) National Workshop 2019 was held in Fukuoka from February 28th to March 2nd, 2019. There were about 130 participants (priests, sisters, lay people, missionaries etc.) coming from all over Japan to attend this meeting.

Day One. Four speakers talked on several different issues; a Vietnamese Priest Fr. Peter Thoai talked on how he could better the life of Vietnamese living in Japan, Ms. Yamagishi spoke about the new immigration law that comes to effect from April 1st, 2019, “Zero Campaign Aspiration” was the topic of Fr. Takashi Seto (Caritas) and finally Fr. Marcel Kauss of Minoshima Pastoral Center spoke about drug addicts rehabilitation (DARC), the homeless, and foreigners.

Day Two. Field trips were divided into 3 groups. Group 1 – History of Forced labor and the situation of the Korean School in Shimonoseki. Group 2 – Visit the Old Site of Coalmining Area of Chikuho where people were brought to work without their will from occupied territories in the Korean Peninsula. Group 3 – Visit a cow ranch and a vegetable farm where Technical Intern trainees work along the Chikugo River.

I was in the Group 3 field trip with 42 participants. The group’s guide was Mr. Iwamoto Mitsuhiro of Network for the rights of Technical intern trainees in Kitakyushu, assisted by Ms. Ariyoshi Kazuko from ACO / Kurosaki Church. And also Fr. Moriyama Shinzo of Fukuoka Colegio and Mr. Yoshida Tsutomu of J-CaRM.

On our first stop at Haraguchi Ranch in Kanzaki, Saga, we were greeted by President Haraguchi, the owner of the cow ranch, Mr. Otsuka Rikihisa the Board Chairman of Fureai Cooperative Association and his assistant Mr. Kimura. We toured around the cow ranch and met up 3 Vietnamese trainees with whom we had a short conversation.

The second stop was at Ogori church (St. Francis Xavier) for a lunch break. After lunch, Mr. Otsuka gave a talk on technical trainees. He runs a company that brings in trainees from overseas to Japan. Initially, he brought trainees from China, but now only Vietnamese. He explained that most companies that bring in the trainees are good companies which follow the proper legal terms, but there are also some bad companies too. It’s the same as with trainees, some are really good who come here to work and some are not.

Trainees who criticize the company for paying them a low wage, need to look into several facts. It’s common that those working in Fukuoka will get a lower salary (\814 per hour) than Tokyo. Mr. Otsuka explained that it’s not just to compare the salary scale in this way. Every year about 5,000 trainees (3%) run away from their workplace just before their visa expires.

Every month his company charges \25,000 fees to the trainees for coming to work in Japan. That amount includes 2 ways air-tickets and the handling of fees etc. He brings in 10 trainees from Vietnam per year. Mr. Otsuka explained further that one needs to look from the angle of the company because they have to make monthly trips to trainees’ workplace to check and to make a report and that causes expenditure for his company. He does not treat them just as employees only but also create a good communication environment for them i.e. going together for a trip, inviting them to his house for a barbecue party, year-end rice cakes making, etc. After completing the 3 years contract usually, the trainees are thankful to Mr. Otsuka.

The third stop was an Ogata vegetable farm in Yasutakecho. Mr. Ogata, the President of the vegetable farm introduced 5 Vietnamese trainees working there. They looked happily working there despite, the cold weather during the winter and hot weather during the summer. The Vietnamese priest and sisters accompanying us spoke to them in Vietnamese for a while, but when the time to leave arrived some of them started to cry. They felt a little sad and missed talking to someone of the Catholic faith. Some are Catholics who are not able to attend masses or receive holy-communion since the workplace is located far away from a church.

The last stop was at Imamura Catholic Church (St. Michael Archangel) in Tachiarai-machi, Fukuoka. Imamura Catholic Church was built (1913 and was registered as one of Japan’s National Important Cultural Property in 2015) in the Romanesque style with red bricks and has two towers. As one of the few brick churches remaining in Japan, it is highly valuable.

Day Three. Groups presentation and discussion.

Conclusion: I was glad to join the Group 3 field trip. It was an eye-opening for me to see the real situation that sometimes we need to see with our own eyes and to listen to persons that are in contact with trainees. It is not enough to obtain information through the internet or mass media. Often such information presents negative views of trainees coming to work in Japan. But, in reality, there are good companies in Japan who do take care of their employees.

The United Nations Global Compact for Migration

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration has been adopted on December 2018, by an Intergovernmental Conference of the United Nations, gathered in Marrakech, Morocco.

Global Compact
The Global Compact for Migration is the first-ever UN global agreement on a common approach to international migration in all its dimensions. The global compact is non-legally binding. It is grounded in values of state sovereignty, responsibility-sharing, non-discrimination, and human rights, and recognizes that a cooperative approach is needed to optimize the overall benefits of migration, while addressing its risks and challenges for individuals and communities in countries of origin, transit and destination.

The global compact comprises 23 objectives for better managing migration at local, national, regional and global levels.

The Vatican approach to implement the Global Compact
Following the directions published by Pope Francis it presents four mileposts for action to offer asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking an opportunity to find the peace they seek. This requires a strategy combining four actions as they are expressed in 4 Key Words: Welcoming, Protecting, Promoting and Integrating.

*“Welcoming” calls for expanding legal pathways for entry and no longer pushing migrants and displaced people towards countries where they face persecution and violence. It also demands balancing our concerns about national security with concern for fundamental human rights. Scripture reminds us: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

*“Protecting” has to do with our duty to recognize and defend the inviolable dignity of those who flee real dangers in search of asylum and security, and to prevent their being exploited. I think in particular of women and children who find themselves in situations that expose them to risks and abuses that can even amount to enslavement. God does not discriminate: “The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the orphan and the widow.”

Promoting” entails supporting the integral human development of migrants and refugees. Among many possible means of doing so, I would stress the importance of ensuring access to all levels of education for children and young people. This will enable them not only to cultivate and realize their potential, but also better equip them to encounter others and to foster a spirit of dialogue rather than rejection or confrontation. The Bible teaches that God “loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”

*“Integrating”, lastly, mean allowing refugees and migrants to participate fully in the life of the society that welcomes them as part of a process of mutual enrichment and fruitful cooperation in service of the integral human development of the local community. Saint Paul expresses it in these words: “You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people.”

Half of foreign nationals in Tokyo experience discrimination, survey shows

Half of foreign nationals in Tokyo experience discrimination, survey shows
(Extraction from KYODO – April 17th, 2019)

Nearly half of foreign nationals living in Tokyo have experienced racial discrimination, according to a survey released Tuesday by a civic group.

In the survey conducted by the Anti-Racism Information Center, a group organized by scholars, activists and university students, 167 of 340 respondents including students said that they have suffered discriminatory treatment such as being told not to talk in a language other than Japanese.

Some working as retail shop cashiers said customers asked for Japanese cashiers, according to the face-to-face questionnaire survey conducted in February and March in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. Among them, a Nepalese man working at a drugstore said one customer told him that they did not like to see foreigners working as cashiers and asked to be served by someone else.

A Chinese respondent who works at a convenience store said that a colleague told the respondent not to speak Chinese when the respondent was asked for directions by a Chinese-speaking customer. There were also cases where foreign nationals had apartment rental applications rejected. Some said they were denied entry into stores, but none of the respondents took their cases to the public offices that deal with such issues.

Ryang Yong-song, a representative of the civic group, told a news conference that foreigners living in Japan tend to “end up letting (their discriminatory experiences) drop.”

“The government should conduct a survey to show what kind of discrimination foreigners face,” Ryang said, calling on schools and employers to deal more proactively with discrimination and establish mechanisms to involve public officials in addressing the problems.

TEPCO accepts foreign workers with “specific skills” to work in Fukushima

TEPCO accepts foreign workers with “specific skills” to work in Fukushima
(Extraction from Asahi Shinbun – April 18th, 2019

It has been found that TEPCO decided to accept foreign workers with “specific skills” to work at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, to do on-site work there.

The Ministry of Justice disapproved the acceptance of having technical trainees working at TEPCO Fukushima first nuclear power plant given that their main purpose to be accepted is “international contribution”. However, as a result of inquiring about the content of “specified skills” the Ministry of Justice agreed that, “Foreign workers can be accepted within the new qualifications. It is possible for them to work anywhere the Japanese are working.”  The reason is that there is labor shortage in the entire construction industry. In addition, there are specific reasons related to the work to be done at the nuclear power plant.

Public night junior high school entrance ceremony In Saitama and Chiba prefecture For relearners and foreigners

Public night junior high school entrance ceremony In Saitama and Chiba prefecture. For relearners and foreigners
(Extraction from Kyodo News – April 16th, 2019)

The public night junior high school opened this month in Matsudo City, Chiba Prefecture and Kawaguchi City, Saitama Prefecture, opened its first entrance ceremony at each school building on the 16th.

There are many students who have graduated junior high school without attending classes and trying to learn again, and there are also many foreigners.

The entrance ceremony was held at Matsudo City Daiichi Junior high school Mirai Branch and Kawaguchi City Shiba Nishi Junior high school Youshun Branch.

The Mirai branch students are 22 males and females in their 10s to 70s, 9 of whom are Chinese and Brazilian. As for the school building, closed primary school is utilized.

In Yoshun Branch, there are 77 students in their 10s to 80s. Foreigners occupy 47 of them. The government is promoting the establishment of one or more schools in each prefecture in response to rising demand due to the increase of foreigners.

Securing foreign workers Anxiety in local areas

Securing foreign workers Anxiety in local areas
(Extrraction from Tokyo Shimbun – April 16th, 2019)

The first specified skills test was conducted for foreigners who would like to work at a hotel or inn. The lodging industry has a serious staff shortage, and the ratio of job offers for 2017 was 6.15.

There are some cases where the reservation is refused even when there are vacancies. Japanese workers tend to avoid lodging industry because the wage is lower than other industries and it’s difficult to take a break on weekends.

According to the government’s statics taking efforts to attract visitors to Japan as a pillar of growth strategy, the lodging industry will have a labor shortage of approximately 100,000 in 2023. So 25,000 foreign workers are going to be supplied. But it is concerned that most of foreign workers would like to work in large cities, and the shortage of local human resources would not be improved.

In addition, even though the personnel who have passed the specified skills test, if the person become an immediate force or not is unknown,” the person in charge of the recruitment agency says. “It is important to bring up one person on the hiring side.” in the area where less foreigners are living, it is also important to create an environment that the foreigner can live in peace. Professor Hiraoka of Kyoto University of Foreign Languages emphasized that it is important for the inn association and municipalities to establish a support system on a regional basis.

First step for new job…first specified skills examination

First step for new job…first specified skills examination
(Extraction from Mainichi shimbun – April 15th, 2019)

On the 14th, accommodation industry’s skill examination required to acquire “Specified Skills No. 1” were conducted at seven venues nationwide. Also In Manila, Philippine, Nursing care industry’s skill examination were conducted on the 13th and 14th. Successful applicants will be able to work in Japan from this summer, after searching for a place of employment and examined by the immigration authorities.

The examination of the accommodation business is made by the accommodation industry proficiency testing center organized by the industry groups. The contents of the test was the written test of 30 questions that should be answered in a “◯” (circle) or “X “(cross)  formula about front desk service, customer service, safety and health etc., and the practical test of basic answering in Japanese.

An Indonesian woman who took the exam had finished 3 years of technical intern at the food factory, but challenged the examination of the accommodation business, saying “I want to work with people”.

A Bangladeshi man who goes to a technical college for drafting says that he took the exam to broaden the range of employment opportunities because finding a job in drafting is difficult.

According to the Ministry of land,Infrastructure,Transport and Tourism, only about 10 days after the starting of test application, the six venues other than Sapporo were full.

By nationality, there are many Vietnamese, Myanmar and Nepalese, and it seems a lot of them are foreign students who are working part-time at hotels or inn.s As for the nursing care skill test in Philippine,125 people applied for the examination.

First exam held in Japan for foreigners seeking working visas under new system

(Extraction from Kyodo News – April 14th, 2019)

Japan, gearing up to accept more foreign workers under its new visa system launched earlier this month, held a qualification exam for applicants for the first time Sunday.

The exam, which took place at several locations across the country, focused on checking knowledge and skills required to work in the country’s accommodation industry.

The first exam, but for candidates hoping to work in the nursing care business, was held in Manila on Saturday.

Japan created a new visa system on April 1 to bring in more foreign workers to the country struggling with an acute labor shortage, marking a major policy shift from its traditionally strict immigration rules.

Over the next five years, the government expects up to 345,150 foreign migrant workers to acquire a newly created resident status called Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 to work in 14 labor-hungry sectors such as accommodation, nursing care, construction and farming. The visa will enable them to stay up to five years.

About 390 people sat Sunday’s exam, which was held at seven test sites including in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. The results will be announced May 25.

The exam involved a paper test concerning knowledge of the service industry, and a customer service skill test.

Many of the applicants are believed to be students who have the experience of working at hotels as part-time workers in Japan.

Elma Sulistia Ningrum, a 24-year-old Indonesian living in Saitama Prefecture, said she can speak Japanese and English but the knowledge test was difficult because she was not familiar with the hotel business.

The job seekers will also have to clear a Japanese language proficiency test before applying for the new visa. As for the accommodation industry, successful candidates will likely be granted the visa in the summer at the earliest, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

The government hopes the influx of foreigner workers will ease the manpower shortage at hotels, especially those in rural areas, which could lead to a further increase in tourists.

An exam for the food service industry is scheduled in Tokyo and Osaka later this month.

In the past, Japan limited the issuance of working visas to people with professional knowledge and high skills, such as doctors, lawyers and teachers. But it decided to loosen the restrictions on the entry of foreign workers from April to tackle serious labor shortages amid the country’s aging population and falling birthrate.

Small Japanese firms fear foreign workers will abandon them when new visas kick in

(Extraction from Chunichi Shimbun – March 24th, 2019)

Small and midsize firms fear the new visa system that started April 1st, 2019, will end up helping only major firms in large cities, since those who qualify for the two new “specified skills” visas will be free to switch companies in the same sector.

The small companies feel they will continue to struggle to secure competent workers because they have to compete now with big-name companies offering higher pay.

Foreign trainees who meet certain criteria will also be able to switch to the level of new visas without extra testing, so companies are again concerned they might suddenly decide to go to work for a bigger company.

At Nishio, an auto parts maker in Aichi Prefecture, six of the roughly 30 employees are trainees from China, Vietnam and Indonesia to produce screws and check finished products. Okada, the company’s president, started accepting foreign trainees about 10 years ago, because they were basically not permitted to change employers during their stay. He thought it was a way to secure enough staff. But, now Okada fears some of the newly hired ones might move to larger companies, just like the Nikkei Brazilians and Peruvians did in the past. The firm
has taken measures to improve working conditions, but nothing seems to work he said.

The Human Resource Support Corporative Association Tokai, an intermediary body in Hekinan,  Aichi Prefecture, that acts as a broker and support Centre for foreign trainees, said that dispatch of technical interns from Vietnam and Indonesia to Japan has become increasingly difficult.

About 100 firms in the Chubu region have also to compete not only against rivals within Japan but also from overseas.

“Praising Immigration Bureau” to promote discrimination

(Extraction from Mainichi Shimbun – October 23rd, 2018)

A series of television programs that cover scenes that detect foreigners without a status of residence are being broadcasted one after another, and criticisms of “promoting discrimination against foreigners” are spreading.

A male from the Middle East detained in the East Japan Immigration Center watched Fuji Television’s “Adhesive 24 o’clock! Moment of forced withdrawal” (6th) says, “There may be no choice but to detain someone without a visa, but why do you convey it like a violent criminal? Japanese who watched the program would think “Are foreigners so bad? “”

Fuji TV is not the only one that took up the scene where foreigners are caught. TV TOKYO “Adhesion! Domiciled search ” (10th), TV TBS “bibit” (September 5th), and TV Asahi “Super G Men” (September 20th) also “tightly” took up the immigration work.

Mr. Miyasako of PRAJ (Provisional Release Association in Japan) considers the structure of the technical training system that does not allow freedom to change their places of work, as like Japanese can do, has problems. ”Employers think that anything can be done to foreigners. Can we blame anyone who, feeling the treatment given to him/her was unbearable, and different from what had been promised and escaped away?”

The treatment of foreigners in detention facilities is also not well known. “Moment of forced withdrawal” told the immigration side that “immigration was performing appropriate treatment”, but in fact, suicide / self-harm continues in detention, and also the medical care system which causes many sick deaths has been pointed out.

In Japan, when a non-detainee applies for temporary release, neither the person nor the lawyer know the examination process, and no specific reason is given even if it is not permitted. “In the UK, for instance, one can apply for a bail to the court by fax, from the detention center and there will be hearing in a public court within a few days. In this court, the government has to show the reasons why the detention has to be continued”

In “Adhesion! Domiciled search”, there was a scene in which an immigration officer received a warrant from the court to search a foreigner’s office or residence. However, there is no scene that asks the court for an arrest warrant for personal restraint. This is because foreigners with overstays can be bound if there is only a detention order issued by an immigration examiner, and immigration can judge the detention period. It has to be said that the human rights of foreigners whose visas have expired have been “lightly treated”.

423 foreign prisoners repatriated

(Extraction from Kyodo – April 10th, 2019) 

Japan repatriated 423 foreign prisoners over the last 16 years under an international treaty designed to help rehabilitate and reintegrate convicted criminals, Justice Ministry officials said Tuesday.

Japan is a signatory to the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons along with members of the Council of Europe and the United States. A related domestic law was put into force in June 2003.

It has signed separate bilateral treaties with Thailand, Brazil and Iran, which are not members of the convention, and is negotiating similar agreements with China and Vietnam.

Serving terms in home countries where there are no language or cultural differences should help the prisoners’ smooth return to society”, a ministry official said.

For a prisoner to be transferred under the treaty, Japan, the prisoner and his or her home country must consent. The offense committed by the potential transferee must be a crime in both countries.

The 423 prisoners were transferred to 30 countries. The U.K. topped the list with 61 prisoners, followed by the United States at 54, the Netherlands at 51, Canada with 44 and South Korea at 43, according to the ministry.

Japan, for its part, has had 10 of its nationals repatriated, with five returning from the United States, three from Thailand and two from South Korea, it said.

The Justice Ministry plans to continue using the transfer system as about 40 percent of the roughly 1,600 foreign prisoners in Japan are from signatory states, and 50 of the 146 Japanese serving terms abroad are also doing so in signatory countries.

For those who cannot or do not wish to be sent home, some Japanese prisons offer meals, specific beds and language services catered to their needs.

Japan has introduced an international office tasked with dealing with foreign prisoners at prisons in Tokyo, Tochigi, Kanagawa, Aichi and Osaka prefectures.

Among them, Tokyo’s Fuchu Prison- which hold the country’s largest foreign prisoners contingent of 332, or about 20 percent of the total prison population – has a three-story building for foreign prisoners.

Exams for care workers in consideration of foreign applicants

Exams for care workers in consideration of foreign applicants
Teacher Hiroshi Ito teacher at Tokyo YMCA Medical and Welfare College
(Extraction from Asahi Shimbun – April 12th, 2019)

The rate of Indonesian students who passed the Japanese national exam for care workers was around 30% this time. Under the EPA system, foreign people who cannot pass the care workers’ exam within 5 years must return home.

In the current examination system, all students, Japanese or not have to solve almost the same problems. The difference is that foreigners have Japanese syllabaries and their answering time is 1.5 times longer than that of the Japanese. The questions cannot be solved without understanding difficult Japanese words such as “inconspicuous” or questions about how to put on a costume to a dead person.

I hope that the exam is modified to fit our times of globalization. It should be also considered how to incorporate personal experiences and qualifications in the original country for the assessment of the exam. We should face the reality that talented human resources are leaving Japan without including such modifications.


Gates are opened for the Arrival of Foreign Workers, a New Pandora Box

(Written by Fr. Ando Isamu, SJ, Tokyo Jesuit Social Center, Migrant Desk – April 2nd, 2019)

The new fiscal year has just started in Japan. As it happens every year during this season of spring the cherry blossoms are at their peak, but this time a fresh wind of social change is blowing over Japanese society.

This New Year has brought 2 prominent events. Japan’s Emperor resigned and, following the old traditional custom, a new era has begun with the coming of the new Emperor a month ahead. Yesterday, on April 1, a name, REIWA (令和for the new era, was officially proclaimed in a traditional ceremony. As a result, within a month the Calendar, dates of official documents, etc. will have to be changed on May 1 when the New Emperor will be enthroned.

There is a different prominent event that changes the face of Japanese society. Japan has officially opened the country to foreign workers for the first time in modern history. We had already many workers from foreign countries in Japan but, starting this April 1, ‘unskilled workers’ are officially accepted to work in Japan. Also what we were accustomed to call Immigration Bureau has been elevated to ‘Office’ (庁 in Japanese) with an independent Head.

Since October, last year, the bill to accept over 350,000 foreign workers to Japan was hotly discussed at the National Diet by political parties with remarkable coverage of mass media. The government offered clear numbers of workers to be accepted in a space of 5 years and showed 2 types of residence under which foreign workers will be accepted. Although opposition parties criticized the government’s policy and made complaints, business looked happy to have young people to fill the lack of manpower.

On the other hand, the government assured that was not taking an “immigration” policy which looks unpopular in the country, but this is to be doubted.

In fact, what has really happened? The Japanese government opened the gates, posting there a green light, ‘Welcomed to Japan’! But, in reality, has left untouched many needed structures for the newcomers to live and survive in Japan. For instance, the technical training existing system will continue providing low wage cheap labor; unskilled workers with basic Japanese language knowledge will feel the need to attend Japanese language schools, they arrive with debts due to brokers and loans, how will they be able to pay the schools fees? (The average fee in Tokyo will usually be over 600,000Yen, per year). Will it be possible for young workers to change places of work without affecting the renewal of their visas? The government expects foreign workers to work in rural areas, fishing and construction, domestic jobs and not get concentrated in urban centers, but Japanese youth usually avoids such jobs because of bad work conditions, why to impose regulations only to the young people coming to work in Japan?

All these and many other situations look to me as a ‘Pandora box’, full of unexpected phenomena to occur. The arrival of many foreigners happy to work in Japanese society to fill the needs of lack of manpower is an important challenge to produce needed change and bring into society a variety of different cultural inter-action.

The Catholic Church has already started many activities with foreign communities and will, most probably face now important challenges.


Small Japanese firms fear foreign workers will abandon them when new visas kick in

Small Japanese firms fear foreign workers will abandon them when new visas kick in
(Extraction from Chunichi Shimbun – March 24th, 2019)

Small and midsize firms fear the new visa system that started April 1st, 2019, will end up helping only major firms in large cities, since those who qualify for the two new “specified skills” visas will be free to switch companies in the same sector.

The small companies feel they will continue to struggle to secure competent workers because they have to compete now with big-name companies offering higher pay.
Foreign trainees who meet certain criteria will also be able to switch to the level of new visas without extra testing, so companies are again concerned they might suddenly decide to go to work for a bigger company.

At Nishio, an auto parts maker in Aichi Prefecture, six of the roughly 30 employees are trainees from China, Vietnam and Indonesia to produce screws and check finished products.

Okada, the company’s president, started accepting foreign trainees about 10 years ago, because they were basically not permitted to change employers during their stay. He thought it was a way to secure enough staff. But, now Okada fears some of the newly hired ones might move to larger companies, just like the Nikkei Brazilians and Peruvians did in the past. The firm has taken measures to improve working conditions, but nothing seems to work he said

The Human Resource Support Corporative Association Tokai, an intermediary body in Hekinan, Aichi Prefecture, that acts as a broker and support Centre for foreign trainees, said that dispatch of technical interns from Vietnam and Indonesia to Japan has become increasingly difficult.

About 100 firms in the Chubu region have also to compete not only against rivals within Japan but also from overseas.

Poverty in Vietnam is the problem

Poverty in Vietnam is the problem
(Extraction from Mainichi Shimbun -December 24th, 2018)

Bungo Okabe (37), in charge of the trainees’ project at the management group “Co-op Create Hit” (Nagoya City), is a former Vietnamese refugee. Okabe escaped from Vietnam when he was young and now supports Vietnamese technical trainees who work for Japanese companies.

According to the Ministry of Justice, last year, 3751 Vietnamese technical trainees disappeared in the country and the numbers are increasing year after year. The Ministry of Justice thinks that the main reason could be “the seeking of higher wages”. It could be true, but the essence of the situation is that trainees cannot change the companies to work for”, Okabe says. “In the same way as Japanese go to large cities, such as Tokyo and Osaka, looking for higher pay and good treatment, trainees also want to find jobs that can earn higher income”. Certainly, there are problems to be solved within the system. On the other hand, the main problem is poverty. It is clear that foreign workers are supporting the Japanese economy nowadays. I agree to accept them here.”

Death of 174 Trainees working long hours with debts

Death of 174 Trainees working long hours with debts
Extraction from Tokyo Shimbun – December 18, 2018)

Temple Nissinkutu in Minato-ku, Tokyo. At the altar there were a row of mortuary tablets for Vietnamese people who died in Japan. “Many of them were young technical trainees in their 20s and 30s,” said Buddhist nun Tick Tham Chi (40). Many of the technical trainees who come to Japan pay a large amount of money to sending agencies and malicious brokers in their home countries and become debt-ridden.

Some of the trainees endure longer working hours and tougher jobs than the Japanese to repay debts, and even when they become sick hesitate to go to the hospital. Some are driven to commit suicide. A 25-year-old man who killed himself left this note “violence and bullying are painful”.

Buddhist nun T. T. Chi who has held over 100 funerals of technical trainees (60%) and foreign students since 2012, says “I’m worried that even after the changing of the law, discrimination related to foreigners might be repeated.”

Such suicides and unnatural deaths are said to be the result of poor working conditions. Reporter Minetoshi Yasuda says “It is difficult for them to change the workplace even if there is bullying, power harassment, or trouble. There is no family or friend who can be consulted. In such a situation, long-hour work of low-paid continue. Thus, anybody can become mentally ill”.

Regarding the Revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law

Suzuki Masako (Attorney-at-law, Izumibashi Law Office)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 205 / February 15th, 2019

1. Introduction
During the 197th Extraordinary Diet session held on December 8, 2018, partial amendments for the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act and the Act for Establishment of the Ministry of Justice were passed. The contents of the laws include (1) establishment of the resident statuses for technical intern training (i) and technical intern training (ii), and (2) establishment of the Immigration and Resident Status Control Agency as its main components.The following will explain in further detail about the items above.

2. Establishment of Technical Intern Training (i) and Technical Intern Training (ii)
1) The significance of the technical intern system
To counter the serious labor shortages in small to medium and small-sized businesses for industries that face labor shortages, although improvements in productivity and efforts in acquiring labor inside Japan have been made, building a system that welcomes foreign laborers who have skills in a particular field as effective workers (the basic policy of running a system regarding the residence status of technical interns) has been done, and accepting foreign laborers has been recognized as its purpose.

2) What are “technical intern training (i)” and “technical intern training (ii)”?
Of the newly established statuses of residence, technical intern training (i) is a status for foreigners who are involved in work that requires knowledge or experience in technical skills equivalent to a designated industry. Technical intern training (ii) is a status of residence for foreigners who are involved in work that requires experienced technical skills of a designated industry.

The designated industrial fields are comprised of 14 categories: nursing care (caregiving), building cleaning (cleaning of multi-floor buildings), materials processing (forges and foundries), industrial machinery manufacturing industry, electric and electrical information related industries, construction, shipbuilding and ship industries, automobile maintenance, airport ground handling and aircraft maintenance (aviation), hotels (lodging), agriculture, fishery, food and drink manufacturing industry, and restaurants (foodservice). The technical intern training (ii) category only accepts construction, and shipbuilding and ship industries.

Foreigners who acquire the status of residence as technical intern training (i), are generally divided into new foreigners entering the country, or existing foreigners in Japan who have finished their technical intern training or study abroad program. As a general rule, to acquire this status, passing technical skills exams and daily life and Japanese language tests are required. However, foreigners who have completed intern training (ii) will be exempt from these requirements. For this status, the periods of stay are one year, six months, or four months (renewals accepted), with the maximum total of residence being five years. Bringing along family members is generally not allowed, but they are eligible for the support provided by accepting organizations and registered support organizations, which will be described later in this text.

The periods of stay for the technical intern training (ii) status are three years, one year, or six months (renewals accepted). The level of technical skill will be checked through exams and other methods, but for checking of the level of Japanese, they are not required to take exams again. If certain requirements are met, bringing along family members (spouse and children) is allowed. Foreigners of this status are not eligible for support provided by accepting organizations and registered support organizations.

3) What are accepting organizations and registered support organizations?
Such accepting organizations, to which foreign residents with special skills and residential qualifications belong are said to be the subjects to implement assistance to provide guidance for daily life before coming to Japan, assistance to find a dwelling place, and to acquire Japanese language needed for technical intern training. Nevertheless, they can entrust the implementation of the assistance to already registered organizations for assistance. (In accordance with the newly planned system, there will be a need for them to be registered by the administration head of the new immigration body to be established).

4) Present status of implementation and schedule
After April of the current year, a maximum of 345,150 foreign technical interns will be accepted during the five-year span.

Of the 14 categories mentioned above, caregiving, lodging, and foodservice will have technical intern training (i) examinations held this April. Examinations must be held for these three categories because the previous accepting period for technical interns in caregiving does not meet the required three years for technical intern training (i), and lodging and foodservice were not a part of the training system. Examinations must be held to accept technical interns in April.

Japanese language examinations are currently held in Vietnam, Philippines, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal and Mongolia. An agreement between the countries will be made by March. Examinations are also planned to be held in Japan, but no details are announced yet.

Among technical intern training (ii), the examinations for shipbuilding and ship industries are expected to be held from FY 2021. For construction, it is said that with the use of the existing technical skills test, acquisition of the status by this April may be possible.

3. Establishment of the Immigration and Resident Status Control Agency
Another big revision of the law this time is the establishment of the Immigration and Resident Status Control Agency. As it will be established under the Ministry of Justice, it does not differ from the previous Immigration Bureau, but while the Immigration Bureau served as an internal department, this new agency will work as an external bureau like the Public Security Intelligence Agency and the Public Security Examination Commission.
According to the explanation given by the Ministry of Justice, this new establishment will make the Ministry of Justice’s duties regarding immigration control from a “fair control on immigration” to a “fair control on immigration and residency”. The duties will be: (a) to aim for a fair control on immigration and residency, and (b) to assist the affairs of the Cabinet, regarding designated important policies of the Cabinet about the duties in (a). The head of the agency will be the Secretary of Immigration and Resident Status Control.

As mentioned in the above, the main purpose of this agency is “control”. According to the media, the newly established Immigration and Resident Status Control Agency will be divided into “Department of Immigration Control” and “Department of Control and Support of Resident Status”. Duties of supporting the daily life of foreigners will be newly added.

However, the intended purpose of the Immigration and Resident Status Control Agency is to “control” foreigners. In reality, nearly all support on daily life given to foreigners has been entrusted to local governments, and has not been done on a national level. It is uncertain whether the Immigration and Resident Status Control Agency will be able to take responsibility for these duties.

4. Summary
For a long time, Japan has been not accepting immigration of foreign laborers for unskilled labor. However, in reality, Japan does not have a working force sufficient to run unskilled labor independently. Throughout the years, foreigners, such as non-regular residents, Nikkei Sansei (third generation, born in Japan), technical interns and exchange students, have done unskilled labor different from their official purpose.

This new framework to accept foreigners shows some progress by admitting the acceptance of foreigner laborers to counter labor shortages, which differs from past situations that used foreign laborers differing from the original purpose.

On the other hand, the system has the title “international contribution”, but there are still many problems with the continuation of technical interns, which already has exceedingly of numerous issues of its own. It is a system that relies on technical interns, and leaves all the duties of aiding technical interns to accepting organizations. It also lacks the removal of brokers from sending countries, which has been an issue linked with the technical intern system for a long time. Another issue is how bringing along family is not allowed, throughout a span of five years for technical interns (i). Furthermore, assurance of human rights for foreigners is exceedingly weak, and interpretation of the resident status, which serves as the base of living in Japan, is left to the wide discretion of the government. No action is taken about the issue of foreigners who have lost their resident status once and are left in inhumane conditions, while the acceptance of foreigners is speeding up. There is no doubt that this is an issue that is exceedingly big, from the perspective of human rights for foreigners.

The technical intern system is planned to be reviewed in three years. We must see how this new system will be managed, and it will become important to raise our voices.

Foreign Workers a Challenge to Japanese Society and the Catholic Church

Ando Isamu, SJ, Jesuit Social Center staff, Migrants’ Desk
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 205 / February 15th, 2019

Late last November, when the National Assembly of Catholic Justice and Peace was held for 2 days in Nagoya city, a total 16 break-out sessions were held. Staff of the Jesuit Social Center’s Migrants’ Desk also participated, and facilitated Break-out Session 1, “Migrants and Japanese Society and the Catholic Church.”

The central aim of this break-out session was to deepen interest in “immigrants,” and to search together for actions that we can take together. For this we first turned our ears to the personal experiences of several immigrants, then engaged in discussion. Partly due to budgetary constraints, we elected to produce some videos that focused on the challenging realities faced by immigrants with whom we have been working.

A surprisingly large number of people participated in Break-out Session 1, and nearly 60 people engaged in earnest discussion from 10AM to 4PM.

In the morning we showed two short videos made by Migrants’ Desk staff and Sister Le Thi Lang of Kawaguchi Church, Saitama prefecture, then divided the 60 participants into 5 groups for discussion. These videos introduced themes that confront immigrants: The first focused on the situation of medical care for people who fall ill within the immigration detention center; The second dealt with cases of unjust job terminations against non-Japanese laborers. Both depicted the factual, suffering experiences of immigrants.

In the afternoon we welcomed as session leader Dr. Yamamura Junpei, who serves patients at the Minatomachi Clinic in Yokohama city. Dr. Yamamura showed a self-produced video as he explained the medical problems and labor situation of foreigners who come to Japan under the Technical Intern visa program. After this, we divided into the same groups as the morning for a time of sharing. The afternoon ended with a presentation from each of the groups.

Seminar Participants’ Reactions and Thoughts
Amid strict time constraints, the participants appeared to engage in earnest discussion. Many of the participants already had contact with migrants, and I had the impression that the discussion was rich in content. They viewed with a critical eye the behavior of Japanese society and the Catholic Church toward immigrants, and some complained that the church offered no cooperation toward immigrants at the parish level. Many acknowledged that language barriers obstruct mutual understanding, and expressed the feeling that there are “walls” even within the church. Rather than adopt a welcoming stance toward migrants, society views and treats migrants as a cheap labor force.

As people who belong to the church, what actions can we take? This was an important topic of this seminar. Despite the limited time, a variety of hints and concrete ideas were voiced. For example, there is a need for fellowship in daily life, so we might welcome them into our homes, or develop relations of trust so they can confide about their problems. Since we don’t know each other, we could provide places for conversation——not difficult discussions, but start with day-to-day topics. We could invite them to participate in church councils and committees. With the aim to eliminate the language “wall,” we might hold Japanese language classes. We could begin with a listening stance, to hear the stories of their experience. It is also important to go out to meet them where they live and work.

To borrow an expression from Pope Francis, we must make effort to replace the “walls” within the church with “bridges.” The church community should strive to be a welcoming, attractive place for them. We may have different languages and cultural upbringings, but we are all equally human beings, often sharing the same faith. Technical trainees and others in Japan for work, who visit to our churches, are young people who came to Japan to help their families. They come to Japan with dreams for the future. This is an important challenge for the church in Japan.

Plans for “Migrant Antenna” and“Seminar House”
Now, 3 months from the Seminar, I am filled with curiosity about what participants might be doing in their parishes and places of life. I expect many are continuing the work that they were already doing. Here at the Migrants’ Desk we are trying to make use of what we learned from everyone.

At the level of Japan’s national legislature, for the first time, there has been active discussion about welcoming greater numbers of foreign technical trainees and simple laborers. I feel this has awakened the average citizen to the new situation.

The Migrants’ Desk has created the “Migrant Antenna,” where we use an e-mail communication system to gather information mostly within Japan and share this with individuals and organizations who are interested in these issues. We do this because we feel there is a need for more “horizontal connections.”

At the same time, in collaboration with other organizations, we are considering the possibility of establishing a “Seminar House” that would serve migrants. We hope to establish “Seminar House” in the Kanto area and are now working to connect with supporters and volunteers, and establish a fund for the running costs of maintenance and operations.


Cardinal Tagle: Editorial on Global Compact for Migration

Extract from the  Zenit that published on December 12th, 2018.

More than anything at this point in our common history, we need a perspective that provides a global vision and a united and compassionate response to the challenges of our time.’

United Nations member states adopted the Global Compact for Migration at a summit in Marrakesh on December 10, 2018. More than 160 nations signed up to the first ever international pact to promote “safe, orderly and regular” migration.

Caritas Internationalis commended those governments who signed up to the pact. It emphasized that all migrants need access to social services o they can live in dignity, independently of their legal status.

In an editorial first published in America Magazine, Caritas president, Cardinal Luis Tagle, heralds the Global Compact on Migration as “a sign of cooperation and unity that will offer far-reaching hope for our common future”. Read the full editorial below and find out more about our Share the Journey campaign with refugees and migrants.

Cardinal Tagle’s Editorial

News reports point to a world that is fracturing due to fear, prejudice, and hate. We seem to forget the Golden Rule that is at the root of many of our religions and cultures: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

When we see refugees fleeing wars or migrants arriving in our countries looking for a better life, a raw human instinct pushes us to close our doors in their faces, to close our eyes and close our hearts.

But if we look away or give in to fear and hate, we lose our perspective and the core of what it is to be human. More than anything at this point in our common history, we need a perspective that provides a global vision and a united and compassionate response to the challenges of our time.

On 10 and 11 December, governments from around the world are expected to discuss and adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, under the auspices of the United Nations. The compact is important because it is the first global framework that provides orientation to states on how to govern migration and how to respond to migrants.

The global compact on migration shows the desire of governments to work together on one of the most urgent issues of our time. The compact will help governments fine-tune migration policy together with other stakeholders, such as civil society organizations and the private sector, to benefit sending and receiving countries.

Although not legally binding, it offers a 360-degree orientation for governments, addressing issues such as the drivers of migration, climate change and the integration of migrants. Adherence to the compact is beneficial for migrants, as it gives visibility to a phenomenon that is often dealt with only as an emergency. It is beneficial for countries as it helps them develop a long-term vision and a united response to a challenge that needs a global response.

To the governments who have withdrawn support from the compact on migration, I appeal that they reconsider their decision. In an interconnected world, global issues such as climate change, poverty and the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities call on us to work together. They will not go away if we ignore them or put up walls. When governments look beyond their immediate needs and electoral demands, they begin to protect and promote the common good, which is at the heart of any flourishing society.

Our world has been marked and shaped by migration from the earliest times in history, and it will not suddenly stop or disappear now. It requires deep thought, planning, and cooperation for the long-term benefits of migration to emerge. But if the right policies are in place, many migrants bring a much-needed boost to the workforce or key skills both for countries of origin (for example, through remittances and diaspora groups who invest in them) and countries of destination.

Contemporary migrants often take the same journeys of uncertainty and hope that our own grandparents took so our parents and our generation could have a better life. A collective amnesia makes us forget where our own families originally came from or how we ended up living where we are now. Can any of us really say we are natives of the country we live in? My own maternal grandfather was a child migrant from China who was sent to the Philippines by his impoverished mother.

The Golden Rule is a powerful reminder to look beyond ourselves and see that our lives, our countries, and our histories are deeply intertwined. Organizing at a global level is difficult and takes courage. Now is a good time to act together. Our faith teaches us that no person or country is exempt from the collective responsibility to care for our common world and its people. If we do not act now, then when?

I hope the words of Pope Francis will echo through the corridors of governments when deciding on this vital Global Compact: “Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.”

The adoption and implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration will be an important step for governments to fight the rising tide of stigma around migration and to ensure that human dignity and rights are upheld. In a world struggling to embrace its globalized identity, the global compact will be a sign of cooperation and unity that will offer far-reaching hope for our common future.

Japan will overhaul Immigration Bureau to create agency for expected surge of blue-collar workers under new status

Extract from the Japan Times that published on August 28th, 2018. Written by Sakura Murakami (Staff Writer)

The Justice Ministry will upgrade its Immigration Bureau to an agency from April to deal with an anticipated influx of foreign workers, Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa said at a news conference in Tokyo on Tuesday.

With the government seeking to accept more foreign workers from April and introducing a new status of residence amid a serious labor crunch across industries, the Justice Ministry will be conducting “a fundamental revision of the Immigration Bureau” and is currently finalizing the establishment of a new agency that will oversee immigration, Kamikawa said.

When asked about how the overhaul may affect the ministry’s budgetary request for the next fiscal year, Kamikawa refrained from commenting on specifics, merely stating that “the funding needed to set up the agency will be requested as necessary.”

Media has reported that the upgrade of the bureau will see an increase of over 500 ministry staff and immigration officers, with the latter expected to help the country boost checks for inbound tourists ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Reports have also said that the ministry will be requesting about ¥3 billion within their fiscal 2019 budget for outlays related to the overhaul.

An official at the Justice Ministry did not comment on the reported figures.

The upgrade of the Immigration Bureau comes as Japan, facing a declining population and shrinking workforce, plans to open the door to blue-collar laborers from abroad, in addition to the currently accepted highly skilled foreigners, by introducing a new resident status.

The new system will allow foreign nationals who are proficient speakers of Japanese to work in agriculture, construction, hospitality, nursing and shipbuilding, and may be expanded to other sectors.

The government has so far confirmed that foreign workers will not be able to bring family members under the new residency status, and that their stay will be limited to five years.

According to figures provided by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the number of registered foreign workers in the nation hit a record high of 1.28 million in October 2017 — a twofold increase from the 486,398 foreign nationals seen in 2008.

On the other hand, the number of people in Japan aged between 15 to 64 who are capable of working decreased from 86.99 million in 1997 to 76.65 million in 2016, according to data submitted to the Council of Economic Fiscal Policy in February.

Is Japan a land of contradictions or opportunities for immigration?

Extract from the Japan Times that published on July 17th, 2018. Written by Yumiko Murakami – July 17th, 2018

It is often said Japan is a land of contradictions, a society where the reality on the ground is substantially different from the facade presented to the outside world. Perhaps one of the most telling situations of such discrepancies is immigration.

According to the official statement of the Japanese government, there is no such a thing as immigration in this country. General perception is that migrant workers are only needed if they have high level professional skills or unique technical expertise.

What about the cashier with an exotic name tag on his uniform at your regular convenience store? And your grandmother’s favorite caregiver at her nursing home who speaks fluent Japanese, albeit with a slight accent? Most of these foreigner workers who are an undeniable part of Japan’s labor supply today are categorized as students or trainees. They are not work visa holders and, therefore, not counted as such in the government statistics.

The most recent data shows the Japanese economy employs 1.27 million foreigners, almost doubling since 2012. Given that only 2.5 million Japanese have joined the labor force over the last five years, it means one out of every four new workers during this period has been a foreign-born. Most of them come from neighboring Asian countries and work under the restrictive conditions required for technical trainees or students. These foreign workers have become a critical element of the lifeline of the Japanese economy, even though many of them are not officially recognized as full-fledged workers by the government.

The latest OECD report on immigration shows that temporary labor migration to OECD countries accounted for around 4.2 million workers in 2016, 11 percent more than 2015. Excluding Germany and France, whose temporary migration inflow was mostly intra-EU/EFTA posted workers, Japan was the fourth-largest host country to receive temporary labor migrants, after Poland, the United States and Australia. It is a noteworthy trend for a country that has yet to fully embrace the notion of immigration.

One could argue that there is no country other than Japan in the world today that has all the right conditions to welcome economic migrants. With the rapidly shrinking working-age population due to the declining demography, the unemployment rate is at a minimal 2.2 percent in Japan. Women who used to be under-represented in the job market now have achieved a higher labor market participation rate compared to the average OECD countries, thanks to supportive measurements taken by the government and the business sector.

Automation and robotics have been at the forefront of companies’ business strategies, but technology replaces mostly routine tasks and many low-skilled jobs are actually not suited for automation. Despite all the efforts to address the labor shortage crisis, companies are still in dire need of workers, particularly in labor-intensive sectors such as construction, agriculture, retail and nursing care. Unlike many European countries where unemployment is persistently high, temporary labor migrants pose no direct threat to native Japanese workers. On the contrary, foreign workers may be the only solution left for the Japanese economy to get back on the growth path.

Last month, the Cabinet approved a new economic policy package that includes the establishment of a new resident status for foreign workers in certain designated industries. The government hopes that this policy will bring an additional half a million foreign workers by 2025 to the business segments severely hampered by the aging demography. It is substantial progress on the part of policy makers to legitimize unskilled foreign labor in the Japanese job market. While discussing the new work visa scheme, politicians have categorically denied the possibility of these foreign workers turning into long-term migrants. “They are invited to work on a temporary basis in Japan to alleviate the pressure arising from acute labor shortages,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insisted in a Diet session.

Now that Japan is ready to officially recognize the need for foreign labor, perhaps Japanese lawmakers should be reminded that these foreign workers are economic migrants and not people in need of protection. For Japan to continue to recruit workers from countries such as China, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines, the Japanese proposition needs to be more competitive and attractive relative to opportunities available for workers in their home job markets and overseas.

Moreover, the aging population is quickly catching up in a few other countries in Asia, including South Korea, China and Thailand. These countries will be soon competing against Japan for the same young workers to compensate for their graying labor force. In fact, South Korea has already implemented comprehensive immigration policy packages to entice temporary labor migrants, some of whom may stay up to almost 10 years or find pathways to permanent residency.

Although temporary migration is not — initially at least, and for many programs — a stepping-stone to long-term residence, it is often closely tied to permanent migration. A sizable share of temporary migrants in OECD countries change status and stay on as long-term residents. Access to permanent residence is an important aspect of immigration policies that most international workers find attractive. It can also benefit employers by enabling them to retain trained workers. Another area of focus is language training. Migrants receiving high-quality training in local languages have proven themselves more productive in their jobs and they have more smoothly assimilated in host communities.

Japan is not the only country reviewing its immigration policies. In fact, there is an ongoing process of development and renewal of migration strategies in most countries, often accompanied by administrative shifts. They are sometimes responses to particular conditions, like new migration streams, recognition that past courses of action need to be reassessed or changes of government.

Japan could certainly benefit from best-practice sharing with other countries that have a wealth of experience with the challenges and opportunities of international migration. The good news for a novice host country like Japan is the mid- and long-term impact of immigration on labor market and broader economy has been generally positive in most OECD countries. Instead of being a land of contradictions, Japan should present itself as a land of opportunities for foreign workers.

Yumiko Murakami is head of the OECD Tokyo Centre, where she engages in policy discussions between the OECD and governments, businesses and academia in Japan and Asia, covering a wide range of economic policy issues.

Sharing the Experiences of Migrant Workers in Asian Countries

Ando Isamu SJ, Jesuit Social Center staff
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 201 / June 30th, 2018

A group of Jesuit delegates from 9 countries and regions of East Asia gathered in Manila from April 17 to 21, 2018, to review and prepare programs with migrant workers in East Asia. We belong to a Jesuit network organized in this region as a result of the decision taken in 2010 by the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific to select migration as a common priority for social action. The network started in June 2014, but some of our local institutions have been active for many years already in our own countries.

Communication and governance structures have been established during these few years, thanks to annual meetings and the adoption of Skype, Google Drive, and group mail. In spite of the fact that most of us are small and very limited in resources, the shared concern for migrant workers has become the center of fruitful collaboration. For the last 3 years, the network has organized common research on issues of left-behind children of migrants, resettlement, and brokerage, which have been issued as booklets in English.

In our last annual meeting, besides the normal updates from each member institution of the network, we had productive input from the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (created January 1, 2017), the Leadership Training Ateneo program to empower Filipinos in the diaspora, and even a session to face stress.

The aim of the migration network is to promote and defend the human rights of vulnerable migrant workers, to confront the structural causes of migration and displacement, and to raise social awareness in order to promote social change.

But, besides awareness programs in collaboration with other organizations and social groups, advocacy planning is increasingly unavoidable in order to attempt better protection for migrants both in sending and receiving countries. A characteristic in East Asia is the fact that we are in a crisscross region sending out migrants as well as receiving them.

Marawi: Witnessing the enforced displacement of a whole Muslim community
In May 2017, heavy fighting erupted in Marawi, a large Muslim city in Mindanao. The siege continued even after the fighting ceased in October last year. Many people were killed during the 5-month fighting. Buildings, including a central Mosque and the Catholic Cathedral, were destroyed. Thousands of citizens became displaced from their homes and left without taking any belongings.

Our program included visits to displaced Muslim camps around the region. Half a year had passed since the military siege ended but military controls were spread all over. Martial law was imposed there.

We all received strict “Marawi Visit Guidelines.” Permission was given only to those on an official visit of participants riding with an assigned leader and in an assigned vehicle, without any permit to transfer vehicles. The route was strictly fixed, and gadgets like mobile phones, cameras, and tablets were greatly restricted. Religious and cultural sensitivities were to be followed in meeting with people.

We stayed for more than an hour in one camp made of tents for more than 900 people. All were Muslims and received us very warmly. They had lost everything. There was nothing in their tents, no food, not even water. The children were playing around with some volunteers.

Their leaders invited us to a free space where the people gather for meetings and prayers and little by little over 150 persons came to greet us and talk about their present situation. Listening to them, I spontaneously thought about the big earthquake in the Tohoku area and the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown. So I mentioned that also in Japan people suffer forced displacement. “You are not the only ones,” I mentioned. Building up solidarity with other people seemed to give them some encouragement.

In fact, their situation seemed to be beyond hope.

Signs of Living Solidarity

We learned that many partners from the public and private sectors have responded very generously to assist all displaced Muslim communities. They provide needed food and clothing and land for establishing tent camps. I was especially moved by the initiatives of Cagayan de Oro Xavier University coordinating material assistance on its own campus in order to distribute these to displaced Muslims. The University’s Department of Agriculture of the University, through Searsolin, promotes gardening around the camps to produce vegetables needed for the people there. They help them to do the gardening themselves and provide the seeds. They also send groups of young volunteers.

Xavier University is also the project manager to build 60 houses of 24 square meters in the Angat Buhay Resettlement Village for displaced Muslim families. While we were there, we visited the first one, which had just been built. When this bulletin reaches our readers, 60 families will be able to occupy them. The motto of Jesuit Xavier University is “We are not just building houses, we are building community.”

With new rules, Japan looks to wipe out abuse in trainee system — but critics say more must be done

Quotation from article of  The Japan Times News  that published on November 1st, 2017. (

Japan is ramping up efforts to lure foreign vocational trainees after tougher new laws went into effect Wednesday to eliminate abuse by employers amid criticism that some have misused the program as a way to obtain cheap labor.

A Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry official overseeing the program said Wednesday that the revised regulations are aimed at stamping out and preventing violations of trainees’ human rights by Japanese employers and overseas intermediary bodies.

 A number of such violations emerged under the earlier system.

With the new law, enacted last year to improve supervision of companies employing foreign nations under the Technical Intern Training Program, Japanese employers are obliged to secure accreditation for their training programs.

The government also created a watchdog for the program — the Organization for Technical Intern Training (OTIT) — to more effectively screen whether companies are complying with the new rules and not exploiting trainees.

“We have also introduced penal regulations to reduce human rights violations,” the ministry official said. “The trainees are no different from Japanese laborers and employers should take responsibility for their workers’ conditions.”

The official added: “They come to acquire skills they can use in their home countries but they should be treated equally in working conditions, including equal pay.”

Under the new law, employers found to have violated the trainees’ rights could face up to 10 years in prison or ¥3 million for physical abuse. Other crimes, such as denying compensation claims or confiscating passports, violate the Labor Standards Law and are also subject to punishment.

OTIT chief Yoshio Suzuki said in an official statement that “there were some people who do not understand the principles of this program and abuse it as a means of obtaining cheap labor to cover domestic manpower constraints.”

Employers that do not violate the new laws will be allowed to increase their trainee numbers and extend the training with an additional two-year program.

Until now, foreign trainees could undertake training during the first year of their stay and perform their duties only for another two years.

The labor ministry says that 228,589 foreign vocational trainees were working in Japan as of the end of last year.

But despite the changes, some lawyers and workers’ rights groups are calling for more radical reforms to prevent continued abuse.

“We believe this revision will not address underlying issues (resulting from flaws) in this system,” said Shoichi Ibusuki, a lawyer and a representative of Lawyers Network for Foreign Workers who has expertise in human rights issues. Ibusuki’s group comprises about 140 lawyers who have and continue to represent foreign migrant workers nationwide.

The network said that despite the recent changes, the system fails to clarify whether trainees are eligible for a fair compensation level as of the first year of their stay — in which they are supposed to acquire skills but in reality perform actual jobs.

“Most of the trainees are eligible for minimum wage payment. … But there are many who aren’t even paid that much,” said Nobuya Takai of the lawyers’ network.

Takai said that in 2016, 5,672 employers were inspected — of which 4,004 were proven to have violated the rights of foreign workers, including having them deported.

Takai said that harsh conditions have pushed many trainees to suicide, death from overwork or prompted other health-related issues.

Some escape abuse only to find themselves facing visa-violation penalties, he added.

To tackle this problem, the labor ministry said it had granted go-between status for 292 organizations in Japan to better manage the employer-employee relationship.

Japan will now accept trainees dispatched only by certified bodies in the candidates’ countries and has clarified conditions, including fees imposed on candidates, the labor ministry official said.

The trainees can choose from 137 jobs in 77 categories such as construction work, agriculture, food processing and machinery work, the labor ministry official said.

Japan has also added nursing care to the program.

But Tatsuya Hirai, of a network supporting foreign workers coming to Japan to perform nursing care under an economic partnership agreement, said the new plan should provide language training for candidates.

Under the EPA framework, which targets qualified nurses from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, candidates must have acquired a certain skill level in the Japanese language, while such requirements are not specified in the revamped program.

Under the new system, trainees will also have access to consultation services in languages such as English, Thai, Tagalog or Indonesian.

But Toshihiko Sakae, part of a nationwide collective of small and medium-size enterprises that assists foreign trainees, told a Monday symposium on vocational trainees that even greater support is needed for workers in more remote areas.

He explained that most foreign workers are dispatched to rural areas with limited access to the internet, and that in many cases, employers confiscate workers’ documents, preventing them from seeking help for fear of retribution.

“The law has just taken effect and we will need more time to see if the changes are working,” the labor ministry official said, adding that the government is considering implementing other forms of support for trainees as well as other ways to further improve the system.

Churches in Vietnam, Japan to jointly care for migrants

Quotation from article of, Ho Chi Minh City that published on October 4th, 2017. (

Some 200,000 Vietnamese migratn workers live in Japan and many of them suffer economic exploitation

Bishop Joseph Do Manh Hung and Father Joseph Dao Nguyen Vu talk with Catholic foreigners at an international gathering on Jan. 15 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. (Photo courtesy of Vinh Than)

Church officials from Vietnam and Japan are working to collaborate on how to best provide pastoral care and social benefits to the increasing number of migrant workers and diaspora in both countries.

Jesuit Father Joseph Dao Nguyen Vu, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People in Vietnam, said  Catholic churches have agreed to establish a joint working group to include representatives from both countries, including priests and Religious.

Father Vu said the working group will offer professional advice and pastoral programs to Vietnamese workers in Japan and alternatively to Japanese in Vietnam.

Father Vu accompanied Bishop Joseph Do Manh Hung, head of the commission, during an official visit to meet with officials from the Catholic Commission of Japan for Migrants, Refugees and People on the Move on Sept. 23-28.

The priest said both sides are now preparing to set up two pastoral centers for Vietnamese migrant workers in two ecclesiastical provinces of Tokyo and Osaka.

Father Vu said some 200,000 Vietnamese migrant workers live in Japan and many of them suffer economic exploitation, oppression and abuse.

To deal with the needs and difficulties of faith life among Vietnamese migrants is a big challenge, said Father Vu who is the vicar for Pastoral Care of Foreigners in Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese.

Father Vu said despite a lack of personnel, the church in Japan tries to offer Vietnamese migrants faith education, pastoral work and legal advice. The church in Japan also helps Vietnamese migrants integrate into local communities, and tries to protect them from exploitation.

There are 450,000 Catholics in Japan out of a total population of 120 million. They are served by 1,800 priests, among them 519 foreign priests.

During the visit, Bishop Hung asked the Japanese church to continue their generous support to enable Vietnamese communities to grow in faith and social capabilities.

The prelate said the commission plans to establish an office in Japan where local priests, Religious, social workers, legal advisers can be present officially to help Vietnamese workers.

“When they need advice and directions, this is one trusted address for them,” said Bishop Hung.

“We also need professional and financial support to build an office in Vietnam where we can help those who will be going to Japan to have proper training and to be better prepared,” he said. “At the same time, we need someone from Japan to help us to train our staff in this field,” he said.

Bishop Hung said there are some 100,000 Japanese migrants working in Vietnam. Since last Easter, about 50 Japanese Catholics attended Mass once a month at the Pastoral Center in Ho Chi Minh City.

As part of earlier cooperation between both sides, Father Vu said Vietnam’s Catholic Church has sent 170 religious and 41 priests to study and work in Japan in recent years to support the local church there.


Planning for the Future of Jesuit Migration Works

Benny Hari Juliawan SJ, Coordinator of JCAP Migration Network
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 195 / June 15th, 2017

The word “discernment” has become all the rage within Jesuit circles following the 36th General Congregation. Fr General Arturo Sosa has even appointed a special counsellor to oversee the process of discernment and apostolic planning in the Society. So it was fitting that the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific’s (JCAP) migration network examined the journey so far and charted a new course at its fourth annual meeting held in Tokyo from March 23 to 26. A new plan for the future was called for.

Top of the agenda was to plan for the next five years, after first taking stock of the lights and shadows of the past three years. It was an unusually cold spring, but the 14 participants from eight institutions of migration warmed the Jesuit Social Centre with their energy and discussion. They were joined by three scholastics and a young intern at the Tokyo Migrants Desk.

Highlights and Lessons to Learn
The network had started in 2014 as five individual institutions in five different countries sharing little more than a Jesuit identity. Hence the first step was to forge closer collaboration by establishing communication and governance structures. The members learned quickly to use modern technologies such as Skype, Google Drive and group mails. Regular Skype conferences were held over the years and annual meetings became a given. Along the way two more institutions joined.

A key concern that remains is the fact that the member institutions are generally small with very limited capacity and resources. Not much has actually changed in terms of the commitments by the Society, especially with regard to manpower. Yiutsari in South Korea, however, is an exception. Recently it moved to a new two-storey facility in Gimpo, which was built following the decision of the province to focus on this work. A new Jesuit community has also been established nearby to accompany this mission.

Despite their differences, their shared concern for migrant workers became the centre piece of the collaboration. Accompaniment and direct service provision formed the core of their responses to the needs of migrant workers both in sending and receiving countries. They recognised the need to build capacity to do research, and so organised collaborative projects around the issues of left-behind children of migrants, resettlement and brokerage. These research projects, apart from teaching a new skill, have cultivated new enthusiasm in the member institutions and helped them reach out to scholars and policy makers in their countries.

In its four years of existence, the network has also tried to promote the concern for migrants beyond the social apostolate circle. One strategy that has been quite successful is by publishing stories in the JCAP monthly newsletter. Thanks to these articles, many people, including non-Jesuits, came to know the work of the Society with migrant workers. In addition, the scholastics and brothers circles meeting in 2016 took up the concern for migrants as the theme of their gathering in Seoul. The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities has also promised to pay more attention on the phenomenon of migration.

The Next Five Years
For the next few years, the network will focus on two areas: expansion and advocacy.

The network needs to collaborate with other migration-focussed institutions and networks in the region, several of which have already asked to connect with it. Bishops conferences and church migration institutions are particularly relevant. In countries like Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore where the Jesuits do not have migrant centres, the Bishops conferences and other religious congregations are at the forefront of the promotion of migrant rights and the fight against human trafficking.

A closer collaboration with Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is also long overdue. Fr Bambang Sipayung SJ, JRS regional director for Asia Pacific, is keen to make JRS available to promote the same concern for migrants, which falls under the “de facto refugee” mandate as stipulated by the social teachings of the Church. The term refers to victims of armed conflicts, natural disasters and failed economic policies who are not normally classified as refugees by the International Convention.

In this regard, JCAP can perhaps look somewhere else for inspiration. The Jesuit Network for Migrants in Latin America and the Caribbean (RJM-LAC) is an umbrella group of around 83 institutions across the region. It started in 2002 as a loose collection of several institutions and after various iterations morphed into RJM-LAC in 2011. It brings together JRS, social centres, parishes, Jesuit universities and schools from 18 countries. Their main focus is to work with migrants and refugees who are mostly on their way to North America from various parts of Central and South America. This collaboration acknowledges the reality of mixed migration flows where a rigid distinction between various categories of migrants does not always help.

In terms of programme, special attention also needs to be given to advocacy. It is obvious that migrant workers are perceived as disposable labour, only hired when needed with little regard for their rights and dignity and the Tokyo Olympics 2020 is a case in point. The Japanese government has relaxed the laws to allow more foreign construction workers to come, but it seems unprepared or unwilling to deal with the social consequences. This is in addition to the scheme for internship (Gino-Jisshu) that has been criticised by rights groups as akin to slavery.

Turning to Southeast Asia, the introduction of ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 does not even bother to pretend to acknowledge the millions of migrant workers in the domestic, plantation and construction sectors. Member states have been unable to agree on an instrument of protection for migrant workers and their families despite repeated calls from many corners following an ASEAN declaration in 2007. The regional group has instead produce regulations about the so-called white collar professionals in eight sectors. The network is a good place to start campaigning for the rights of migrants across the region, promoting their dignity instead of focusing only on their economic value.

On the other hand, the UN sponsored Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that was launched in 2015 offers a platform to advocate for policy changes. As a multilateral initiative, it provides an internationally recognisable language to dialogue with governments. Many of the 17 goals listed in the initiative are relevant for migrant workers and other vulnerable migrants as they guarantee the right to social protection including basic services irrespective of country of origin or immigration status. Amidst the obsession with economic growth, civil society groups including the JCAP migration network should emphasise people-centred development, not just economic development.

This plan will need a serious commitment by the Jesuits in Asia Pacific. JCAP has been generous in providing the resources for the network’s foundation, but there is much to do to realise this plan and more resources will be needed. The annual meeting in Tokyo, for example, would not have been possible without the support of the Japan Jesuit Province. Such generosity is not uncommon in the Society and will be even more appreciated when the task at hand now is greater.

The meeting in Tokyo ended with a symposium to launch the first ever joint publication by the network. The book Left Behind Children and the Idea of the Family is the result of research conducted in five different countries on the fate of children of migrant workers.

It was then followed by a discussion on the challenges of doing this ministry in Asia Pacific. The main challenge is really how to respond to a phenomenon that cuts across national boundaries while much of our work is local or at best national in character. Building a network is a strategy to overcome this limitation, but it will still need improved capacity and deeper commitments. The discernment and planning in Tokyo has surely helped show a new direction for the next few years.

JCAP migrants’ network SYMPOSIUM, on “The realities of migration in East Asia”.

A team of 14 delegates of a private network of 7 East Asian countries will gather in Tokyo and hold a SYMPOSIUM, on “the realities of migration in East Asia”.

Date:   March 26, 2017 (Sunday), from 3:00-5:00PM
Place:  Kibe Hall 4th Floor (St. Ignatius Church by Yotsuya Station)
Room number 404
Participation is free. All are welcome!


とき: 2017年3月26日 (日) 午後3:00~5:00
場所: 岐部ホール (イグナチオ教会構内)404号室

AIA Applies for NPO Status

Excerpt from SJ Province of Japan NEWS  (January, 2017)
written by Fr. M. Kayaba, S.J.
aia-npo-statusVolunteers and children in front of the AIA house.
Far left: Mr Nakamura, Principal

All the required paperwork presented by the Adachi International Academy (AIA) for recognition as an NPO (Non-Profit Organization) was formally accepted on 5 January. The documentation has been uploaded onto the homepage of the Tokyo Metro- politan Government for public perusal. A number of inquiries by the metro- politan government are now being made and, hopefully, the Governor’s approval will be obtained by the end of March.

AIA was inaugurated as an optional volunteer group on 1 June 2008, by the Japan Province of the Society, the Nicolas Barré Sisters of the Infant Jesus, the Religious of the Sacred Heart, and the Berriz Mercederians. Fr Kogure, then a scholastic in regency, worked hard to bring the project together. Centered in Adachi Ward, it provides opportunities for foreign residents and immigrants to learn Japanese and offers supplementary educational support for children. Fr Andō has served as Representative and Mr Nakamura Tomotarō (retired Sophia professor) as Principal. The successive Frs Socius of the province (Frs Kajiyama, Tsukurimichi, and Yamaoka) have been on the steering committee. Jesuit scholastics and language students have helped with the teaching of children.

In order to clarify AIA’s social responsibility and to make its activities ever more effective, a “committee to prepare for NPO status” was launched on 16 May 2016, necessary documents such as “Reasons for Establishment” and “Articles of Incorporation” were prepared, and now the official process for recognition is underway.

Japan launches entity to oversee foreign trainee working conditions

Excerpt from JAPAN TIMES January 26th, 2017

The government launched an entity Wednesday to enhance the supervision of companies and organizations that accept foreigners working under a government trainee program in Japan in an effort to prevent human rights abuses in the workplace.

The body, set up in line with a law enacted to that end in November, is authorized to conduct on-site inspections of companies and organizations suspected of making trainees work for low pay or long hours.

It will also introduce other companies or organizations to trainees working under bad conditions.

The body has a head office in Tokyo and plans to set up offices in 13 locations throughout Japan.

Japan introduced the training program for foreigners in 1993 with the aim of transferring skills to developing countries. It currently covers dozens of job categories chiefly in the construction, manufacturing, agriculture and fishery industries.

But the scheme has faced criticism both within and outside Japan as a cover for importing cheap labor. There have been reports of harsh working conditions, including illegally long work hours and nonpayment of wages.

Migrants and Refugees Vatican Event – (January 12th to15th, 2017)

The Migration and Refugee Section of the new Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development has announced it is launching its first media campaign, reported Vatican Radio.

It is being launched to coincide with the 103rd World Day for Migrants and Refugees, which is observed this Sunday, January 15th.

While Cardinal Peter Turkson, who had been serving as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, is leading the new dicastery, Pope Francis for the time being is leading its migration and refugee section. The Pontiff wished to hold this responsibility to show his particular concern during the ongoing refugee crisis.

From January 12th to 15th 2017, the Pope’s tweets will focus on migrants and refugees, and link directly to the section’s Facebook page, which will present a brief story and reflection relevant to each day’s topic.

On the NET:
The new migration and refugee section’s media accounts:

Twitter Accounts:
English –
Italian –
Spanish –
French –

Jesuits in Korea and Japan confront ethnic reconciliation

Ando Isamu, SJ (Jesuit Social Center staff, Tokyo)


August is a symbolic month dedicated to peace movements in Japan. Seventy-one years have passed since the defeat of Japan in the Second World War, but the dropping of the first two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9, 1945) are still vividly remembered.

A group of 34 Jesuits, half of them from Korea and the rest from Japan gathered in Shimonoseki, in the west of Japan from August 23 to 26 to heal wounds occasioned by the worst historical relationship between both countries and to search for closer cooperation.

The four-day workshop was intense with inputs on the historical realities of Koreans in Shimonoseki, the much-protested new Henoko American military base in Okinawa, and pastoral care of migrant workers on Kyushu Island.


A full day was dedicated to fieldwork in Shimonoseki, the gate port of Japan after it annexed Korea in 1910. The participants visited various sites that commemorate the landing of forced Korean workers into Japan before and during World War II and heard about the life of one such worker.

They met a man Fr Ando Isamu SJ, a staff member of the Jesuit Social Centre in Tokyo, Japan, calls “a living historical symbol of former Korean workers”. To maintain his privacy, we call him Mr Kim.

The group met Mr Kim at a school for Korean students. He is 95 years old but spoke with clarity about his life experiences in Japan. “I was young and spoke a little Japanese. I was attracted to leave my village to find a job in Japan,” he told them smilingly in both Japanese and Hangul. In 1942, at the age of 22, he boarded a Japanese ship that transported thousands of Korean workers from Pusan to Shimonoseki, a mere five-hour journey.

“We were over 300 workers, packed in the bottom of the ship. They gave us the same shirts with a different number on the back and from that time, they only called us by that number.


“As soon as we arrived at the piers of Shimonoseki, they put us in crowded warehouses where we waited for the trains to come. Inside the freight train we were blindfolded; we did not know where we were headed. I arrived at Tochigi Prefecture without knowing the place and job I was supposed to do. All I had was a ‘furoshiki’ with my belongings. Together with my companions I was assigned to work in a dam to dig a hole for water pipes. They placed us in a packed bunkhouse. The work was very hard from early morning ‘till late evening. We were only given a rice ball at night. The sanitary conditions were very bad and although there was a river nearby, the water was frozen so we couldn’t bathe.

“Every day we were indoctrinated to work for ‘the country’. So I did it and was considered a model worker. One morning, while leaving for work, we saw a fellow countryman who had tried to escape hung upside down and whipped in front of our eyes. One Sunday, I got permission to go out with another worker of good standing. Together, we went to a hot spring and made our escape from there. I ended up in Kobe. My knowledge of the Japanese language offered me opportunities to work as a teacher and remain unknown in Japanese towns.”

Although he looked tired, Mr Kim’s smiling face did not show any hate for his Japanese oppressors. He is one of more than 600,000 Koreans living in Japan, many of whom were workers brought forcefully to Japan, or like Mr Kim came looking for a job and had to remain in the country.

Hearing these realities first hand has inspired the Jesuits from Korea and Japan to work closely within the framework of the migrants’ network of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific.

Main photo: A monument remembering Korean workers brought to Shimonoseki who died during World War II

Jesuit Network for Migrant Workers in East Asia

Ando Isamu, SJ(Jesuit Social Center staff, Tokyo)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 189 / June 15th, 2016

   A few days after the closing ceremony of the G7 Summit for heads of the world’s wealthiest states that took place in Ise-Shima (Japan), the mass media published a shocking report on modern-day slavery, following global findings corroborated by objective surveys conducted by the Gallup poll. Detailed data and analysis of regional and country reports can be found on the website “Global Slavery.” A shocking final result is that in this very year 2016 about 45.8 million people, mostly women and children, are victims of some form of modern slavery in 167 countries. It is estimated that the Asia-Pacific region is heavily affected. (The Japan Times, May 31, 2016, disclosed these facts under the headline “Study faults Japan for inaction on modern-day slavery.”)

   Many in Japan will be surprised to realize that Japan ranks as number 41 among the worst affected countries in the world. In one section of the Global Slavery survey, entitled “Estimated proportion of population in modern slavery by country,” people believed to be modern slaves in Japan number 290,000, or about 0.22% of the total population of 127 million.

   Our experience at this migrant desk leads us to believe that the majority of such modern slaves are foreign workers living and working in Japan. Of course, it will be an exaggeration to believe that this a general trend, but at the same time it will be naïve to take it as a minor reality or to suspect that it is mere anti-Japanese propaganda.

   The G7 heads that recently gathered here are considered to be representatives of the wealthiest and most influential countries on earth. They dealt with reconstructing the world economic system and touched on the present migrant crisis in Europe. Modern-day slavery and the critical condition of foreign migrant workers were not on their agenda.

The Jesuit Migrant Workers Network
The JCAP covers the East Asian region, where we might consider two different blocks of countries coexisting together. On the one hand, several of these countries export hundreds of thousands of workers in the hope of solving or alleviating their poverty, while other countries in the region welcome those workers in order to make themselves more affluent and developed. Using a classic international expression, we have here a clear North-South division. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong (?) are at the center of the rich northern hemisphere, where other East Asian countries go looking for job opportunities so as to escape from poverty and better their living conditions.

  Jesuits, albeit few, have usually had small institutions working with migrant workers on both sides. South Korea has just reorganized its work, building a new Yiutsari Center staffed with 3 Jesuits. Taiwan, through its Rerum Novarum Center, has an impressive record of involvement with foreign workers. The Philippines is solidly organized under UGAT and various networks with several Jesuit institutions of high learning. Indonesia is reorganizing its long involvement with migrant workers. Japan, with the Jesuit Social Center as its base, accompanies foreign workers and provides needed legal services and basic education for children and their parents. Vietnam has begun to accompany internal migrant workers and train them when they leave the countryside to work in the cities. JRS Thailand has a long tradition of caring for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from Myanmar.

Current Changes in JCAP
Very significant changes and challenges have occurred since the JCAP Major Superiors accepted and published their long-range projection on priorities (“Social Mapping Report 2009”). Migration in the East Asia Pacific region and ecology were considered main Jesuit priorities.

  From the point of view of the situation of migrant workers, those rather individual efforts that took place in the past became more coordinated into a network that has been actively working since 2011, when the first Jesuit migration workshop was held in Seoul (May 15-17, 2011). Since then, workshops have been held annually, in Manila (2012), Jakarta (2013), and Taipei (2015).

Seoul 2011

   Recently, on April 19, 2016, 13 members representing 7 countries of the East Asian Jesuit migrant network met in Vietnam under the leadership of the network coordinator, Fr. Benny Juliawan SJ, to discuss common programs and the 3-year research projects focusing on the present situation of foreign workers, the main issues concerning their repatriation or inclusion in the societies where they have been living and working, and the dark world of brokers. In fact, the first common research project will go into print in English during this month of June.

HCMC 2016

   There is, certainly, much literature related to these subjects, but the network aims to offer platforms for migrant workers aiming to find better responses to their real needs. One of the strengths of the network is to have persons really involved in the sending countries, as well as in those countries receiving foreign migrant workers. For instance, Yiutsari in Korea works with Cambodian girls sent to work in Korea. Taiwan works with Indonesian girls going to Taiwan as domestic helpers. Japan with Filipino/as, Vietnamese, or even Africans working in Japan in small factories. Jesuits try to accompany these foreign workers and coordinate activities at both ends.

   Language is a strong barrier for foreign workers coming to Japan, Taiwan, or Korea. Due to their lack of knowledge of the language of the country, most of them are blocked out from the new societies they have entered by not having supporters and true reliable information. This situation usually makes their living conditions and choice of jobs unbearable. Our pastoral activities and churches reaching out to them may offer support and friendship only in limited ways and to small minorities. The reason why countries accept them is that they need cheap young labor to improve their economies. But workers coming from Vietnam or Indonesia, or even from as far away as Nigeria, want their families to have better lives and education, free opportunities to come out of poverty. I met a Filipino worker in his fifties who was afraid of being sent back to his country because his visa had expired. He felt insecure, no longer being able to send back home 7,000 yen a week (about US$70), an amount of money considered to be a fortune for his family. But what interests Japan, Taiwan, or Korea is simply cheap young labor. Foreign workers can remain temporarily, but they will have to go back and new ones will replace them. “Give and take” is the name of the game.

   Recognition of the human dignity of migrant workers and their families and respect for their human rights are dynamic forces that strengthen our network and offer testimony to our Christian values in non-Christian environments. The field and possibilities for work are unlimited.

Pope’s Message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees (2015) Page 2 of 2

[Extraction from Zenit’s webpage:–3%5D
Vatican City, October 01, 2015 (

…………  continuation  from Page 1 of 2

Faced with these issues, how can the Church fail to be inspired by the example and words of Jesus Christ? The answer of the Gospel is mercy.

In the first place, mercy is a gift of God the Father who is revealed in the Son. God’s mercy gives rise to joyful gratitude for the hope which opens up before us in the mystery of our redemption by Christ’s blood. Mercy nourishes and strengthens solidarity towards others as a necessary response to God’s gracious love, “which has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom 5:5). Each of us is responsible for his or her neighbour: we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they live. Concern for fostering good relationships with others and the ability to overcome prejudice and fear are essential ingredients for promoting the culture of encounter, in which we are not only prepared to give, but also to receive from others. Hospitality, in fact, grows from both giving and receiving.


From this perspective, it is important to view migrants not only on the basis of their status as regular or irregular, but above all as people whose dignity is to be protected and who are capable of contributing to progress and the general welfare. This is especially the case when they responsibly assume their obligations towards those who receive them, gratefully respecting the material and spiritual heritage of the host country, obeying its laws and helping with its needs. Migrations cannot be reduced merely to their political and legislative aspects, their economic implications and the concrete coexistence of various cultures in one territory. All these complement the defence and promotion of the human person, the culture of encounter, and the unity of peoples, where the Gospel of mercy inspires and encourages ways of renewing and transforming the whole of humanity.

The Church stands at the side of all who work to defend each person’s right to live with dignity, first and foremost by exercising the right not to emigrate and to contribute to the development of one’s country of origin. This process should include, from the outset, the need to assist the countries which migrants and refugees leave. This will demonstrate that solidarity, cooperation, international interdependence and the equitable distribution of the earth’s goods are essential for more decisive efforts, especially in areas where migration movements begin, to eliminate those imbalances which lead people, individually or collectively, to abandon their own natural and cultural environment. In any case, it is necessary to avert, if possible at the earliest stages, the flight of refugees and departures as a result of poverty, violence and persecution.

Public opinion also needs to be correctly formed, not least to prevent unwarranted fears and speculations detrimental to migrants.

No one can claim to be indifferent in the face of new forms of slavery imposed by criminal organizations which buy and sell men, women and children as forced labourers in construction, agriculture, fishing or in other markets. How many minors are still forced to fight in militias as child soldiers! How many people are victims of organ trafficking, forced begging and sexual exploitation! Today’s refugees are fleeing from these aberrant crimes, and they appeal to the Church and the human community to ensure that, in the outstretched hand of those who receive them, they can see the face of the Lord, “the Father of mercies and God of all consolation” (2 Cor 1:3).

Dear brothers and sisters, migrants and refugees! At the heart of the Gospel of mercy the encounter and acceptance by others are intertwined with the encounter and acceptance of God himself. Welcoming others means welcoming God in person! Do not let yourselves be robbed of the hope and joy of life born of your experience of God’s mercy, as manifested in the people you meet on your journey! I entrust you to the Virgin Mary, Mother of migrants and refugees, and to Saint Joseph, who experienced the bitterness of emigration to Egypt. To their intercession I also commend those who invest so much energy, time and resources to the pastoral and social care of migrants. To all I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, September 12, 2015,
Memorial of the Holy Name of Mary


Pope’s Message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees (2015) Page 1 of 2

[Extraction from Zenit’s webpage:–3%5D
Vatican City, October 01, 2015 ( – Staff Reporter

“Migrants and Refugees Challenge Us. The Response of the Gospel of Mercy”

Here is a Vatican translation of the Pope’s message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the Bull of indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy I noted that “at times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives” (Misericordiae Vultus, 3). God’s love is meant to reach out to each and every person. Those who welcome the Father’s embrace, for their part, become so many other open arms and embraces, enabling every person to feel loved like a child and “at home” as part of the one human family. God’s fatherly care extends to everyone, like the care of a shepherd for his flock, but it is particularly concerned for the needs of the sheep who are wounded, weary or ill. Jesus told us that the Father stoops to help those overcome by physical or moral poverty; the more serious their condition, the more powerfully is his divine mercy revealed.

In our time, migration is growing worldwide. Refugees and people fleeing from their homes challenge individuals and communities, and their traditional ways of life; at times they upset the cultural and social horizons which they encounter. Increasingly, the victims of violence and poverty, leaving their homelands, are exploited by human traffickers during their journey towards the dream of a better future. If they survive the abuses and hardships of the journey, they then have to face latent suspicions and fear. In the end, they frequently encounter a lack of clear and practical policies regulating the acceptance of migrants and providing for short or long term programmes of integration respectful of the rights and duties of all. Today, more than in the past, the Gospel of mercy troubles our consciences, prevents us from taking the suffering of others for granted, and points out way of responding which, grounded in the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, find practical expression in works of spiritual and corporal mercy.


In the light of these facts, I have chosen as the theme of the 2016 World Day of Migrants and Refugees: Migrants and Refugees Challenge Us. The Response of the Gospel of Mercy. Migration movements are now a structural reality, and our primary issue must be to deal with the present emergency phase by providing programmes which address the causes of migration and the changes it entails, including its effect on the makeup of societies and peoples. The tragic stories of millions of men and women daily confront the international community as a result of the outbreak of unacceptable humanitarian crises in different parts of the world. Indifference and silence lead to complicity whenever we stand by as people are dying of suffocation, starvation, violence and shipwreck. Whether large or small in scale, these are always tragedies, even when a single human life is lost.

Migrants are our brothers and sisters in search of a better life, far away from poverty, hunger, exploitation and the unjust distribution of the planet’s resources which are meant to be equitably shared by all. Don’t we all want a better, more decent and prosperous life to share with our loved ones?

At this moment in human history, marked by great movements of migration, identity is not a secondary issue. Those who migrate are forced to change some of their most distinctive characteristics and, whether they like or not, even those who welcome them are also forced to change. How can we experience these changes not as obstacles to genuine development, rather as opportunities for genuine human, social and spiritual growth, a growth which respects and promotes those values ​​which make us ever more humane and help us to live a balanced relationship with God, others and creation?

The presence of migrants and refugees seriously challenges the various societies which accept them. Those societies are faced with new situations which could create serious hardship unless they are suitably motivated, managed and regulated. How can we ensure that integration will become mutual enrichment, open up positive perspectives to communities, and prevent the danger of discrimination, racism, extreme nationalism or xenophobia?

Biblical revelation urges us to welcome the stranger; it tells us that in so doing, we open our doors to God, and that in the faces of others we see the face of Christ himself. Many institutions, associations, movements and groups, diocesan, national and international organizations are experiencing the wonder and joy of the feast of encounter, sharing and solidarity. They have heard the voice of Jesus Christ: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (Rev 3:20). Yet there continue to be debates about the conditions and limits to be set for the reception of migrants, not only on the level of national policies, but also in some parish communities whose traditional tranquillity seems to be threatened.


Is the Official Catholic Church a Newcomer to Ecological Issues?

―Pepe Francis’s New Encyclical Laudato Si’―
Ando Isamu, SJ, staff member(Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 184 / August 15th, 2015

Since 1993 thousands of scientists and representatives of all countries of the world have constantly been meeting to discuss global warming. Again, this year they will gather for the 21st time to negotiate common international measures concerning how to fight climate changes. The majority of scientists believe that natural disasters are mainly provoked and occasioned by human activities.

Thus, it is not so remarkable that Pope Francis has recently published, on June 18, an encyclical letter Laudato Si’ on environmental issues.

In fact, Pope John Paul II in his 1990 message for the World Day of Peace already stressed “the ecological crisis as a common responsibility.” Concern for Creation is “ an essential part of Christian Faith.”

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A visible turning point for ecological conversion at the Vatican started in 2001, when 4,800 solar panels were set up on the buildings of the Vatican and the “Vatican climate forest” was created in Hungary (2008). Both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI issued strong statements on the environmental crisis and stressed the need for humans not to act as despots over nature, but to be concerned for creation. Not only has ecology became a major trend within the Catholic Church, but it has become one of the most potent social and political issues of the 21st century.

Nevertheless, Pope Francis has brought about a substantial change. Up to the present, environmental degradation was mainly a side issue in Vatican official statements, but with the publication of the encyclical letter Laudato Si’ Pope Francis became the first Pope to place care for creation at the center of the life of the Church. The document takes its inspiration from the writings of the 13th-century saint, Francis of Assisi – widely quoted in the encyclical. The Pope also refers to the eco-theology of the Orthodox Church and to public statements from 18 Catholic bishops’ conferences around the world, including several from Asian countries, including Japan. John Paul II and Benedict XVI are also often quoted in the new encyclical. This is proof of the continuity of the official doctrine of the Church on the matter.

The encyclical is addressed not only to Catholics but to all people of good will, including governments and businesses which can make decisions that will limit global warming. The Pope’s words are grounded in an analysis of how human activities are creating acute environmental problems, including climate change, deforestation, air pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Our planet is the work of the Creator, the God of Love.It is the common home for all, not only for the rich or those with power. It is to be treasured.

And since the poor are especially susceptible to natural disasters, results of environmental irresponsibility, Pope Francis stresses the need for a priority option for the lives of the poor, as he already had done in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.

The Catholic Church as an Actor in Looking for Solution to the Ecological Crisis
Though recognizing that the Church has no definite opinion on global warming, she must enter into dialogue about climate change because our common home, the earth, is falling into serious disrepair. Hope would have us recognize that there is always a way out, that we can always redirect our steps, that we can always do something to solve our problems. Still, we can see signs that things are now reaching a breaking point. The facts and the conclusions of experts tell us of the rapid pace of change and degradation. The present world system is certainly unsustainable from numerous points of view, for we have stopped thinking about the goals of human activity. “Humanity has disappointed God’s expectations.”

What is needed is political action which is far-sighted and capable of a new, integral, and inter-disciplinary approach to handling the various aspects of the crisis. A strategy for real change calls for rethinking processes in their entirety. Healthy politics need to become able to take up this challenge. Politics and the economy tend to blame each other when it comes to poverty and environmental degradation. It is to be hoped that they can acknowledge their own mistakes and find forms of interaction directed to the common good.

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Environmental education
“Ecological citizenship” requires educators capable of developing an ethics of ecology so as to help people grow in solidarity, responsibility, and compassionate care. The existence of laws and regulations is insufficient in the long run to curb bad conduct. Only by cultivating sound virtues will people be able to make selfless ecological commitments regarding consumption of goods and changes in lifestyle.

On Creation and the Creator
We should rectify the relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. We are not God. The earth was here before us and has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judaeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man “dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged man’s unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church. Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the no¬tion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.

Technology versus Human Progress
People no longer seem to believe in a happy future. Scientific and technological progress cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and history, a growing need to move forward in a bold cultural revolution. Science and technology are not neutral. We need to slow down and look at reality in a different way.

For new models of progress to arise there is a need to change “models of global development” and this will entail a responsible reflection on “the meaning” of the economy and its goals. Halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster. It is a matter of redefining our notion of progress. Technological and economic development which does not leave a better world cannot be considered progress.

Reflection on our present lifestyles
A change in lifestyle could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic, and social power. This is what consumer movements accomplish by boycotting certain products. They prove successful in changing the way businesses operate, forcing them to consider their environmental footprint and their patterns of production. When social pressure affects their earnings, businesses clearly have to find ways to produce differently. This shows us the great need for a sense of social responsibility on the part of consumers.
Human intervention often in the service of business interests and consumerism is making our earth less rich and beautiful, a more limited gray.

Natural and Human Degradation
Causes of human degradation. The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together. These affect the most vulnerable people. Inequality affects not only individuals but entire countries. The ethics of international relations must be taken into account. A true “ecological debt” exists between the global north and south, related to commercial imbalances with effects on the environment, and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time. The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned. In different ways, developing countries, where the most important reserves of the biosphere are found, continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future.

Ecological conversion
The ecological crisis calls for a deep interior conversion. Under the excuse of pragmatism, some fervent Christians tend to ridicule concern for the environment. Others are passive. They choose not to change their habits. An “ecological conversion” is needed. In calling to mind St Francis of Assisi, we come to realize that a healthy relationship with creation is one dimension of overall personal conversion, which entails the recognition of our errors and failures and leads to heartfelt repentance and the desire to change.

A Universal Common Plan
Interdependence obliges us to think of one world with a common plan. Yet the same ingenuity which has brought about enormous technological progress has so far proved incapable of finding effective ways of dealing with grave worldwide environmental and social problems. A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral action on the part of individual countries. Such a consensus could lead, for example, to planning for a sustainable and diversified agriculture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, encouraging a more efficient use of energy, promoting better management of marine and forest resources, and ensuring universal access to drinking water.

We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay. Politics and business have been slow to react in a way commensurate with the urgency of the challenges facing our world. Although the post-industrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, nonetheless there is reason to hope that humanity at the dawn of the 21st century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities. Worldwide, the ecological movement has made significant advances, thanks also to the efforts of many organizations of civil society.

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Conclusion: Any Lessons for us in Japan?
This is also a message for Japan that challenges the central political and economic policies which place priority on close cooperation between government and big companies. Technology becomes increasingly orientated to warfare and to building large- scale systems of military defense. An addiction to the use of nuclear energy to secure the industrialization of the country remains in force. Thus the safety of the environment and the poor sectors of the population are deeply affected.

Consumption is hailed as the key to economic recovery, money is spread widely to be used lavishly. The forces of the market economy are considered the best model on hand to solve all social evils. Thus, the current development model is based almost entirely on considerations of economic profit.

Pope Francis has announced his views on the critical issue of the environment, stressing that we are not GOD. We, as well as Nature, have been created by God, who provided us with the gift of Nature, to care for it and not to exploit it as we wish. Natural resources are for all and not only for the richer ones or those holding special technological power. The earth is our common home, where millions of poor people live in desperation. The common good and not profit must be the aim of all human economic activities. But all such moral and ethical values are absent in the official political and economic planning of our country.

Nevertheless, the messages of Laudato Si’ to be seriously concerned about the universal crisis of the environment with an urgent need to save our planet, as well as global hunger and poverty and to care for the poor sectors of the population—these are important issues most Japanese ordinary people will easily agree with. People often enjoy Japanese technological products. Are they happier because of that?

The Pope is asking from us Christians an ecological conversion to be able to produce a real revolution concerning our lifestyles in order to be able to “Say No” to consumption. There is need for effective awareness that requires accurate understanding and sound analyses based also on the moral values that our Christian faith provides us with.

Raising awareness of the Rohingya in Japan

Extraction from JCAP

For World Refugee Day this year, the Tokyo Jesuit Social Center chose to focus on raising awareness of the plight of the Rohingya in Japan. This decision stemmed from a Skype discussion the Migration Network of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific had about the thousands of Rohingya from Myanmar stranded in the sea by the coasts of Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

On his return to Tokyo, Fr Isamu Ando SJ, who heads the centre’s migrant desk, asked himself what could possibly be done in Japan.

“I felt a total black out in my head,” he said. “We Jesuits had held our province congregation at the beginning of May but there (was) no reference to migrants in this part of the world, much less to the Rohingyas.”

Inspiration came when he saw a story in the Japan Times on May 19. “[The title] caught my eye, ‘Rohingya children tricked into boarding trafficking boats, then held captive.’”

He read on … “A boy was shoved onto the wooden vessel with hundreds of other Rohingya Muslims. For days, the 14-year-old sat with his knees bent into his chest, pressed up against sweaty bodies in the cabin’s rancid heat. Women cradled coughing babies. The crew paced back and forth with belts and iron rods, striking anyone who dared to speak, stand up or even those who vomited from the nauseating stench and rolling waves.”

This should not be happening, he felt, and the Jesuits in Japan needed to do their part in helping to address this issue. He came up with the idea to cooperate with Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Asia Pacific to inform our Jesuit audiences about the crisis being faced by the Myanmar Rohingya. The centre’s staff supported his proposal and work began immediately to turn the idea into reality.


With World Refugee Day (June 20) so close, they decided to use it as the platform to launch a fundraising campaign to support the long year activities of JRS with the Rohingya. On June 1, in consultation with the Japan Jesuit Province headquarters, the Tokyo Jesuit Social Center launched a campaign for the Rohingya within the Province. Information was sent to about 50 Jesuit communities and institutions, hoping for a multiplication effect. Fr Ando says that days later, because there was a general lack of awareness of the plight of the Rohingya, several Jesuits became curious about who the Rohingya were and why they were taking such a dangerous risk on the sea. They started to talk about it with others. The Japanese media had also begun increasingly reporting on the subject.

Migrant Children

Happy migrant children in JapanFr Ando shares a photo showing the happiness of the children of foreign migrant workers when they are raised in a free environment. He says, “Rohingya children, the same age, could also enjoy their childhood if they did not have to flee their home. Because they are desperate to escape the conditions they live in in their home country, human traffickers are able to trick Rohingya into boarding trafficking boats and then hold them captives.”

FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN – Rohingya and JRS Involvement

At the end of April 2015, countries in South East Asia faced a crisis of boat people where about 8,000 Rohingya were stranded in the boats and were not allowed to disembark. In May 20, 2015, Indonesia and Malaysian government decided to allow the Rohingya and migrant Bangladeshis to disembark and to set up shelters for them. JRS Indonesia immediately sent an assessment and response team to the site in Aceh for immediate emergency assistance and finding gaps of needs for the Rohingya.

Rohingya fundraisingJRS Overall Position
Rohingya people previously residing in Rakhine State, who have fled Myanmar into Bangladesh or undertaken risky maritime movement to reach relative safety in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia (among other countries) still face refoulement and gross human rights abuses in these transitory countries where they have no legal status. Even those recognized as refugees by UNHCR are facing an indefinite wait for resettlement, due to unclear policy on their eligibility for the limited resettlement places dedicated to refugees in the region. The Governments of the Asia Pacific Region should extend their hospitality, create welcoming spaces and guarantee the protection of Rohingya in their territory. They should also work together with UNHCR to coordinate a system of regional protection for the Rohingya, until such time as durable solutions can be found.  In the meantime, Rohingya people should remain eligible for resettlement.

JRS Timeline Response

• JRS Indonesia & Thailand has been involved to provide assistance for Rohingya and continue to monitor what happened with them with other NGO in the region.

• Responses to the crisis are material assistance to improve detention conditions and their daily basic needs of food, hygiene supplies, clothes, mats and medicines.

• Collaboration with local Caritas through health provision.

JRS has started a FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN to respond to the Rohingya crisis

For donations, please see the following JRS link page:

We greatly appreciate your support and regardless of the amount, your contribution is very important and deeply appreciated. Thank you.

JCAP Migrant Workers Network (Taiwan 21-23 April 2015)

Fr Benny 3rd from left, JPN delegates Jessie & Fr Andō 7th and 8th from left
Fr Benny 3rd from left, JPN delegates Jessie & Fr Andō 7th and 8th from left

A Jesuit network concerning migrant workers was established in 2014 by the Jesuit Conference of Asia and the Pacific to coordinate efforts already being made in the countries of JCAP. The newly appointed Jesuit coordinator is Fr Benny Hari Juliawan.

14 delegates from 8 East Asian countries gathered in Taiwan 21-23 April to coordinate their programs and set up a network to promote a ministry for migrants. The delegates reported on regular local work being done for foreign workers and undocumented migrants, who are often victims of human trafficking. Information was shared concerning each country’s existing immigration laws and regarding resource kits to make it easier for migrants to find work in other Asian countries.

The network has established a migrant research fund to conduct practical research in each country of the Conference. The year 2015 will focus on welfare for East Asian migrants’ children and their families, 2016 on repatriation and reintegration of migrants, and 2017 on the brokerage system.

This new network aims at inserting migration ministry into our Jesuit apostolates and hopes to arouse interest in the mission for migrants among Jesuits now in formation.

By Fr Andō Isamu, SJ, Japan delegate

Migrant Workers in Japan (Part 2 of 2)

Ando Isamu SJ,Jesuit Social Center staff, Head of Migrant Desk

Foreign workers in Japan hit record 717,504

The number of foreign workers in Japan stood at 717,504 at the end of last October, up 5.1 percent from a year before according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. The figure was the highest since it became mandatory for employers to submit reports on foreign employees to the ministry in 2007. The increase reflected an improvement in the employment situation amid the economic recovery and Japanese companies’ growing moves to hire foreigners with special skills, according to the ministry.

Of all foreign workers, 27.3 percent were in Tokyo, followed by 10.9 percent in Aichi Prefecture, 5.9 percent in Kanagawa Prefecture, 5.3 percent in Osaka Prefecture and 5.2 percent in Shizuoka Prefecture.


Japan may boost immigrant numbers

While stressing that no decision has been made, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Friday (March 14, 2014) did not deny a media report that the administration is considering increasing the number of immigrants to boost Japan’s potential for long-term economic growth.

As he pointed out, during the Feb. 24 session of a subcommittee of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy—a key advisory body for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe—the administration revealed an estimate that Japan will be able to maintain a population of more than 100 million if it accepts 200,000 immigrants a year, and the total fertility rate, a key indicator of a country’s birth trends, recovers to 2.07 by 2030 from the current 1.39.

Whether to accept huge numbers of immigrants to maintain Japan’s economic potential has long been a politically sensitive issue. Many conservative lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are opposed to such ideas.

Nursing care worker shortage
According to a fiscal 2013 survey by the Care Work Foundation, more than 20 percent of nursing care facilities, suffer from shortage of workers. The shortage is particularly serious in urban areas.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry estimates that there were 1.49 million nursing care workers in fiscal 2012. But it forecasts that in fiscal 2025, the nation has to secure an additional 880,000 to 1 million such workers. It should be noted that only slightly more than 60 percent of the 1,086,000 registered certified care workers are actually working.

The situation of foreign Workers “technical intern training”
The foreign technical intern training program started in 1993, ostensibly as part of Japan’s “international contribution” to increasing skills and know-how in developing countries.
There are two ways to enter the program. One is to get hired directly by a branch of a major Japanese company. The other route is to get recruited by a “supervising organization,” such as a chamber of commerce, small business association or cooperative, associated to Japan International Training Cooperation Organization (JITCO), to intern at a small or midsize business. Most trainees enter via this latter method.

An estimated 142,000 foreign trainees were enrolled in the program at the end of 2011, with 107,000 from China alone. The others hailed from Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar. At the peak, around 2008, there were about 200,000 trainees in Japan.

The trainees are sent via 760 “sending organizations” approved by their home countries and dispatched through the supervising organizations to the employers.

Problems that have been associated with the program
Although the purported objective of the trainee system is to help developing countries, experts say that in reality, it is being used to pool cheap, unskilled labor for Japanese companies.

Other alleged mistreatment includes employers seizing the interns’ passports and bank cards, and holding onto some of their pay as “savings” to prevent them from running away.

Justice Ministry data meanwhile indicate that the mistreatment of apprentices has been rising in the past couple of years despite the legal revisions.

In 2012, 197 organizations and companies were found engaged in “unfair practices,” up 20.9 percent from the 163 cited in 2010.
JITCO chat

An estimated 142,000 foreign trainees were enrolled in the program at the end of 2011, with 107,000 from China alone. The others hailed from Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar. At the peak, around 2008, there were about 200,000 trainees in Japan.
The trainees are sent via 760 “sending organizations” approved by their home countries and dispatched through the supervising organizations to the employers.

Problems that have been associated with the program
Although the purported objective of the trainee system is to help developing countries, experts say that in reality, it is being used to pool cheap, unskilled labor for Japanese companies.
Other alleged mistreatment includes employers seizing the interns’ passports and bank cards, and holding onto some of their pay as “savings” to prevent them from running away.
Justice Ministry data meanwhile indicate that the mistreatment of apprentices has been rising in the past couple of years despite the legal revisions.
In 2012, 197 organizations and companies were found engaged in “unfair practices,” up 20.9 percent from the 163 cited in 2010.

The mistreatment mainly took the form of unpaid wages and labor law violations. Some apprentices, for example, were forced to work more than 100 hours per month of overtime. Any company caught, however, only faces a maximum five-year ban on using foreign trainees.
Jorge Bustamante, U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants came to Japan on March 23, 2010, for an official inspection. Bustamante held a press conference on March 31, 2010 and outspokenly urged the Japanese government to terminate its program for overseas industrial trainees and technical interns, saying it might amount to “slavery” in some cases, fueling demand for exploitative cheap labor in violation of human rights. He proposed replacing the program with one of employment.

Working conditions and treatment of foreign workers in Japan
The situation of foreign works in Japan is greatly shaped by labor contracts and the customary brokerage system, structural frames that usually victimize foreign workers. The lack of knowledge of the Japanese situation and the language are often high obstacles that play against people from abroad coming to work in Japan.
Japanese labor leader, Torii Ippei, Secretary General of All Labor Trade Unions manifested publicly that “Foreign workers in Japan faced general labor problems, like unpaid wages, labor accidents, layoffs, etc. And, on top of that, in many instances their passports are taken away and they are forced to live under very bad conditions”.

Women migrant workers in Japan
The sex industry likes foreign workers for the same reason every other industry likes them: they’re cheaper and willing to do jobs few others are, says Takashi Kadokura, an economist with Dai Ichi Life Research Institute, who recently set the size of Japan’s “entertainment trade” at a staggering 2.37 trillion yen (2001).
Among the many groups of female workers, a large proportion of Filipino workers in Japan are young women. Back in 2005 about 37,235 young Filipinas received contracts to work in Japan. It is important to notice that there is no legal category for “domestic helpers” to work with Japanese families. According to the EPA economic agreement signed in September 2006, Japan agreed to accept large numbers of Filipina nurses and care givers. At present Vietnam and Indonesia are also included in the same EPA economic agreement.

“International marriages” where the foreign side is the wife are becoming customary in Japan. Often they do not last, and, in many cases, the main motivation is to obtain legal status. The difference in age is usually of 10 or 20 years; the Japanese side being much older. The children of migrant workers, although receiving compulsory education up to High School, have often to go through many traumas at home and are much more bullied at school than the ordinary Japanese child.

According to the mass media, the image ordinary Japanese people have of foreign workers is not very friendly. It is difficult to probe this objectively, since Japanese media does not report so often on the situation of foreign workers and does not take their side. On the other hand, the Japan Times that leads foreign media in Japan is an exception. It usually covers the issues of foreign workers with a critical attitude towards the authorities.

In Japan, the Catholic Church already has long experience in this field. The Church has been involved in many ways with foreign workers in the fields of welfare, legal, pastoral and educational. In fact, maybe even more than half of our Catholic population in the country consists of foreign workers coming from Brazil, Peru and other Latin American countries, as well as from the Philippines.

Private Educational Pilot Project for foreign workers
At the national level, Japan is doing less than enough to provide Japanese education to hundreds of thousands of foreigners working and living in Japan. It clearly shows the lack of a “migrant policy”. Certainly foreign workers and their children here are at a loss. The abundant Japanese private language schools are all very expensive for the economic possibilities of foreign workers’ families.
The Adachi International Academy -AIA- is a private Pilot Educational non-profit Project oriented to provide basic educational tools to children (6-15 years old) born to foreign parents, mostly migrant workers representing 15 nationalities, that live in the Adachi region, the outskirts of Tokyo.
AIA also assists adult migrant workers to get knowledge about the Japanese system, language and culture. The stress is on a person-to-person approach. The education is practically free to allow even the most needy workers’ families to get the basic tools to obtain solid compulsory public education and for adults to get better jobs.
AIA is run by experienced teachers and youth volunteers. In 2008, four Catholic religious congregations specialized in youth education decided to work together in this pilot project. If you visit AIA you might find a Filipina mother learning Japanese characters and her little baby next to her sleeping in a baby sitter while a volunteer teaches the mother Japanese, or maybe a father from Ghana learning how to read and write Japanese with three more adults of other nationalities late on Sunday morning. His three children will come in the afternoon for Japanese lessons, Mathematics or English. There are no lessons done with white or blackboards in classrooms. The stress is on a person-to-person approach, an education oriented to developing personalities, to making learning interesting, and to building a familiar atmosphere of trust in both adults and children. Quoting from the thinking of Brazilian psychologist educator, Paulo Freire, students become teachers and teachers learn also from their students. Children attending AIA talk freely and loudly in Japanese, with all kinds of strange accents, but these same children sit down passively for hours in the classrooms of public schools, obliged to attend compulsory education, without understanding their teachers.

An important side-effect of this pilot educational program is the involvement of young and senior volunteers. AIA offers people a place for human fulfillment and the possibilities to do something meaningful to others.
Without official support, all AIA expenses (rent, transportation costs of volunteers, scholarships for high school students in need, etc.) are met by supporting groups and donors.

AIA (Adachi International Academy)
5-11-17 Umeda, Adachi-ku, Tokyo 123-0858
Tel. 03-5888-5206 Fax. 03-5888-5216

Migrant Desk
Email address:

Migrant Workers in Japan (Part 1 of 2)

Ando Isamu SJ (Jesuit Social Center staff)

As long as there are nations there will be migrants.

Beginnings of the Movement of Foreign Workers to Japan
Migration in Japan cannot be described apart from the military annexation of Korea by Japan. Beginning in 1910, the dominant presence of Japan on the Korean Peninsula greatly increased. There were fewer than 1,000 Koreans in Japan in 1910 but their numbers increased to about 400,000 by the year 1930, and at the end of the Pacific War (1945) reached 2 million. Their hard life and work conditions, educational opportunities, and social treatment provide insights into the situation of today’s foreign workers in Japan.

As a result of the outbreak of the Korean War in 1951, many Koreans in Japan, unable to move to Korea, had to remain unwillingly in Japan. They lost their Japanese nationality and were left in situations of hardship. Taiwanese living in Japan at that time also faced similar problems.

The arrival of foreign workers to Japan after 1950
Workers from several Asian countries entered Japan in big numbers from the 1960s. They were young people with dreams of getting new and better lives. Most of them wanted to bring their families out of poverty and pay for the education of their brothers and sisters, to provide a better future at home, and to help their parents build better human households. Those young workers came to Japan with high hopes and content to be able to assist their dear ones. They could not do so in their own countries because there were no jobs available. Foreign workers had the courage to start an unknown difficult life in a country where they did not know the language, a country quite different from their own. It was a risky adventure, but Japan was rich with many possibilities of good remunerative jobs. They were happy and lucky because they were able to make it to Japan.

Many of those Asian workers coming to Japan in the 60s and 70s were young women from Taiwan, Thailand, and the Philippines. They were entertainers, or employed in the service field, etc. The way Japan’s gangster groups worked to attract young Asian girls to Japan created many social problems at the time.

Much as some might wish it otherwise, migration is a fact of life. So it is not a question of stopping migration but of managing it better and with more cooperation and understanding on all sides. Far from being a zero-sum game, migration can be made to yield benefits for all.

In Japan, Kyodo News reports that, according to a survey made by the Tokyo Council of Social Welfare, 30% of Tokyo’s 316 elderly care facilities, in which the majority (90%) of workers are women, employed a total of 196 foreign workers. Filipinas account for more than half of these foreign caregivers, followed by Chinese, Taiwanese, and South Koreans.

Speaking from experience, refugees and migrant workers often tell me that they cannot go back to their country of origin because of official repression and persecution. Their lives are in danger, as well as their families. Most migrant workers invoke the lack of jobs back home and the poverty awaiting them there without no possible income to survive decently. Public authorities in Japan turn deaf ears to such pleas. In fact, although we use the expression “migrants” in Japan, there is no concept here of an “immigrant.” Officially, there is no immigration policy like those in many other countries but rather only a control policy for dealing with “aliens.”

The Shaping of Japan’s Immigration Policy
Nevertheless, times have changed, maybe drastically, for Japan. The country is a forerunner in globalization. Up to now, Japan has opted for rigid restriction of foreign workers coming into the country. But business and Japanese multinationals experience the need to open doors to workers from outside in order to be able to compete and expand their activities. I believe that Japan’s official stance on the issue of migrant workers is different from the policies of Japanese businesses. That became clear around the year 2007, when the country officially opened the door to “Nikkeijin” with former roots in Japan from Latin American countries. Business pushed strongly for changes in immigration policies.

In fact, there are two main new phenomena obliging Japanese authorities to make some substantial changes in their perceptions with regard to the acceptance of foreign workers.

The first is the preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. In the past, exactly 50 years ago on the occasion of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the country observed a substantial economic-industrial recovery. The building of high-speed highways and the beginning of the Shinkansen Railways became symbols of strong economic development. Now, with the coming of the new 2020 Tokyo Olympics, people recall those “good old days” and expect a new strong economic recovery. Nevertheless, Japan does not have the workers needed to produce an economic “miracle” again. So even Prime Minister Abe has officially stated that Japan will accept 200,000 foreign workers annually.

The second phenomenon is even more realistic and urgent. Japan’s population is increasingly shrinking and the country is in need of a young labor force, which is impossible to find nowadays. Japan has decided to retain and augment its industrial powers and needs workers from outside to do that.
The projected decrease in Japan’s population has forced the country to think more positively about accepting foreign labor and improving the whole immigration system.

New Immigration Law (2012)
The Japan Immigration Law has been revised several times. In 1989, during the economic bubble period, as a result of the revision of the law, Nikkeijin mainly from Latin America were easily permitted to come to Japan to work. Around 400,000 Nikkeijin from Brazil and Peru were living and working in Japan by 2007. The new revision of the law in 2009 gave the Home Ministry absolute control over foreigners in the country. The alien registration card all foreigners had to have in the past was changed into a “residence card” with an IC chip, where all personal data, including residence address, visa status, etc. was included. Foreigners are obliged always to have it with them, with a penalty up to 200,000 yen if a person is found without it. Employers are also obliged to report in detail about the workers they employ, their domiciles, visa status, employment conditions, etc.

City halls (numbering 1,787) spread all over the country were formerly the offices in charge of officially handling many formalities in areas where foreigners were living, but they are not allowed to do so any more. Instead, immigration offices limited in number (76) do everything regarding foreigners. Those not reporting immediately on changes of address, marriage issues like divorce, changes of jobs, etc. are subject to penalties. In other words, Immigration enjoys total control now.

Immigration authorities estimate that in 2011 there were between 90,000 and 100,000 undocumented migrants in Japan, including 78,488 over-stayers. The number of over-stayers has been halved in the last five years. Most came from Asian countries: South Korea (19,271), China (10,337), Philippines (9,329), Taiwan (4,774), and Thailand (4,264).
Undocumented foreigners, if caught by police or by immigration officers, are taken into detention centers that are real jails.

Japan has three main immigration detention centers, in Ushiku (Ibaraki prefecture), Ibaraki (Osaka prefecture), and Omura (Nagasaki prefecture), plus other big temporary centers like the one in Shinagawa (Tokyo), where hundreds of foreigners are detained. Immigration has 8 regional bureaus, 7 district immigration offices, and 61 branch offices.

As of 2012, all regional bureaus, district immigration offices, and 1 branch office had detention facilities.
Lengthy detentions are also a major problem, as the book Kabe no Namida (Wall of Tears) points out, because even after deportation orders are issued for Immigration Law violators, these violators can continue to be held for an indefinite time.
According to an investigation by Kyodo News, 23 detainees at the centers attempted suicide between 2000 and 2004.

Present Foreign Population in Japan
Japan currently has about 2,220,000 registered foreigners. Of these, 660,000 (30%) are Chinese and 590,000 (27%) are resident Koreans.
Overseas residents in Japan (2013) (June 21, 2014)

Oversea residents in Japan2013

Foreign working population in Japan 2013

Being actors, not just observers, on migrant worker rights

(Fr. Ando on the left & Jessie on the right)
(Jessie on the left side & Fr. Ando on the right side)

How do our Jesuits universities tackle the important issue of migrant workers? How much are we Jesuits involved in improving the human dignity of migrant workers? Fr Ando Isamu SJ found himself reflecting on these questions after participating in an international conference focussed on migration issues earlier this month.

Fr Ando, who heads the Migrant Desk at the Jesuit Social Center in Tokyo, had been at the 2014 International Conference on Asia-Pacific Studies at the National Sun Yat-sen University (NSYSU) in Taiwan, where he had presented on the subject of “Migrants – foreign workers – in Japan”.

The conference had attracted university professors and scholars from 15 countries, mostly in East Asia, enabling rich discussion among Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and religiously indifferent people, all of whom Fr Ando says were united in their interest in migration and socio-political changes in the Asia region. The three main topics of discussion were regional cooperation, China and its neighbours, and migrant workers’ issues in various countries, in line with the conference theme, “Migration and Transformation in the Asia-Pacific”.

To set the context, the conference began with the screening of the 2013 film “Ilo Ilo”, which presents the hard life of a Filipina domestic worker in Singapore. Fr Ando found the psychological changes of the little boy she took care of, from despising her to loving her more than his mother, after a car accident, very moving.

“Reflecting on our role as Jesuits with regard to the issue [of migrant worker rights], I clearly found that our network in JCAP is trying to become an actor – not just an observer – in defending workers from foreign countries who are living and working in our midst; to try positively to change hostile attitudes and even structures harming the human dignity of foreign workers,” said Fr Ando.

The conference was organized by the Institute of China and Asia-Pacific Studies, NSYSU and the University of the Philippines’ Department of Political Science. It was held from November 12 to 16, and followed by a free academic forum on migration and change transformation in East Asia.

By Ando Isamu, SJ

Sri Lankan man dies at Shinagawa detention center

A Sri Lankan man died while in detention at the Shinagawa Immigration Bureau last month after the guards apparently ignored his repeated complaints about severe chest pain, a supporters’ group said Monday.

The death of Nickeles Fernando, 57, comes amid allegations that critically ill detainees are being neglected by the immigration service. It also attests to a tendency to disregard the rights of foreign detainees, lawyers and activists said.

“His death illustrates the immigration’s outrageous belittlement of foreigners’ human rights,” said Takeshi Omachi, a representative of Provisional Release Association in Japan. “They probably don’t care if foreigners die on their watch.”

According to PRAJ and fellow detainees’ accounts, Fernando was found dead, face-down, in a solitary confinement cell at the immigration bureau in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward at around 1 p.m. on Nov. 22.

He had begun to complain of severe chest pains at around 7 a.m., begging a guard to take him to a doctor.

The guard refused, on the grounds that a medical facility inside the detention center was not open on Saturdays.

Immigration officials moved him to a solitary confinement cell at around 8 a.m., where Fernando groaned in pain for about an hour before falling silent near 9 a.m., the presumed time of death, fellow detainees told The Japan Times in a phone call last week. The inmates initiated the call.

By the time other inmates went to check on him, Fernando was dead, his body cold and showing signs of rigor mortis. He had been drooling and had urinated on the mattress, PRAJ quoted an inmate as saying.

A devout Christian, Fernando had tried to make the guard understand the severity of his pain, swearing on his pocket Bible in broken English that he was not lying.

Fernando was admitted to the immigration center on or around Nov. 17. Police still have custody of his body and are investigating the cause of death.

“He was like my father. I still can’t believe he’s gone,” Jeorge Fernando, 27, a nephew of the deceased, told reporters on Monday.

Several foreign individuals have died in recent years while in the clutches of the immigration service.

In October 2013, Rohingya detainee Anwar Hussin, 57, died of a brain hemorrhage in the Shinagawa Immigration Bureau after his pleas for a doctor went ignored for about 50 minutes.

In March this year, an Iranian man and a Cameroonian man died in separate incidents at a detention center in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture. The Justice Ministry on Nov. 20 faulted authorities for not having medical personnel available around the clock. It vowed to boost staffing.

Fernando died two days later.

The Immigration Bureau rejects allegations of negligence.

“There was nothing improper in the way we handled his situation,” the bureau said in a statement on Monday.

“We call an ambulance if there is need to do so. It’s not correct to say we fail to take foreigners’ rights seriously,” it said.

by Tomohiro Osaki Staff Writer of JAPAN TIMES (Dec 1, 2014)

Statement of the Holy See to the U.N. in Geneva on Migration and Families

“Family migration needs to be reconceived using frameworks of trans-nationalism that grant more flexibility to the movement of people, especially in countries where the presence of the family of the migrant workers is legally impeded.”

Mr. Chairman,

The migrant family is a critical component of the growing phenomenon of migration in our globalized world. Thus the Delegation of the Holy See finds it most opportune to have chosen this topic for reflection at the 2014 International Dialogue on Migration (IDM).

1. Migrants very often move out of concern for the needs of their families; at times, they even risk their lives on flimsy boats or in dangerous deserts in the hope of ensuring their families a decent life as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Report documents. Through their work, the taxes they pay, the new businesses they start and a variety of services they provide, most migrants offer a positive economic and social contribution to the receiving societies. Women domestic workers, for example, leave their children behind in the home country in order to become caregivers for children, disabled and elderly persons abroad. While migrants are a positive presence in their host societies, they face the risk that their own children and relatives remain in the shadow and deprived of their affection at home. The remittances sent home focus the debate on the financial benefits generated by migrants. While this money is important to improve health and education for the family members left behind, it does not quite compensate for other needs: human affection, a necessary presence to educate in values and integrity, a reference model for responsible behavior, especially for young people. The human emptiness felt when a father or mother emigrates becomes a reminder of the ambivalence of emigration and of the fundamental right to be able to stay at home in dignity. Especially when mothers emigrate, other negative consequences emerge: children’s school attendance declines, early marriages of adolescent girls increase, and there is a heightened risk of drug abuse. As Pope Francis recently stated, “it is necessary to respond to the globalization of migration with the globalization of charity and cooperation, in such a way as to make the conditions of migrants more humane. At the same time, greater efforts are needed to guarantee the easing of conditions, often brought about by war or famine, which compel whole peoples to leave their native countries.”

2. Children, therefore, as well as elderly persons and spouses left behind, must become a high priority in any migration policy and debate: they are particularly vulnerable, and hence should receive special protection. Policy and program development should aim at maximizing the benefits of remittances, limiting the negative effects of migration and emphasizing family ties as a primary concern in the management of immigration by States. Policy formulation often treats family and labor migration as two distinct realms, “social” and “economic.” In reality, the two concepts are closely intertwined. In the planning by the international community and in discussions focused on the post-2015 Development Agenda, migration must have a proper place, not only as functional to development and demography, but as a major human rights commitment aimed at safeguarding the dignity of every human person and the centrality of the family.

3. Indeed an urgently needed immigration reform involves the formulation of a legal framework that helps keep families together. The life and dignity of every human person is lived within the family. All children need their parents. Parents have the responsibility to protect and nurture their children, and yet deported parents are prevented from living out this fundamental vocation. Too many families are now torn apart. By allowing children to emigrate unaccompanied further problems arise as they are exposed to lawlessness and despair. The family structure, however, should be the place where hope, compassion, justice and mercy are taught most effectively. Family is the basic unit of coexistence, its foundation, and the ultimate remedy against social fragmentation.

4. Finally, achievable measures could be implemented in a realistic and sensitive manner. Migrants, who are restricted or prevented from traveling home in order to provide personal care for elderly parents or affection to their kin, should be entitled to occasional leaves and should benefit from special prices for their trip home. Interest fees for the transfer of remittances must be lowered. The process to obtain a visa for a spouse or close family members (which in certain countries takes several years) needs to be speeded up. Ad hoc “family counselors” to serve in regions with a very high rate of migrants should be engaged in order to provide assistance and advice to members of the family “left behind” and to facilitate timely reunification of the family. In fact, when return migrants revert to day-to-day interaction with their societies of origin, they experience a “reverse culture shock.” The changes in family dynamics that result from migration do not end when the migrant returns to the society of origin; in fact, migrants generally return to a family situation that is very different from that before departure. Family members can become “strangers” since they have been absent from each others’ lives and since relations between them are largely based on the sending of money and goods or sporadically maintained by new forms of Internet communications.

5. In conclusion, it is mandatory to avoid treating the “left behind” population merely as passive recipients of the effects of migration. In this context, family migration needs to be re-conceived using frameworks of trans-nationalism that grant more flexibility to the movement of people, especially in countries where the presence of the family of the migrant workers is legally impeded. Healthy interaction and personal relations among family members are obstructed by borders. States and civil society are prompted by their own future to give priority to the family and thus make migrations a more positive experience for all

Geneva, October 13, 2014 (Source: ZENIT)

Statement of Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, permanent representative of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva at the 2014 International Dialogue on Migration of the International Organization for Migration “Migration and Families”

Accompanying People on the Move (Part 1 of 2)

Accompanying People on the Move

On 19 January 2014 around five thousand people took to the street of Hong Kong outside the police headquarters. They were members of Indonesian and Filipino migrant worker unions as well as representatives of various human rights groups in the country. With loud noise they demanded justice for Erwiana, an Indonesian maid abused by her Hong Kong employer. She was found covered in cuts and burns a week earlier at the airport just before leaving the country. Barely able to walk, she was left alone at the departure hall by her employer and agent at the early hours to avoid the airport crowds. Police and immigration officers who had seen her in that condition did not raise a finger to help let alone to investigate. A fellow Indonesian worker on her way home spotted and approached her. Finding out the full story, she contacted her friends in the union and before long the news went to the airwaves and drew huge responses from many corners.

This crime took place in Hong Kong committed allegedly by a local citizen, and the victim was an Indonesian young woman. Her recruitment and placement agency had representatives in both countries. The case drew the attention of other Indonesians in Hong Kong as well as Filipino migrant groups. A number of local activists and other expatriates took part in the campaign. A few days after the protest, the Hong Kong authorities arrested the alleged torturer at the airport as she tried to flee to Bangkok. Sad as it is, this is unmistakably a twenty first century tragedy which unfolded across geographical and political boundaries.

In 2010 the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific (JCAP) decided to take the issue of migration as a common priority in social actions. It rightly identified the phenomenon as a defining feature of our age which is characterized by the ease of travel and promises of prosperity, but also by their respective failings and dangers. The Society of Jesus in Asia Pacific unfortunately is far from prepared to respond to this challenge in a meaningful way. At the moment there are only five very different institutions that directly work on migrant issues: Tokyo Migrants’ Desk, Yiutsari in Seoul, UGAT Foundation in Manila, Rerum Novarum Centre in Taipei and Sahabat Insan in Jakarta. Migrant workers primarily and undocumented migrants are the target groups which reflect the kind of services these organisations offer. Indeed these are all small local institutions which offer specific services to specific types of migrants. They are in addition to the Jesuit Refugee Service which have been around much longer and serve refugees and asylum seekers.

Despite the small size, they are the real building blocks of our commitment to serve migrants. In response to the call to prioritise concerns for migration, the directors of these institutions had met several times over the course of the past three years and finally on June 3rd – 6th, 2014 in Jakarta to draft this proposal.

Participating Institutions in the JCAP Migrants Network
As mentioned before, five Jesuit institutions participate in the network as programme implementers. Two other institutions i.e. Jesuit Refugee Service Asia Pacific and Jesuit Social Services Australia take part in the network as partners in information exchanges. Benny Juliawan SJ acts as the network coordinator and project director for the programmes.

①The term “migrant workers” in this proposal refers to people who travel to countries other than their own in search for work in the blue collar sectors. Internal migrant workers are exempt from this definition.

Amnesty International (2013) Exploited for Profit, Failed by Governments: Indonesian Migrant Domestic Workers Trafficked to Hong Kong, Geneva.
Devadason, Evelyn S. and Chan Wai Meng (2014) “Policies and Laws Regulating Migrant Workers in Malaysia: A Critical Appraisal,” Journal of Contemporary Asia, 44: 1, 19-35.
ILO (2013) Domestic Workers across the World, Geneva: ILO.
Kennedy, Jason (2012) “Female Indonesian Domestic Workers in Taiwan” Seminar in Global Health and Development 2, Taipei Medical University.
Loveband, Anne (2004) “Positioning the Product: Indonesian Migrant Women Workers in Taiwan,” Journal of Contemporary Asia, 34: 3, 336-348.

Accompanying People on the Move (Part 2 of 2)

Temporariness and Brokerage

Migration is a major political, economic, social and cultural concern in Asia Pacific. Countries in this region are major sources of migrants for the world. China, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia are among the world’s top 25 suppliers of migrants, with China and the Philippines in the top 10. Most of these go to other countries within Asia and to North America. Asia Pacific is also home to a large number of immigrants, with more than 10 million migrants, many of whom are from other countries within the region. Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand are among the top 25 countries in the world with the highest immigration rates. If internal migration is added to the picture, the number and proportion of migrants would increase greatly, especially in rapidly urbanizing countries like China and Vietnam.

The dominant driving force of migration has been economic. The bulk of migrants in Asia Pacific are transient workers taking up blue-collar jobs that are shunned by locals in developed and industrializing countries. The label “dirty, dangerous and difficult” has been coined to describe the work of migrants. Typical jobs include domestic workers, construction workers, plantation workers, factory workers, fishermen, heath care aids and hospitality workers. To illustrate, Asia Pacific is home to around 21.5 million domestic workers (ILO, 2013), which makes up about 41 percent of all domestic workers in the world today. According to official statistics the state of Sabah in Malaysia employs 272,157 foreign workers (2012), mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines in the oil palm industry. Overall registered migrant workers made up 21% of Malaysia’s workforce (2010), and this is not to include the irregular or undocumented migrant workers, which some estimates put the figure at around 1.3 million (Devadason and Meng, 2014). The focus group of this proposal refers to these workers who travel to countries other than their own in search for menial jobs.

Cross-border migration either in search for work or political asylum always carries extra risks associated with being a foreigner with limited means. For migrant workers in particular the vulnerabilities are multiplied these days by the general preference of capital movement over that of labour under globalisation. When countries do feel the need for foreign labour, they treat migrant workers as supplementary labour and subject them to “temporariness” regime. What it means is that the presence of migrant workers in general is assumed to be temporary to address labour shortages and they are not eligible for rights and provisions which otherwise would be available for citizens or permanent residents.

This does not apply to foreign professionals apparently. The Taiwan Council for Labour Affairs, for example, defines the role of “foreign professionals” as to enhance technological level and competitiveness, whereas “foreign labour” is to supplement shortages. Expatriates in Malaysia are allowed to bring in their families but contract migrant workers are not. South Korea does not even recognise domestic work as employment, and therefore foreign domestic workers are exempt from provisions sanctioned by the law. In fact, 61 per cent of all domestic workers in Asia and the Pacific are not covered by the country’s standard labour laws (ILO 2013). Hong Kong relies on a highly flexible labour regime in general, which applies to all workers but especially to migrant workers. Migrant domestic workers have to leave the country within two weeks after their contracts expire if they cannot find new employers. Indeed, temporariness regime is manifested in short or fixed term contracts and exclusion from labour laws.

Temporariness also plays into the hand of agents or middlemen both in sending and receiving countries. These include private agencies (legal and illegal) in host and sending countries as well as government officials in certain countries like Vietnam which play the middlemen role. Legislative frameworks to regulate this role have been limited. According to NGOs’ experience, a substantial portion of migrants’ problems originate in the actions of middlemen. These include provision of inadequate or false information, charging of exorbitant fees which cause the migrant to be in a debt-bonded situation, trafficking and outright deception.

The root cause of this inhumane activity can be found in the complexity of hiring processes. Recruiting and placing workers across state boundaries require a certain degree of knowledge and experience in dealing with paper works and state bureaucracies, two qualities that are often lacking in prospective migrants. Moreover, short-term contracts imply constant search for new job orders which again is often beyond the scope of domestic helpers with long working hours. It is therefore almost inevitable that they have to rely on middlemen. The problem is compounded by the regulative frameworks which deliberately avail agencies with a lot of power and limit the role of the state.

Agents have indeed become very powerful in the migration industry not only when dealing with workers but also in their bargaining with the state as the latter gradually loses its capacity to control the hiring and placement processes. The combination of these factors makes migrant workers all the more prone to exploitation along the process of migration: pre-migration, after migration, and when returning. In Taiwan, which has relatively better treatments of domestic workers, for example, many agents have switched from Filipino workers to Indonesian ones after the former were deemed more forceful in demanding their rights (Loveband, 2004). In doing this, they portray Indonesian workers as loyal, caring, capable of repetitive household chores, effectively manufacturing a stereotype which defines the kind of working condition that employers expect their maids will accept. This freedom to choose, however, is not applicable the other way around. Migrant domestic workers are not free to switch employers at will; such actions will incur penalties even if the reason is to do with treatments or working conditions.

Efforts to target this temporariness regime and the brokerage system will form the main collaborative work among the five migration institutions in JCAP. Given the modest state of these institutions the strategies centre around doing locally based research and activities that follow an agreed template. The compiled findings will then be the basis to create a platform for advocacy both at the local and regional levels. These strategies will also serve as a learning space in collaboration within the network. See the Annex for the description of the programmes.

Participating Institutions in the JCAP Migrants Network
As mentioned before, five Jesuit institutions participate in the network as programme implementers. Two other institutions i.e. Jesuit Refugee Service Asia Pacific and Jesuit Social Services Australia take part in the network as partners in information exchanges. Benny Juliawan SJ acts as the network coordinator and project director for the programmes.

Labour law generally guarantees minimum wage, working hours, overtime pay, annual leave, fair termination of contract, benefits and workers’ compensations.
For example, in November 2013, the Amnesty International published a damning report on the treatment of migrant workers in Hong Kong in the hands of recruitment agencies and brokers.
In Taiwan as of 2012, 75 per cent of domestic workers are Indonesian, 12.5 per cent Filipino, 12.5 per cent Vietnamese, and 0.5 per cent Malaysian (Kennedy, 2012).

Amnesty International (2013) Exploited for Profit, Failed by Governments: Indonesian Migrant Domestic Workers Trafficked to Hong Kong, Geneva.
Devadason, Evelyn S. and Chan Wai Meng (2014) “Policies and Laws Regulating Migrant Workers in Malaysia: A Critical Appraisal,” Journal of Contemporary Asia, 44: 1, 19-35.
ILO (2013) Domestic Workers across the World, Geneva: ILO.
Kennedy, Jason (2012) “Female Indonesian Domestic Workers in Taiwan” Seminar in Global Health and Development 2, Taipei Medical University.
Loveband, Anne (2004) “Positioning the Product: Indonesian Migrant Women Workers in Taiwan,” Journal of Contemporary Asia, 34: 3, 336-348.

Migrants’ Desk in the Jesuit Social Center

Jessie Tayama, Migrant Desk (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 178 / August 15th, 2014

Warm greetings to all our esteemed readers and thanks for your subscription to our Bulletin.
Jessie Tayama
I am Jessie Tayama from Singapore, married to a Japanese and, with God’s blessing, we have a beautiful 17-year-old daughter. I moved to Tokyo 18 years ago, in September 1996. Since I had worked in several Japanese companies in Singapore and knew some of their customs and understood some Japanese, at the beginning I thought everything would be all right. But when I got here, even though my husband was very supportive, the culture shock and language barrier landed me into a totally different situation from what I had expected.

In October 2010 I joined the Jesuit Social Center’s Migrant Desk staff, one of our Center’s latest new development projects, which is almost 4 years old now. This is the most challenging and rewarding volunteer work I have done in Japan so far. Before this I did various volunteer work in Japan, including studying Japanese sign language for 3 years to be able to communicate with the deaf, and working as a volunteer at SANYA (Mother Teresa Home) homeless town for 3 years. But none of that volunteer work reached as deep an understanding or touched people’s lives and hearts as much as what I’m doing now.

At the Migrant Desk we provide free legal consultation for foreigners, including visa, official status, international marriage, family matters, divorce, domestic violence, employment, labor accidents, traffic accidents, court and other legal issues concerning foreigners. The applicants are given a 30-minute free consultation and our Center pays the lawyer’s fees.

Before the applicant gets to meet our lawyer, I first conduct an interview with each applicant together with Fr Ando (Head of the Migrant Desk). The reason for conducting the interview is to summarize and focus the case. After the interview we will know whether the applicant needs to seek legal consultation or not, or if maybe it’s more suitable to refer the applicant to another source. If the applicant needs to consult the lawyer, a copy of the statement taken down during the interview will be given to the lawyer. Our lawyer comes to the Center every 4th Monday of the month and is here between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm. For the interview the applicant is required to bring along an alien card or resident card, passport and other relevant private documents, as we need to check them and to confirm the applicant’s status.

In July 2012 we started a collaboration with the Franciscan Chapel Church (FCC) for free legal consultation to be held on their church premises every 1st Sunday of the month between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm. Fr Russell Becker OFM (Pastor of FCC) is an open-minded priest who always thinks about what is best for the parishioners. He welcomes us as part of their Pastoral Care service. We have gotten feedback from parishioners and outsiders asserting that it’s wonderful to have a church to provide such service for people on Sundays.

Our Jesuit Social Center is located right next to St Ignatius Church. It is also open for free legal consultation on the 3rd Sunday of every month between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm.

Officially, I work on Mondays and Fridays, and when there is some need I come to the office or run outside errands on other week days and weekends. I visit the Shinagawa detention center, accompany migrants to immigration, courts, city halls etc. Sometimes I visit migrants’ homes or have meals with them outside on a case-by-case basis.

I remember Fr Gerard Barry’s last words to me in October 2013: “Keep up the good work” at the Migrant Desk. We worked together for several years in St Ignatius Church until he passed away on December 27 last year. Even though he was terminally ill at that stage, he still showed great concern for migrants and tried all kinds of ways to assist them. Fr Barry was a Chaplain at Fuchu Prison for 13 years. He said Masses there in English for foreign male prisoners and held consultations there, too. He was a very kind-hearted man, doing all he could for people who approached him.

From my own personal experience as a migrant living in Japan, it is a hard life for one who is not familiar with the Japanese language. Especially, due to language barriers, one doesn’t know whom to turn to when needing legal help or advice or maybe just needing to share opinions. I am happy that our Migrant Desk was opened and that I can give even a little helping hand, even though at times the situations are quite beyond our competency.

Migration In East Asia

Ando Isamu, SJ, staff member(Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 178 / August 15th, 2014

The phenomenon of migration is a universal movement of people affecting over 200 million nowadays. The oil boom in the Gulf States during the 1970s became an incentive in many Asian countries stimulating workers to migrate. In absolute numbers, China, Bangladesh and India are believed to be among the top ten emigration countries worldwide. In East Asia the Philippines with about 3,500,000 migrant people remains an important origin country for migrants moving both within and outside the region. (Figure 1)

Top Emigration Countries in Asia Year 2000

There are ten top migration corridors worldwide and four of them are Asian countries. Bangladesh-India, with 3.5 million migrants in 2005, followed by India-United Arab Emirates with 2.2 million and the Philippines-USA with 1.6 million (World Bank, 2008). Undocumented migration is increasingly an issue within the Asian region. It is believed that the Bangladesh-India corridor alone involves about 17 million people (Figure 2)

Emigrations from Asian in receiving countries Year 2000

Pope Francis’ Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees
On January 19, 2014, in his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis stated that our societies are experiencing, in an unprecedented way, processes of mutual interdependence and interaction on the global level. “I have chosen,” the Pope said, “for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees this year: Migrants and Refugees: Towards a Better World.

” What is involved in the creation of a “better world”? It aims at an authentic and integral development of individuals and families, and at ensuring that God’s gift of creation is respected, safeguarded and cultivated. Pope Paul VI described the aspirations of people today as “to do more, to learn more, and have more, in order to be more” (Populorum Progressio, 6).

A better world will come about only if attention is first paid to individuals; if human promotion is integral, taking account of every dimension of the person, including the spiritual; if no one is neglected, including the poor, the sick, prisoners, the needy and the stranger.

Contemporary movements of migration represent the largest movement of individuals, if not of peoples, in history. As the Church accompanies migrants and refugees on their journey, she seeks to understand the causes of migration, but she also works to overcome its negative effects.

We cannot remain silent about the scandal of poverty in its various forms. Migration is linked to poverty. Fleeing from situations of extreme poverty or persecution in the hope of a better future, or simply to save their own lives, millions of persons choose to migrate. The reality of migration needs to be approached and managed in a new, equitable and effective manner. This calls for profound solidarity and compassion. As Pope Benedict XVI stated, there is need for close collaboration between the migrants’ countries of origin and their countries of destination (Caritas in Veritate, 62). It must also be emphasized that such cooperation begins with the efforts of each country to create better economic and social conditions, and opportunities for employment at home.

Correct information and changes of attitude with regard to migrants and refugees are needed, as well as the elimination of prejudices. The Church has always affirmed that personal dignity is mainly grounded on the fact that human persons have been created in God’s own image and likeness and, even more so, are children of God (Random excerpts from Pope Francis’ Message).

Jesuits and Migration in the JCAP Region

Early in 2009, the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific initiated a social mapping project which aimed to take stock of the social concerns in which Jesuits and their collaborators were currently engaged and to explore possibilities for international co-operation. From the final results of the “Social Mapping Report” it was clear that Jesuits and their collaborators were involved in a wide range of social concerns throughout Asia Pacific.

KIbe Hall Buillding

The present realities of Asia Pacific require more coherent strategies and well-combined efforts across Jesuit provinces in the region. Increasing numbers of vulnerable migrants, inequitable economic development, threats to marginalized groups, deep-seated conflicts and ecological injustices are among the pressing concerns in the region calling for a greater role for Jesuits and their collaborators.

Actually “migration” and the “environment and governance of natural resources” can be considered top priority apostolic frontiers relevant to all countries of Asia Pacific. However in order to be effective, there has to be a concurrent effort to renew the Society’s commitment to social justice and to being an international community on mission. In fact, there seems to be a lack of commitment by Jesuits to being with the poor and to social justice. Other weaknesses have been clearly detected through the “Social Mapping Report,” especially the lack of connection among those in the social apostolate as well as among various apostolates, such as the social and intellectual ministries.

In the Asia Pacific region, people who live precariously outside their place of origin, and whose dignity and human rights are not adequately respected, include refugees, internally displaced persons, undocumented migrants, migrant workers, victims of trafficking, etc. All are vulnerable.

The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) established 35 years ago currently focuses on people who are forcibly displaced. The international Ignatian Advocacy Network has identified migration as one important focus and JCAP, in August 2009, also chose migration as a priority for action and coordination in the Asia Pacific region. Some work is being done with migrant workers in Japan through the Jesuit Social Center, in Korea by the Jesuit Migrant Center, by the Rerum Novarum Center in Taiwan, and by Sahabat Insan in Indonesia. In the Philippines the UGAT Foundation works with families left behind by migrant workers.

Ignatian Advocacy Network August 2009

The direct services offered usually include education initiatives, legal assistance, pastoral care and community building, support concerning employment matters, shelters and/or material support, etc. For migrants, assistance with workplace injuries, abuse and unjust treatment by employers are most commonly sought.

Looking at emerging areas, displacement due to natural or human-made disasters seems to be becoming increasingly common in the Asia Pacific region. The phenomenon of migrant spouses is also a growing area of concern.

Since migrant workers, within the Asia Pacific region and from the Asia Pacific region, are a significantly growing group, much more could be done to interconnect efforts in sending and receiving countries. Organized exchange of information and experiences could certainly improve and develop the networks beyond Jesuit connections.

Migration is a wide field with strong links to poverty, human rights, development aid and the environment, natural disasters, peace building and conflict resolution.

Concrete Steps Taken since 2009
In August 2010, a special gathering of Jesuits representing most Provinces in East Asia and the Pacific region took place in Klaten (Indonesia). The focus on migration was one of the main outcomes of the discussions. Looking for the support and engagement of all Jesuit apostolates in the common frontier of migration in Asia Pacific, it was considered important to improve coordination between receiving and sending countries.

In October 2010, before the “IV World Forum on Migration,” 94 people representing 29 countries gathered in Quito, Ecuador, to try to define priorities for action and processes, as well as forms of networking Jesuit apostolates concerning migration at the global level. Our JCAP region sent 3 representatives. The challenges posed by migration are an apostolic priority for the universal body of the Society of Jesus.

In May 2011, a small group of Jesuits and collaborators, working with migrant workers in several countries of East Asia, shared information and networking plans at a special seminar held in Seoul.

JCAP meeting in Seoul 2011

More recently, in June this year, the JCAP migration network seems to have gained momentum at a meeting of representatives (directors) of Jesuit institutions working on migration. The venue of the meeting was Jakarta, Indonesia, and the group sensed that the recent appointment of Benny Juliawan SJ, as the responsible coordinator of the network for migrants in the Asia Pacific region, will finally create a strong coordination within the region

Our institutions represented at the Jakarta meeting deal mostly with migrant workers and undocumented migrants and a 3-year (2014-2017) action plan was elaborated to deal with these key focus groups. One major concern among the participants was the need to address the brokerage system strongly influencing the recruitment and placement of migrant workers throughout the region.

A new concrete program of mutual cooperation entails disbursing limited research grants for a period of 3 years.The topics selected are: (1) the welfare of migrants’ children, (2) repatriation and reintegration of migrants, and (3) brokerage practices in migration.

I would like to add here two main developments actively supported by the Tokyo Social Center. One is the establishment of the Adachi International Academy (AIA) in 2007 for basic education in the Japanese language and culture for migrant workers and their children living in the outskirts of Tokyo. Three years later, in 2010, our Social Center opened a Migrant Desk, in cooperation with lawyers, to deal with legal issues migrant workers face in their daily lives. Besides that, our Center, convinced of the importance of the migration issue, is always open to cooperation with other groups promoting networking all through the Asian region.

A Case Study: Domestic Workers in Asia Pacific

[Edited by Ando Isamu, SJ, from “A Brief Overview of Domestic Workers in Asia Pacific” (2013) by Benny Hari Juliawan, SJ]
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 178 / August 15th, 2014

A case study_Domestic Workers in Asia PacificAsia and the Pacific is home to around 21.5 million domestic workers (ILO, 2013), which makes up about 41 percent of all domestic workers in the world today. Nevertheless, the data on the two most populous countries in the region, India and China, seem particularly unreliable.

One thing that stands out about the figures above is the growth of domestic workers from 13.8 million in 1995 to the current figure of 21.5 million, making the region the largest employer of domestic workers. This increase tells a story of a region that is economically and socially very dynamic. For the purpose of this conference, this paper focuses on the Asia Pacific picture. In fact, by 2030 Asia Pacific’s middle class is estimated to be almost five times larger than Europe’s and ten times larger than North America’s (PwC, 2012).

The spending power of this class fuels the demand for domestic helpers. Many families now can afford to employ maids, nannies, nurses, drivers and gardeners. These jobs, however, are shunned by locals in the developed part of Asia and deemed dirty, difficult, and dangerous or “three Ds”. In place of them, domestic helpers come from the poverty pool in Asia, which consists of around 1.8 billion people (54 per cent of total population) living with under USD 2 per day (UN Habitat, 2010). In rich countries domestic helpers come from their less developed neighbours. Taiwan employed 200,000 foreign domestic workers in 2012, Hong Kong 300,000 for the same year, South Korea 163,000 (2008), Singapore 160,000 (2013), and Malaysia 300,000 (2006). Most of these workers come from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. In Japan foreign domestic workers are allowed only for foreign families, not for Japanese families.

The Asia Pacific region is undergoing rapid urbanisation, with the proportion of Asia’s population rising from 31.5 per cent in 1990 to 42.2 per cent in 2010 (UN Habitat, 2010). In such urban settings, domestic helpers come from migrating rural population, who cannot find jobs in the formal economy, and instead become part of city’s reserved army of labour. Together they make up 505.5 million inhabitants of urban slums in Asia at the moment.

In short, domestic work in Asia and the Pacific is heavily characterised by migration both across country boundaries and across rural-urban divide. These workers primarily supplement shortages of labour in rich countries and fill in the increasing demand for domestic helpers in urban areas.

As the explanation at the beginning of this paper states, domestic work is often not registered in official statistics. This fact reflects the vulnerability of this type of work especially in terms of legal recognition and protection. In rich countries, migrant domestic workers with low skills are seen as supplementary labour and subject to what is called “temporariness” regime. What it means is that the presence of migrant workers in general is assumed to be temporary and they are not elligible for rights and provisions which otherwise would be available for citizens or permanent residents.

South Korea does not even recognise domestic work as employment, and therefore foreign domestic workers are exempt from provisions sanctioned by the law. In fact, 61 per cent of all domestic workers in Asia and the Pacific are not covered by the country’s standard labour laws (ILO 2013). Hong Kong is an exception in this regard because it recognises all workers equally and allow them to enjoy full statutory labour rights and benefits as local workers. Migrant domestic workers have to leave the country within two weeks after their contracts expire if they cannot find new employers. Indeed, temporariness regime is manifested in short or fixed term contracts and exclusion from labour laws.

Temporariness also plays into the hand of agents or middlemen both in sending and receiving countries. Many reports have pointed out the exploitation of migrant workers in the hands of unscrupulous agents and people smugglers. The root cause of this inhumane activity can be found in the complexity of hiring processes. Recruiting and placing workers across state boundaries require a certain degree of knowledge and experience in dealing with paper works and state bureaucracies, two qualities that are often lacking in prospective migrants. Short-term contracts imply constant search for new job orders which again is often beyond the scope of domestic helpers with long working hours. It is therefore almost inevitable that they have to rely on agents; in addition, most sending states, although they actively encourage migrant workers to go abroad, have withdrawn from this role and leave it to agents.

In the less developed countries of Asia, the supply of domestic workers have long relied on extended family networks or other means outside the formal employment scheme.

Workers Agency and Civil Society
But does the picture of helpless victims represent the only story of domestic workers in Asia Pacific? Surely not. Foreign or migrant domestic workers in prosperous Asian countries have not all been quiet and submissive. They have started to organise and form unions wherever possible.

The most successful example takes place in Hong Kong, for example, the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union (IMWU), the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers (ATKI), Unifil (United Filipinos in Hong Kong) command committed members, and are politically active (Constable, 2009). They form alliances with local unions and NGOs in campaigning for better payment, working conditions, and other social justice issues such as globalisation.

Another side to this story is the social and spatial mobility that many female domestic workers experience. Domestic work has long been part of familial duty, and women shoulder most of the burden of this duty. Growing prosperity means that household labour in one’s own home now turns into paid domestic work in someone else’s home. Women sell their domestic labour in the market whether it is at home in urban areas or abroad. “Housewives in home countries become breadwinners by doing domestic work overseas”

In several countries, the response of the church to domestic workers issues is quite well recognised with good standing, notably in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Religious congregations in the region have also paid attention to the plight of domestic workers although under the slightly broader theme of anti-human trafficking.)

Jesuit Network for Migrant Workers in East Asia and the Pacific

Ando Isamu SJ (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)

A group of representatives, Jesuits and their collaborators working for migrant workers, from 6 countries and regions of East Asia and the Pacific (JCAP Assistancy) met in Jakarta (Indonesia) during the first week of June. Fr. Benny Juliawan, SJ, the appointed coordinator for migration in the JCAP region, convoked the meeting. The aim was to expand this group to include new jesuit institutions as they come along in the future. Vietnam and Malaysia in particular were considered.

A 3-year (2015-2017) action plan was decided. The plan focuses on migrant workers and undocumented migrants. JRS activities, which include victims of trafficking, are also to be addressed. One major common concern is the need to pay attention to the present brokerage system badly affecting most migrant workers in our JCAP region.

Since the JCAP Assistancy includes sending and receiving countries of hundreds of thousands migrants yearly on the move, the participants agreed to a close collaboration of vital information for migrants from receiving countries to the sending ones and viceversa.

pic06[1]The new Jesuit network of collaborators decided on research grants to be assigned to each country represented for the next 3 years. The topics will be a) welfare of migrants’ children (2015) b) repatriation and reintegration of migrants (2016) c) brokerage (2017).

More detailed information on the subject will be provided in the next issue of the Bulletin.

Japan charted again a plane to deport 46 Thai people to Thailand

For the second time in a year Japan has chartered a plane for a deportation of 46 Thai migrant workers to Thailand who were detained in immigration jails because of their “illegal” stay in Japan. The same way as several months back when a different group of 75 Filipinos were also deported by a chartered plane, there is fear that several boarded the plane handcuffed and were forcefully separated from other family members. Were Humanistic considerations taken into account? Does immigration care at all about that? On the other hand, since the political situation and anti-government demonstrations in Thailand were quite strong at the time, one wonders what kind of official attention could the returnees receive.

It is also interesting to notice that the group deportation took place on the 8th December last year, in the middle of the “Human Rights Week” sponsored nationwide by the Ministry of Justice to promote the importance of the World Human Rights UN Declaration that also stresses the respect of the human rights of foreign people.

Is there no solution to regulate the legal status of “irregular” migrant workers in Japan before reaching the deportation as a last step? They are not criminals and Japan needs such workers, especially those that like Japan and the Japanese people and had come here in the middle of many serious risks to work in Japan. If the Prime Minister declares publicly that the country needs to accept about 200 thousand foreign workers a year, is not more economical to regulate the status of “irregular” foreign workers already living here? It will give certainly a much better Japanese “international image”. According to the Japan Times – 46 Thais deported aboard one plane – that mass deportation cost about 24 million yen (Dec.9, 2013).

On the other hand Japan is a signatory member of the International Convention for Refugees, something to be praised, although the official acceptance of refugees is significantly very low. Last year 3,260 people applied for refugee status and only 6 got it. Turks are on top of the applicants’ list (658), followed by Nepalese (544) and Burmese (380).

On one hand Japan is one of the engines of Globalization elsewhere for business reasons, has introduced English not only at University and College levels, but also in public Primary Schools, but official attitudes and the hearts of many citizens remain within closed doors to the acceptance of foreign migrant workers and refugees.

(Edited by Fr. Ando Isamu S.J.)


Abu-Bakr Awudu Suraj was a man from Ghana who spent 20 months in an Immigration detention center (The 700-inmate Higashi-Nihon Immigration Center in Ibaraki Prefecture), before being manhandled onto a jetliner at Narita airport for deportation back to Ghana in March 2010.

He died in handcuffs on the plane. Immigration authorities allegedly used “excessive force” to restrain him.

Authorities have a right to hold foreigners, like Suraj, who violate immigration law. And what happens to them once they are locked up is for many a mystery. It became a legal litigation.

 And again on March 28, 2014 an Iranian prisoner at the same Ushiku immigration jail (Ibaraki Province) died after meal. Just two days later, on March 30, another prisoner from Cameroon passed away.

 Due to the fact that the circumstances of their death are difficult to assess, Tokyo Bar Association has launched an investigation on these strange cases. Lawyers’ representative, Takanaka Masahiko made a public statement on 23 April criticizing the handling of sick prisoners at immigration jails in Japan.

 According to the information given by immigration authorities the Iranian inmate being unable to breathe after the meal lost consciousness and was transported to the hospital where he died the next day. Two days later, the prisoner from Cameroon complained about suffering from illness. The medical doctor did not diagnosed a serious critical illness, but after sending him back to the jail cell they found him there unconscious and died in the way to the hospital.

Every year an inspection committee of immigration centers’ facilities had repeatedly reported on the lack of enough medical assistance to prisoners in immigration jails and the UN Committee for the abolition of torture has already shown concern about the medical facilities at the Ushiku center where both inmates passed away.

In spite of the remarks provided by different groups from inside and outside Japan, it is regrettable that the medical assistance was not improved and the death of 2 inmates in such a short time of only 2 days could not be prevented by proper medical assistance. There is no doubt that the responsibility of the immigration center and the officials of the Ministry of Justice are to be investigated.

The authorities of the center have the duty of looking after the health of the inmates and reasons must be provided for not accomplishing that duty. On the other hand, the Justice Ministry should urgently give an honest explanation of the facts concerning the death of both inmates to their kinship.

As a matter of fact, there should be a thorough investigation to prevent similar tragedies in the future and to improve the medical services in immigration jails by the already established inspection committee of immigration centers’ facilities or, preferably, by a new third party organization. Immigration authorities should disclose all pertinent data materials to the investigators.

The restriction of the freedom of the inmates and the limitation of their physical conditions should follow the regulations of international law. The above cases question immigration Japanese policies.

(Translated and edited, by Fr. Ando Isamu S.J., taken from the Japanese statement of Tokyo’s Bar Association) (2014/05/02)

My experience of culture shock in Australia

Kogure Yasuhisa, SJ
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 175 / February 25th, 2014

It has been 10 months since I arrived at Melbourne (Australia) for study of Ignatian spirituality after ordination and finishing theology at Sophia University. During my formation time I had some experience of other cultures, e.g. other Asian countries, such as India, Korea, Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia, and in addition to these, some countries in Europe and Latin America. All of these had brought some insights and expansions to my horizon, but I have experienced a specific culture shock here, in Australia, in terms of the following aspects.

First of all, the most impressive thing I have experienced here is about the Australians work ethic. It is also connected to how to take a rest. For example, it is now the holiday season in Australia and most Australians take a holiday, at least for three weeks or more from before Christmas to the end of January. For Australians it is important to spend these weeks with family and friends. The holiday, for Australians, has definitely important meaning and special value; “holiday” is a first priority. It seems that the word of “holiday” is sacred like a small pillbox of “Mito-komon”.

Taking a holiday is completely different from the Japanese workers’ situation. For Australians the culture of holiday demonstrates their work ethic. I have often heard the expression “quality of life”. Although we, Japanese, can also use this same expression, but while for us it remains and ideal, it works differently because of our severe working conditions; such as working long hours in “a black company”. But here, in Australia, this value of “quality of life” really has penetrated not only the individual idea and style but also the social systems as a common value. They always show a concern for the appropriate balance between work and rest. “Working too hard” is not an admirable thing among them because it means making a sacrifice of more important things, like spending time with family. I have been really moved to see how many dads play with their children in every small park on the weekend.

Furthermore, there are also other things that show the Australian work ethic. For instance, I was absolutely shocked to discover that the minimum wage in Australia is $16 (¥1600) per hour. I found it difficult to believe at first, given that in Japan the minimum wage is currently ¥750 per hour, roughly half of what it is in Australia, and still there are arguments for its further reduction in Japan.

Actually, I understand that the labor conditions in Australia are relatively better than in other developed countries such as Japan, USA, and UK etc.., although there may be some exceptions to this, most notably in the food‐service industry . Therefore many international students, including some of my friends, come here every year because of these better labor conditions. Some people with professional skills and jobs in their own country, for example nurses, try to get the same job here because of the differences in labor conditions. They know that the quality of life might consist not only of more money but also the balance between work and rest. This shows that the work ethic is an accepted value in Australian society.

Although each country displays different and quite specific conditions, and that it is not appropriate to compare them at face level, nevertheless the value of “quality of life” might make people happy, in every country.

The social office of Vietnam Jesuit Province

Alberto Hurtado Center for Social and Pastoral Services
[Michael Tam, SJ (Director of AHC, Vietnam) ]

Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 174 / December 20th, 2013

How can we start the story of social apostolate of the Vietnamese Jesuits? I would like to begin with a Spanish Jesuit, Fr. Fernando Larranaga, SJ (1917 – 2013) from the year 1975.

On April 30, 1975, one tank of the Vietnamese communist troops hit and crashed a heavy gate of the palace of the president of South Vietnam. That was the end of the Vietnam War that lasted more than 30 years. North and South of Vietnam unified into one country. Since then, the whole Vietnam country has been living under the new communist regime.

What happened in Vietnam is similar to that what had happened in the former Soviet Union and in China when the communist parties held the reins of government there. Many people in the South were sent to jails and to remote areas to forced labor. They were officers of the former government as well as military officers. Many among them were Catholic priests. The new communist regime saw that they needed to be re-educated by hard labor.

The new regime has also been suspecting any charity work implemented by the Church and NGOs and they did not want the latter to participate into social charity.

In the post-Vietnam War times, Vietnam became poorer and poorer. It had to pay for what they had received in the past from its communist allies. At that time, one Vietnamese bishop asked Fr. Larranaga to support Vietnam. As a result, in 1984, Fr. Larranaga founded an office called “Aid to Vietnam” (ATV) in Hong Kong and became its first director. In 1994, he transferred his office to Manila and renamed it “Vietnam Service Office” (VS) under the umbrella of JCEAO (Jesuit Conference in East Asia and Oceania). Its old name was JCAP, (Jesuit Conference in Asia and the Pacific), at the Sonolux building in the compound of the Ateneo de Manila University. The goal of VS is to help Vietnam by supporting projects in 3 main fields: evangelization, education, and social development as well as to become a bridge between the isolated Vietnam Region and Jesuit Fr. General. Fr. Larranaga could continue doing social activities through his networking with many local parish priests and Catholic sisters in Vietnam.

The work of VS was continued by another Spanish Jesuit, Fr. Felipe Gómez, (1996 – 2008). The silent and long term work of Frs. Larranaga and Gomez were very effective. Many projects were implemented all over Vietnam. Many poor people were supported by them and their lives were changed. In 2007, VS was transferred to Vietnam with a new name “Alberto Hurtado Center for Social and Pastoral Service” (AHC). Michael Tam, a Vietnamese Jesuit, is at present the successor of Fr. Gomez.

Different from many other people in South Vietnam, the late archbishop of Ho Chi Minh Archdiocese, Msgr. Paul Nguyen Van Binh, looked at the events of April 1975 as a phenomenon that purified the Vietnam Church from her former richness of many schools, hospitals and many social institutes. When the Church in South of Vietnam lost practically all her property, the Vietnam Church became more spiritual and relied on God much more than on anything and anyone else. Moreover, once South Vietnam was liberated by the communists (as they are always claiming), Vietnamese Catholics have found opportunities of dialogue with communists and their atheism. In special ways, the social charity works of the Vietnam Church continued to do effectively.

After 1980, the young Jesuit Vietnam Region started to experience the “agony” of Christ: all foreign Jesuits were expelled out of Vietnam, most young Jesuit priests were put in jails, all Jesuit houses were confiscated, and the young scholastics lost their formation houses and trainer educators. Vietnam Jesuit region became underground until 2005 and, finally in 2007, it was considered to be the youngest Province of the Jesuit Society. Nowadays, God grants our Vietnam Province many vocations. At present, the number of Vietnamese Jesuit is 197 and about four fifths of them are in their formation period.

Even after the transferring of VS from Manila to Saigon in 2007, the actual AHC has now, more or less, the same social activities as those during Fr. Gomez’s time. Due to the fact of having so many young Jesuits, the priority of the Jesuit Vietnam Province is formation. Nevertheless, the number of Jesuits working in AHC is usually only two: a priest and one regent. In such a situation of lacking human power, AHC has, realistically, to accept becoming a bridge between donors and Vietnamese priests and sisters who are implementing social development projects. Working together with others in many projects of social development is one advantage for AHC now.

One new activity that AHC has started is the organization of workshop seminars on social work, social development and awareness of social justice. AHC cooperates with the network of Caritas Vietnam and other religious and priests. Such cooperation is not only because of the lack of human power but, it is also an answer to the directives of recent Jesuit General Congregations, like “Cooperation with the laity” of GC 34 and “Collaboration at the heart of mission” of GC 35.

The former works of Frs. Larranaga and Gomez should be continued in Vietnam. The story about the social apostolate of the Jesuit Vietnam Province needs to be told by other Vietnamese Jesuits also. AHC has to be patient until there are more young Vietnamese Jesuits that finish their basic formation. On the other hand, cooperation with other Jesuits of other Provinces and other people is “ipso factum” (a matter of fact reality) to AHC.

Please, do not hesitate to contact me any time. Thank you for your interest in the work of AHC. Email:

Bicycle Thieves and the Japanese Police

Although Metropolitan Tokyo is a very modern City with the best transportation I have ever seen, people enjoy travelling by bicycle to go shopping or to commute for work or for schools to nearby train and subway stations. People leave their bicycles in parking lots by the stations to pick them up upon returning back home. Seemingly many bicycles are stolen and one main duty of the Japanese police is to check on the riders and find out whether they have the proper documentation to prove that the bicycles are registered under their names. Foreigners, to be exact young Asians, are one of the main targets of the police investigation.

Let me tell you a shocking true story. Last December 7, the local police in Tokyo arrested a young Vietnamese Jesuit student and humiliated badly him for 4 hours and all without reason. What provoked the arrest was that a Vietnamese friend was riding on his back, but, in fact, the reason for the arrest was that he did not know under whose name the old bicycle was registered. He had just arrived to Japan for the first time and was studying Japanese. He was living in the same Jesuit religious house where I live with another 15 young Jesuits.

When NGUYEN (anonymous) was taken away by 2 policemen to the nearby police box they asked for his identity. They took his “residence card” and made a copy of it. His address, name and visa status, etc. were included there. A few policemen surrounded him, but nobody knew the Vietnamese language and there was no way to communicate in English either. Of course, he did not understand Japanese either. After an agonizing hour, they asked him to lead them to his residence, the Jesuit Theologate, but NGUYEN was new to the place and all he knew was a bicycle road. Four policemen took him by a patrol car that has certainly a navigation system but, on purpose, they did not use it. The result was that it took them about one hour and a half when they could have reached the place in less than 15 minutes.

The Jesuit Theologate is big (can accommodate 23 persons) and although it has just been built, the Jesuits have been on that property for over 40 years. Two patrol cars arrived there with 6 police surrounding the “suspect” NGUYEN. Then, they started taking photos of the placard outside the front door asking the young Jesuit to point at it to have a photo taken. Again without a warrant the 6 policemen came into the building and when the Jesuit minister of the house was informed, he told them to go to the visitors’ room to hear what had happened. Four policemen followed him and the two others asked NGUYEN to lead them to his room. They continued taking photos and giving him orders to point at doors and especially at the door of his room with his name written at the entrance. In the meantime the other 4 policemen that gathered with the Jesuit minister downstairs were able to ascertain the name of the Jesuit that registered the bicycle years ago. Finally they gave back the bicycle confiscated at 2 o’clock and asked to sign a document affirming that the bicycle was given back and another paper saying that the Jesuit minister was the custodian of NGUYEN.
What a stupidity and nonsense!! It was already 6:00PM when they left without any apology.

This and similar cases I have experienced reminded me of a famous film I watched when I was a little boy. Its images are still vivid to me. The title of the film was “Bicycle Thief”. That was an Italian film (Ladri di Biciclette”) of a famous director, Vittorio de Sica, who presents the postwar situation of Italy (1948).

The actor of the movie, Ricci, an unemployed that has finally found a job, has to prove that he owns a bicycle and is able to use it to go to work. Although Ricci is poor he gets a bicycle and starts working sticking posters on walls in the streets. The very first day in his job, somebody steals his bicycle and Ricci loses his job and income. He makes a claim to the police, but without result. Nobody helps him to get his bicycle back.
In 1970, the film was considered one of the 10 best in film history.

[By Ando Isamu, SJ from Tokyo Jesuit Social Center, Migrant Desk]

TALK on the Recent changes and trends in Japan immigration

TALK on the Recent changes and trends in immigration – what changed and what did not change with the new Japanese law for foreigners.

Date:    October 27th 2013 (Sunday)

Place:   Franciscan Chapel Center, 4-2-37 Roppongi, Minato-ku

Participation:   Free

Speaker:  Attorney YUICHI KAWAMOTO from the Tokyo Public Law Office Office

Schedule:  1:15 pm to 2:15 pm – TALK, 2:15 pm to 2:45 pm – Questions & Answers

 Organized by:  Franciscan Chapel Center, Tokyo Public Law Office &  Jesuit Social Center, Migrant Desk

Map & Access:

Hate Speech is Unacceptable it is Illegal

Last May 2013, I posted an article in this blog related to increasing strange public activities of rightist Japanese groups that were clearly racist and were addressed against Koreans in Japan. Those explicit insults were used in Tokyo as well as in Kyoto.

On October 7, the Kyoto District Court finally banned anti-Korean activists from staging further rallies where they used hate speech, and ordered them to pay damages occasioned near Kyoto Chosen Daiichi Elementary School. The actions of Zaitokukai members and other activists included hate-speech slogans near the school and posted video footage of the demonstrations on-line.

The operator of the school had filed the lawsuit against the activists in June 2010, but the decision of the District Court took more than 3 years to be given. In the meantime such public rallies have escalated this year in Tokyo and other cities with major Korean communities. Hundreds of group members and supporters had publicly insulted and threatened Koreans under the disguise of freedom of expression.

The District Court ordered the activists to pay 12million Yen for the damages done to the School and the psychological pain the little children had to suffer.

The hate speech used by the Zaitokukai members and other activists were determined by the Court to constitute racial discrimination as it is defined by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, already ratified by Japan.

[More details in the Asahi Newspaper (2013/10/08) and The Japan Times (October 8, 2013) The Jesuit Social and Pastoral Bulletin n.173, Oct.15, 2013 has a special article on this subject]

[Edited by Ando Isamu, SJ from Tokyo Jesuit Social Center]

WORK for migrants and refugees

In the September 2013 issue of the Forced Migration Review of the Refugee Studies Centre of the University of Oxford there is a detailed global study on “Detention, alternatives to detention, and deportation”, worthy to be studied carefully. Page 92 deals with the “refugees’ right to work”. The following sentence caught my eyes: “Host economies benefit when refugees work. Nations seeking economic growth and political stability should allow refugees to access employment and to enjoy employment-related rights”.

Our Tokyo social center has a long experience in dealing with refugees’ issues and migrant workers, especially in Japan. We run free legal consultations together with lawyers. One of the most common issues we are confronted with is job seeking, employment. When a foreigner applies for refugee status here usually immigration provides him/her with a one-month visa and when a foreign worker without proper documentation surrounds to immigration receives a one-month “provisional release” document. In both cases there is always a condition attached to it: “It is illegal to work” or you cannot work. But, how can a person survive without work in such highly expensive society? Homeless people here going to soup kitchens will tell you “I’ll not be coming here if I had work”.

To offer an example: Mr. VV is a young Vietnamese living in Japan for more than 10 years. He applied for refugee status over 3 years ago and is married to a lady who holds a 3year long term visa. Mr. VV holds only, since 3 years ago, a one-month “provisional release” document he must renew every month going to immigration. He is not allowed to work since then.

Moreover, according to the new immigration law, that came into implementation about a year ago, all employers in Japan are obliged, under financial penalty to report to immigration on all foreigners employed by them with their personal data, like names, residence, legal status, etc.

Last Sunday, Pope Francisco visited the Italian island of Sardinia where many people are without work, unemployed. He listened to them and called on them to have courage while expressing his solidarity with them in their struggle to work.

Then he expressed it bluntly WHERE THERE IS NO WORK, THERE IS NO DIGNITY “This is not a problem solely in Sardinia… or only of Italy, it is the consequence of a worldwide choice, an economic system that leads to this tragedy, an economic system that has at its center the idol of money.” Men and women and not money should be at the center of the world. (For more details see Vatican ZENIT’s webpage)

[Edited by Ando Isamu, SJ from Tokyo Jesuit Social Center]

WORLD PASSPORT / Hope for the Stateless?

A few days ago the telephone of the Jesuit social center rung and I took the phone. The person in the other side of the telephone line was a young man to whom we had provided 2 years ago legal assistance through one of the lawyers we work with. His voice was cheerful, “I have received a World Passport” he said. “What do you mean by that?” I answered.

The young fellow seemed a little excited and I arranged a meeting with him. Yesterday he brought his brand new “World Passport” with several documents to our center migrants’ section. It was the first time I had such a passport in my hands. There is no much difference with other normal passports, except that the issuing authority is not a country (official) but the World Service Authority (WSA) based in Washington DC, where it is legally registered.

The young fellow applied several times for refugee status in Japan but his application has been rejected and he was put in immigration jail for a year. He was finally released from jail and since November 2006 is living in Japan with a “provisional release permit” for 7 years (!!). In other words, he needs to renew the permit each month in Shinagawa (Tokyo). In fact, a year ago married a lady with a long term visa in Japan but that did not change his status. What to do next?

A Passport used mainly by Refugees and Stateless Persons
WSA is a global human rights authority without official connections with any national government and the passports it issues are seldom recognized by most governments. Nevertheless it claims that has issued more than 10,000 gratis World Passports to refugees of camps around the world and that through the acquisition of them refugees are permitted to seek asylum elsewhere. In fact, the reality is that many countries do not accept them.

In issuing the World Passports WSA stresses that their fundamental basis rests on the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations (10 December 1948). Article 13 states: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country”. On the other hand, since the passport is the personal property of the person to whom it is issued cannot be taken away by officials. The right to personal property is sanctioned by Article 17 of the UN Declaration.

WSA claims to have issued hundreds of thousands of World Passports to refugees and no matter the problems faced to obtain visas many have been saved by them and could find freedom. Individuals held in arrest due to lack of valid (or any) identity papers were sometimes released after receiving World Passports. A later world known case is Edward Snowden, CIA whistle blower who leaked details of several top-secret U.S. and British government mass surveillance programs to the press. He was issued a World Passport by the WSA while being stuck in the Moscow International Airport. And Julian Assange, founder of Wiki Leaks, was sent an honorary World Passport by Garry Davis (WSA World Coordinator) while in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012.

(August 19th, 2013, by Ando Isamu, Migrant desk, Jesuit Social Center)
Further information can be obtained via internet at


Katayanagi Hirofumi SJ,
Jesuit Pastoral Apostolate Collaboration Team member

Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 172 / August 15th, 2013

“Volunteers are limited to those over 40 years-old.” This notice was publicly displayed for a long period of time. This used to be one of the main requirements in the recruitment of volunteers to work in Fukushima. In other words, because of the danger of radioactive contamination, young people were not accepted. But if we consider the fact that there are tens of thousands of people from babies to the elderly, living in Fukushima, it somehow doesn’t seem reasonable to place such a limitation on young volunteers.

It may have been this consideration that motivated the authorities to replace the old notice with the following: “There is no ground to assert that low amounts of radiation have significant effect on one’s health, nor can it be guarantied that it will have no effect whatsoever. In short, there are no absolute standards here that can be applied to everyone. Volunteers should act responsibly, using their own judgment. Please note that the NGO “International Cooperation Center” will supply each volunteer with a list of dos and don’ts that will help him or her do this.

Thus, one has to make a personal decision to accept the risk involved and enter contaminated Fukushima. Last May our Jesuit pastoral team (JPACT) decided to take that risk and led a group of volunteers made up of young people from Jesuit schools and parishes on a tour of Fukushima.We reasoned that many young people following the various media’s reports of the great earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear plant accidents, desired to draw nearer to the suffering of the victims of this great catastrophe. No matter the risk, they wanted to observe for themselves how babies, children, young people, parents, and the elderly, were living in the radioactive polluted areas of Fukushima, and learn how they felt. So the aim of this report is to pass on to the reader the observations of both the young people and the organizers of the tour.

Let’s begin with a poem by Ms. Yamamoto Kikuyo, a member of our JPACT staff:

Forests of new green, flowers like cherry blossoms, chirping birds, hazy skies
The normal landscape of a peaceful spring

Except that there is no one to be seen in the rice fields
A closer look reveals that many cars lie on the soil, deposited there by the tsunami
Even some fishing boats remain there, where they were washed up on that fatal day

In a school six kilometers from nuclear plant 1 children once shouted and laughed
But the ceiling of the school collapsed and fell down to the next floor
The school’s only occupant now is the strong wind blowing in from the sea
Where are the radioactive particles riding on the wind going to land?

Along the road leading to the nuclear plants
A large number of policemen stand on guard
Who are they watching out for?
Who are they afraid of?

I had thought that ghost towns were only to be found on a vast continent
Railroad stations abandoned, stores no longer doing business
Signboards at the stations asking
“Where is the town where people can live peacefully?”

In what direction is this country moving?
Is there anything I can do?
My heart full of impatience and anxiety I left Fukushima

Our group of volunteers proceeded to the Caritas Japan base in the town of Hara, where we were put to work cleaning up homes, and trimming and scrubbing trees near the socio-welfare center. Under the guidance of the Caritas staff we were able to look around a zone of the town of Namie about ten kilometers away from the nuclear plant.

According to the regulations for visiting this area, visitors were to be allowed to enter only during the noon hour. Going through the destroyed area, I think we all felt the sentiments Ms. Yamamoto expresses in her poem above. We all felt that it was as if time had stopped in Fukushima on March 11, 2011.

Now I would like to present some of the impressions reported by Kenta Sugino, a student of medicine and the youngest participant in our tour:

“The reason I decided to take part in this tour was the desire to observe for myself the actual situation in Fukushima. Last year I went to Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture for three weeks, and last March to Minami Sanriku and Kesennuma, but this is my first time to Fukushima.

Because of the high radiation level in Fukushima reconstruction is still impossible. The place remains exactly as it was when the tsunami hit it. The sight was so terrible that it overwhelmed me. Although reconstruction is taking place in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures, why, I asked myself, why does this region still remain in such a state? Now I was able to grasp the real Fukushima.

The number of volunteers coming here has recently decreased. I think that many people refrain from coming here because of their fear of radiation. But while just one X-ray picture contains 6.9mSv of radioactive particles, at Iidate village, which is thought to emit a high amount of radioactive particles, the figure is 0.55uSv/h or 2uSv per day. Thus, the radiation intake of one day of volunteer work is 1/600 of one X-ray picture radiation exposure. Opinions among scholars with regard to bodily damage from radiation differ, so that it is hard to understand the matter.

From another point of view, there are many former inhabitants of Fukushima who now have to do with cramped temporary shelters. Having observed their suffering I wish I could be of some little help. I pray that many people all over Japan share this enthusiasm and join together to help. I believe that one of the tasks of volunteers is to help to build up hope and a will to live in those who are suffering from the death of their loved ones. There are many kinds of volunteers. Working as an individual, very little can be done. Even working in small groups action is slow. But if hundreds and thousands of volunteers were to work together over a long span of time, Fukushima would surely come to show signs of reconstruction.

Many people visit Fukushima without knowing the real facts, as I did. I think that young people like me are needed there, and so I hope that many will come to know the real situation in Fukushima and desire to offer themselves with good will and zeal as volunteers in the reconstruction of Fukushima. I think that even tourist and/or shopping tours to Fukushima can be of help. I’ll be happy if my reflections provoke those who read this to think of Fukushima a little.

The reflections of young Kenta Sugino reveal his deep dedication to his medical profession. It gave me great joy to hear such profound observations from our youngest participant.The observations that follow are those of Mr. Yoshimura, a primary school teacher and a parishioner of Rokko Catholic Church in Kobe.

“One day I suddenly realized that I had totally forgotten Fukushima. Of course I knew something about it from news broadcasts. But I must confess that I had little interest in the lives of the people living there, and was indifferent to their opinions. The town I live in remains as calm as it was before the earthquake, and my life style remains the same as without change. It was as if I had completely forgotten about the disaster in Fukushima.

Then one day—I don’t know why– Fukushima came back to mind. I realized that the situation of Fukushima is different from that of other places in the Tohoku region. I asked myself, “How do the people make a living?” They can’t do so just by clearing away the debris from the earthquake and the tsunami. The invisible radiating dust still remains. Fewer volunteers are going there to work, and there are all kinds of rumors about the damage to health caused by the radiation. But what could I do?

One thing I could do I realized was to tell others about the situation. I am now the home-room teacher of the sixth grade of Nigawa Primary School, and after golden week I told the children about my change of thought with regard to Fukushima and also wrote about it in the school paper.

I also had the opportunity to talk to the children’s parents, after which one of them came to me and said, “I also realize that I have forgotten Fukushima. I want to give some help.” Another parent took the trouble to call me by phone and said, “I’ve decided to visit Fukushima with my husband. There’s nothing much I can do, but I thought that doing some shopping there will somehow be a way to help the people there.” I was very happy to hear that”

I was impressed by the positive attitude of Mr. Yoshimura, who had tried to work in solidarity with the residents of Fukushima by sharing his experiences and observations with others. Next I would like to present the impressions of Nobuhito Kubo, a young leader of educational activities for children at Rokko Church.

“Before starting our volunteer activities, the president of the social welfare organization greeted us warmly, saying, ”This area has long been famous for its culture, but all that changed from the day of the disaster. Thanks to you volunteers, little by little progress is being made. I want to see this town revitalized again. All of you are here to save this Kodaka region.” The work started from the houses that had asked for help, and we cleaned them and their gardens as well. The first day we worked only in the morning, and when we had finished there, we went to the town of Namie and the ocean shore the Fukushima nuclear plant. Since the zone was officially “off limits,” we had to go through an imposing array of police guards. When we entered a primary school near the Fukushima nuclear plant, on the blackboard of a classroom that had been totally destroyed we saw a message left by children who had graduated from this school. The message read, “Surely rising again.” This made me feel strongly that everybody—the graduates of this primary school, the residents of the village who had had to evacuate it after the disaster, but were now ready to return home again, as well as the staff of the social welfare organization who were taking care of us all had a great love for the town.”

Looking at the writing on the blackboard, I could not help saying a prayer for the children.

When one gets involved with the issues regarding Fukushima, one is compelled to take a stand and choose one out of several possible options.

Option 1: Fukushima is a radioactive contaminated place, unfit for human life. If one takes this view, true assistance to Fukushima consists of promoting the evacuation of the residents and demanding government help to implement this. For Fukushima then, reconstruction will take place more than 100 years from now.

Option 2: The radioactive contamination resulting from the nuclear plant accident is not of a level to significantly affect the health of the residents. If one takes this option, then the inhabitants must be encouraged to return home and the reconstruction of the region positively promoted,

Option 3: It’s difficult to assess the effects of the radiation, but, since people are in fact living in Fukushima, another option is to join them. Visit them, keep in contact with them, accompany them in their joys and sorrows…and together with them grope for a solution.

I myself am now considering which option I should choose. What about you, who are reading this article? If this article is of any help to you in deciding, I shall be very happy.


The first week of July has witnessed 2 contrasting important news. The first one shows how the Japanese government deals with foreign immigrant workers that have remained “illegal” in the country and were sent to immigration jails. Mass media has just reported that a few days ago the Japanese government chartered a special plane to deport 70 Filipinos overstayers kept in immigration jails to the Philippines.

This is the result of a well-planned policy backed by an official budget of 30 Million Yen allocated this year to deport a certain number of “illegal” immigrants. The official claim is that there were 62,000 foreign workers living illegally in Japan as of January and the government is decided to look for them and expel them from the country, no matter the way to do it. And as far as I know there has been no major public reaction against such move.

In contrast to this, in the other side of the world the newly appointed Head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francisco, made an official visit to the Italian island of Ampelusa to meet with thousands of immigrants from Africa, many of whom died at sea, in boats which were vehicles of hope and became vehicles of death. In the public mass in Ampelusa he made clear the position of the Catholic Church with regard to immigrants.

“I want to say a word of heartfelt gratitude and encouragement to you, the people of Lampedusa and Linosa, and to the various associations, volunteers and security personnel who continue to attend to the needs of people journeying towards a better future.

How many of us, myself included, have lost our bearings; we are no longer attentive to the world in which we live; we don’t care; we don’t protect what God created for everyone, and we end up unable even to care for one another! And when humanity as a whole loses its bearings, it results in tragedies like the one we have witnessed.

These brothers and sisters of ours were trying to escape difficult situations to find some serenity and peace; they were looking for a better place for themselves and their families, but instead they found death. How often do such people fail to find understanding, fail to find acceptance fail to find solidarity.

The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference. In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!

We are a society which has forgotten how to weep, how to experience compassion – “suffering with” others: the globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep!”

I strongly felt that we are two worlds apart! (by Ando Isamu,S.J.)

Challenging times for the Myanmar Mission

Mark Raper SJ, President, Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 171 / June 15th, 2013

Many may have thought the battle won when Aung San Suu Kyi was free to appear in public, when hundreds of political prisoners were released, when dissidents were free to return home from exile abroad, when censorship and sanctions were lifted, when elections were held, and as parliament sits to draft a new constitution. In reality the work of rebuilding Myanmar is just beginning.

After half a century of brutal mismanagement and appalling leadership, myriad resentments simmer. Decades of neglect in education, health care, social welfare, and infrastructure cannot be overcome in an instant. As the dictatorship eases control on its own citizens, people seize the opportunity to protest the injuries and injustices they have suffered. As self-expression becomes more common, powerful ethnic, religious and cultural frameworks are evident, and fanaticism, racial disagreements, and old envies are rehearsed.

The treatment of the Rohingya, the response to the escalating attacks on Muslims in Myanmar, the capacity to achieve a peaceful settlement in the Kachin war, the ability to find harmony among many ethnic and racial groups, will test not only the new Myanmar regime of Thein Sein, but also its newfound friends, the many countries and companies now enjoying a honeymoon of new investment possibilities in the country. In this context, new social restraint, new skills of negotiation, new efforts for building community and for protecting the environment are sorely needed.

MyanmarThe Church in Myanmar is awakening to new opportunities and challenges. With few public services apart from seminaries and kindergartens, and a history of necessary isolation from authorities and other religions, the Church begins to learn to take its place in civil society. Now Church leaders have opportunities to develop friendships and trust, and to negotiate across many sectors of society.

The challenges for the Myanmar Jesuit Mission in this context are also great. It is possibly too early to build institutions, but not too early to invest in people and their formation. Recently the mission hosted a visit by a number of provincials for a consultation on how the universal Society might cooperate with and support the mission. They met with Church and civil society members who outlined developments, challenges and opportunities within Myanmar.

The consultation considered our services to the Church, outreach activities to Myanmar society, and internal issues such as formation and governance.

There are more than 30 Myanmar Jesuits in formation, many of them studying in the Philippines and Indonesia. Quite a number will come home this year for some years of practical immersion in service of their people. The challenging times ahead in Myanmar over the coming decades will require qualities of diverse skills, discernment, discipline and deep self-knowledge not just in them but in all who are committed to building community, capacity in the young and harmony in society.

As Easter breaks open with the new light and hope of dawn, please join in prayer and practical support for the fledgling Myanmar Mission in its service of a country now emerging from a long, dark night of isolation and oppression.

Thailand: Migrant workers face continued hardship

(Dana MacLean, JRS Asia Pacific Communications Officer)
[Edited by Ando Isamu, SJ, from Tokyo Jesuit Social Center]

Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 171 / June 15th, 2013

[Here is a recent Report on the situation of about a million and a half irregular migrant Burmese workers in Thailand. The author is the Migrant Outreach Officer for the Jesuit Refugee Service in Thailand.]

Society must develop a new attitude towards migrants and refugees
Bangkok, 7 March 2013 — Last month Thailand’s estimated two million irregular migrant workers were granted a four-month extension, until April 2013, to have their nationalities verified by their governments in order to register for Thai visas and work permits.

Although this is a welcome step for the time being, after the new deadline passes, irregular migrant workers will face the same risks of arrest and deportation as they do currently, according to Kohnwilai Teppunkoonngam, the Migrant Outreach Officer for JRS Thailand.

JRS believes that “Society must develop a new attitude towards migrants and refugees: those in need of protection and assistance must receive it,” as outlined in the JRS Hospitality Working Paper.

Programs in Mae Sot— where 70 percent of the population are Burmese forced migrants― include advocacy, labor rights trainings, and opportunities for livelihoods activities.

After April, undocumented migrant workers already in Thailand may be unable to register as the deadline is unlikely to be extended again.

Instead, the government plans to recruit new workers residing in Laos PDR, Cambodia and Myanmar, under bilateral agreements signed between 2002-2003, according to Teppunkoonngam.

The nuts and bolts of NV and registration
In the past, nationality verification (NV) — which provides migrants with a temporary passport allowing for greater freedom of movement and legal rights— has been a costly exercise. Migrants paid up to 15,000 baht, or US $500, to brokers, according to local Thai news sources, when their average daily wage is less than 300 baht or US $10.

In 2011, many migrants failed to register before the initial deadline due to poor public awareness or understanding of the process and the complicated, bureaucratic nature of the procedure, which made it lengthy and confusing, according to Andy Hall, a researcher at Mahidol University’s Migration Centre based in Nakhon Pathom province.

But two weeks ago, the Royal Thai government announced the opening of several one-stop service centers for NV scattered throughout Thailand, making NV more affordable and accessible until the April deadline.

The new registration costs will total up to 9,000 baht, the equivalent of US $290— a little more than half the previous cost, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Thailand.

“The one-stop centers may make nationality verification much easier for the migrants,” said Teppunkoonngam, who added that more permanent measures need to be put in place to allow ongoing registration.

“[While] being documented does not necessarily improve the conditions of work, it does decrease corruption and provides more opportunities to integrate,” said Jackie Pollock, the executive director of MAP Foundation, a Chiang Mai based advocacy NGO.

Migrant work undervalued
In the past two decades, Thailand has come under increasing scrutiny for policies that fail to protect irregular migrant workers from exploitation and abuse.

Despite migrant work contributing an estimated four percent to Thailand’s annual GDP, unaffordable registration costs and a lack of enforcement of labour protection standards continues to leave migrant workers vulnerable.

“Framing human beings as cheap migrant labour reduces their worth solely to economic development or worse, a source of profit,” said Fr Bambang SJ, JRS’ Asia Pacific’s Regional Director.

Roughly 300,000 are currently undergoing registration, but an estimated two million more migrants remain outside of the process, according to MAP Foundation.

“They still manage to find work in Thailand and stay,” said Pollock.

“In our accompaniment we would like to help the migrants to make their stories visible,” said Fr Bambang SJ. “It is a way of raising their concerns, and strengthening their voices,” he added.

Debt bondage increases trafficking risk
Since average wages are less than 300 baht, $10 per day, under the previous regularization processes, migrants stashing away half their daily earnings would still have to save for at least five months before being able to afford it.

This is one of many reasons why numerous irregular migrant workers failed to register in 2011.

“These are highly inflated costs that cause debt bondage,” said Hall.

Debt bondage— borrowing from relatives, friends, brokers, and even employers— increases vulnerability to illegal exploitation and trafficking, according to Teppunkoonngam.

“Although the one-stop centers improve access to NV in the short-term, closing this door permanently, instead of leaving both doors open, may not be a long term solution,” said Teppunkoonngam, who also recommends that Thailand sign on to the 1990 Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

Born as a Burmese in Japan

Tuan Sian Khai
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 171 / June 15th, 2013

My name is Tuan Sian Khai. My parents fled to Japan in 1991 to escape from the fear of persecution because of their anti-government activities. That was why I was born in Japan. I am now a student at Kansei Gakuin University’s School of Policy Studies, studying mainly public policies.

I was born on October 6, 1993, in Seibo Hospital in Shinjuku Ward. My parents did not have visa status at that time. My mother did not even possess an alien registration certificate. When my mother came to Japan, she was robbed of her passport by a broker. Six months later she was able to recover it, but the visa had been replaced by a different one from the one she got when she landed in Japan. When she became pregnant, she could not get a maternity record book from the ward office because she did not have an alien registration certificate. She was asked to register my birth in Shinjuku Ward because I had been born there. My father, who did not know the Japanese language, registered my birth at Shinjuku Ward and brought me up without being aware of any subsequent procedures.

My parents went to the Myanmar Embassy to acquire Myanmar citizenship for me because of their own Myanmar citizenship. They were asked to pay a large sum in taxes. But my parents were having a hard time making their living and refused to pay that amount of unjust taxes. So I was not granted Myanmar citizenship because my parents were involved in any anti-government activities at the time. I got preventive injections but had to pay a large sum of money in a private hospital because I did not have an alien registration certificate. I was unable to receive either free health examinations or free prevention injections in the ward.

When I became old enough to go to kindergarten, my parents could not arrange anything for me, but a close acquaintance of the Chin ethnic group acted as my sponsor so I was able to go to a kindergarten from 1998 to 2000 in Kamata (Ōta Ward). However, I had to take a train from Den’en-Chōfu where we live to the kindergarten near my guardian’s house. After finishing at the kindergarten, I entered a primary school in Shinjuku and got my alien registration certificate, which designated my nationality as “stateless.” In 2004 we applied for refugee status. The Immigration Bureau asked us to change my nationality from stateless to Myanmarese and we went to the ward office as told. Indeed, now “Myanmar” appears as my nationality, but I still have no legal document proving my nationality. That is why I am still a stateless person.

Burmese Tuan Sian KhaiI still do not possess citizenship. I am now a university student but I am very anxious about my future. I cannot answer about who I am. In addition, if my parents return to Myanmar after the situation in Myanmar changes, what should I do? I do not have Myanmar citizenship. Our family may be separated. And when I go abroad to study with a reentry permit and encounter some trouble, where can I seek protection? I do not have anything to prove my Myanmar citizenship at the Myanmar Embassy and my reentry permit does not prove my Japanese citizenship. I will not know what I should do. A refugee (as defined by the Geneva Convention) has a passport and can receive protection from the UN whenever they go anywhere, but I have only a special stay permit due to humanitarian considerations, so I have nothing to guarantee my safety.

I am most anxious about finding a job. Even if I try job hunting, I am not sure whether some company will employ me. My greatest desire is for you Japanese to set up a public organization or a consultation desk to support stateless persons.

I am now a representative of “Meals for Refugees,” providing meals to areas where refugees come from to university cafeterias. This project is to raise awareness among university students about the situation of refugees in Japan by introducing 45 menus in the book Flavors Without Borders published in February by NPO Japan Associations for Refugees. At present three universities in Tokyo and two in Kansai participate in this project and are working together for the World Day for Refugees on June 20.

Nowadays the word “refugee” is overused. For example, nanmin, the Japanese word for refugee, is used for kitaku nanmin (persons in northeast Japan stranded due to the great earthquake or failure of the nuclear power station), net café nanmin (those seeking refuge in internet cafés) or lasik nanmin (persons suffering from failure of LASIK surgery). I’m afraid that more and more young people will not know the real meaning of “refugee.” I strongly desire that people will understand the real meaning and avoid using the term wrongly.

I have a dream. It is to contribute to the construction of a railway system in Myanmar by introducing to my homeland the Japanese railway system, especially the shinkansen bullet train, which I have been fond of since childhood. I think it will take a long time to complete Myanmar’s democratization process, even though it has been hastening toward democratization ever since the transition from military to civilian control. There are ethnic conflicts and civil wars and it will take a lot of time and money to solve these issues. I wish these facts were better known in Japanese society. I would like the Japanese people to know that Myanmar is not yet a peaceful country.

I am now in the second year of the university and will come of age this year. As the second generation of refugees, I would like to contribute to the betterment of Japanese society so that the younger ones who come after us and the next generation of refugees will live with none of the inconveniences we experience.

People’s Contradictory Cries in Tokyo

Ando Isamu, SJ

Spring symbolizes life and hope in Japan where harmony is considered to be a traditional value. Nevertheless, I would like to mention two incidents going on these days in Tokyo that provoke concern in a near future.

On one hand, a group of people living in Japan on expired visas, supported by Japanese citizens, started to hold on May 20th, 2013 are holding off a 5-day sit-in in front of Tokyo’s Immigration headquarters. They protest the official policy to deport visa over-stayers on chartered planes. According to official reports over 3,030 visa violators have received deportation orders this year. The number of visa violators is in the vicinity of 62,000. Official records take only into account “numbers” and make plans to deport 350 people yearly. But behind the cold figures there are children, human people unable to work due to legal restrictions and the sick.

Through the activities of this Jesuit social center we often experience the fear and stress imposed on these people due to the hidden persecution of the actual legal barriers. The persons conducting the actual sit-in hope their voices will be heard at the top of immigration. But the fact is that, except English media, Japanese mass media shows deaf ears up to their cries.

On the other hand, the month of May is watching a series of angry incidents in a central region of Tokyo known by a concentration of Korean shops and Korean population. The place is Tokyo’s Shin-Okubo district. The protesters, incited by right-wingers are Japanese citizens that oppose the presence of Koreans and Chinese, not only in that district but also in the whole country. The use of bellicose rhetoric with discriminated words, like describing Korean residents as “cockroaches” and instigating to exterminate them has been going on for the last months. We can find that by surfing the Internet. Nationalist groups are behind such movements.

Freedom of speech naturally can foster that. Nevertheless, the delicate Japanese and Korean, Chinese historical relationships together with the fluid situation in North Korea and the controversial island borders with China and South Korea, all these add much concern for the near future. The current public hateful remarks do not foster any kind of mutual understanding and could develop towards an anti-foreigners move. Some think that the imposition of a law to ban people from inciting discrimination would solve the problem. The solution is not as simple. A change of attitudes towards reconciliation is a must. The Jesuit social center is eager to hear positive opinions for real action. We want suggestions.

Report from JRS Asia Pasific in Thailand

Patcharin Nawichai, JRS Mae Sot Project Director
Dana MacLean, JRS Asia Pacific Communications

Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 170 / April 15th, 2013

1. Let’s get rid of Landmines
April 4 is the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, when thousands of people in more than 70 countries remember the survivors and communities affected by landmines and call for an end to the curse of anti-personnel mines.

Thailand wants all landmines cleared by 2018 in accord with the deadlines set out in article five of the Mine Ban Treaty.

In 2001, Thailand had around 2,557 square km of mine-affected areas. After 10 years of de-mining by NGOs like the Thailand Mine Action Center (TMAC), around 528 square km of suspected and confirmed hazardous areas are now left to be cleared, according to the Level 1 Survey by Norwegian People’s Aid.

“Raising awareness and providing assistance for mine action and victims is very important. Thailand has made significant progress over the past 13 years. The survivors’ life quality has improved significantly, but some of my friends still cannot get easy access to specialized services. We sincerely hope that the effort will continue and that victims on the ground will be more greatly benefited by this. I don’t want to see any more new victims in Thailand in the future,” said the leader of the Pong Nam Ron Landmine Survivor Network in Chanthaburi province, Chusak Saelee.
Source: JRS Asia Pacific Web: THAILAND, “Today is the day to push for clearing 500km of mines”

2. Voices from the factory
January 1, 2013
JRS has been working with migrants in Mae Sot since 2006 to assist with livelihoods for vulnerable communities Mae Sot, 31 December 2012 — Thailand is home to hundreds of thousands of Burmese migrant workers, more than 100,000 of whom are employed in Mae Sot’s factories.

1- Rose*, 28, originally from Taunggyi in southern Shan state of Myanmar, was brought to Mae Sot by her father when she was 12 years old. At the age of 13, a broker took her to Bangkok to work in a noodle shop where she earned 1,000 baht (US $34) per month. Three years later, after getting married and becoming pregnant with her first child, Rose returned to Mae Sot to escape the anxiety of being arrested, which migrants face daily in Bangkok. Rose’s experience is not unique.

2- Poe Poe*, 18, from Phyu township in eastern Myanmar, has been working in a garment factory since the age of 13. Long working hours without breaks or sick leave, the struggle to save money, and the absence of proper safety standards and labor rights characterize the experience of Rose, Poe Poe, and thousands of other migrant workers in Thailand.

Work Conditions
Rose cleans the floors and tables of a garment factory for 150 baht per day (US $5), working for more than ten hours each day. For every one hour that the workers are late for their shift, they lose three hours of wages. Similarly, the consequence of missing one day of work is three days of work without pay.

Yet Rose is grateful for her job. “I like to work here because I receive good pay,” she told JRS Mae Sot staff. But she admits that economic difficulties are a constant source of stress. “I still need money to pay for my children’s education,” she said. “I once paid an agent 4,500 baht to take me back to Bangkok by walking through the jungle so I could find a higher income job. We were cheated and left in the middle of nowhere,” she says, disappointment brimming in her eyes.

But Rose is one of the lucky ones who have never felt endangered in the factory. Her workplace maintains a sound reputation for good management. “I never felt unsafe, but cleaning floors and tables is not a comfortable job,” Rose affirmed.
Poe Poe, on the other hand, works in a different garment factory and feels unprotected in the dormitory, as there are no separate lavatories or showers for women. Although she has not been physically attacked, Poe Poe feels unsafe when taking a shower as she is often watched by men.
In addition, the equipment in the factory is not always safe. The older sewing machines used to make the garments are dangerous, according to Poe Poe. “The owner hasn’t listened to complaints. We are really afraid to use those machines… Newly employed workers handle the old machines because they have no choice,” she said.

Labor Rights
In 2012, JRS Mae Sot sponsored two group discussions led by the Overseas Irrawaddy Association for migrant workers on labor rights.
“Our rights are not fully respected because we are not given enough breaks,” said Rose. Poe Poe sews for more than ten hours per day without stopping. “We don’t have enough rest. It’s not fair at all,” she said. Although she wants to find another job, she feels trapped because her parents are there with her in the factory. “I really want…better conditions and higher pay, but if I quit, my parents will have no place to stay,” Poe Poe said.
Both Poe Poe and Rose maintain dreams about returning to their hometowns in Myanmar to farm. “I like living in Thailand because it’s safe and there are many ways to earn money. However, if my parents, who are currently staying in Myawaddy, want to go back to Taunggyi, I will go with them. We still have available land to do farming,” said Rose. “If I can save money, I will take my family back home to do crop farming. There we’ll have a happy life,” Poe Poe sighed.

[Edited by Ando Isamu, SJ, from Tokyo Jesuit Social Center,]
Source: JRS Asia Pacific Web “THAILAND: Voices from the factory” Maesot, 31 December 1012
(*1,2 :Names have been changed to protect identity)


R. Deiters SJ
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 169 / February 15th, 2013

In Tokyo nowadays it is not unusual to hear Chinese spoken in the trains and over the speakers in Akihabara stores. At least one out of every hundred people in Tokyo is a recent Chinese immigrant from the PRC (“mainland China”). Since about 1980, after policy changes following the death of Mao Zedong (d.1976), the number of Chinese coming to Japan has steadily increased so that now they are the most numerous of any one nationality–close to 30%– among all foreigners in Japan.

Why do they come? To better their life. Many are admitted to study, first in a language school, then in a university or technical school, but usually with the hope of working–even part-time while studying, and then getting a more permanent job in Japan later. Some women gain entry into Japan as wives of Japanese, often in a “paper” marriage arranged by a broker Up until about 2005, when the police began a largely successful campaign to arrest and deport illegal residents, some had overstayed their visa in order to gain enough money for the future of their family or to launch a business after going back to China.

Are many of them Catholic? After much suffering and turmoil from the founding of the PRC (1949) until about 1980, the Catholic Church, as well as each of the other four recognized religions, is now free to have open churches and carry on all kinds of religious activity, but under close supervision of the government through the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA). A considerable number of bishops, priests, and believers do not follow the directives of the CCPA, and carry on church activities without official approval. They are the so-called “underground Church” community to which perhaps as many as 35% adhere

In China, the estimated number of all Catholics is 12,000,000–about 1% of the total population. Because seminaries and Sisters training programs were suppressed from about 1950 to 1980, most of the bishops, priests, and Sisters are under 45 with only a few over 80 who were ordained before the 1950’s. Many of the faithful are also young. It is a very young Church, but a Church without experienced senior leaders aged 50 to 80. In recent years, several hundreds of young priests and Sisters have done advanced studies in theology and pastoral fields in Europe and the U.S.A. with the help of Church organizations.

From the early 1950’s the government set up for all religions the “Three-Self” policy: self propagation, self administration, and self support. In practice this means that only PRC citizens may engage in evangelization and pastoral work; all officials (bishops, priests, Sisters) in the Church must be citizens of the PRC; and the Church is to be supported from within China. Each religion must form a semi-government organization, for Catholics, the CCPA, to supervise the execution of government policy The government does not, in principle, recognize the right of the Pope, a foreign, non-Chinese entity, to nominate bishops. Often the candidate proposed by the CCPA for bishop is accepted also by the Pope, and so the bishop can be both validly ordained and acceptable to the government. However, sometimes the Pope, finding the candidate unacceptable, requests the priest to withdraw. However, the priest under pressure from the CCPA accepts to be ordained illicitly, in violation of church law. Also, bishops who are to give the ordination or take part in such a ceremony may also be pressured by the government in various ways (bribes, blandishment, or threats) to take part in an illicit ordination. The result, however, is confusion, because such a bishop is, by church law excommunicated and without valid jurisdiction over the priests and faithful. Among more than 100 bishops, such illicitly ordained bishops are not many, but in those areas where the local bishop has been illicitly ordained, the priests, Sisters and believers are left without guidance, and confusion results.

At the request of some Chinese Catholics in Tokyo in 1987, a monthly Mass for Chinese began on the campus of Sophia University, and in 1991 the Jesuit Catholic Center was launched in an old dormitory in Nakano Ward. In 2001, the pastor and faithful of Ueno Catholic Church offered to form an integrated community with the Chinese Catholics and provide office and activity space. Now every Sunday at 1:30 pm in Ueno Church, there is a Mass in Chinese, and the Sacraments are provided. Fr. Inoue Kiyoshi, the Director., assisted by Frs. R. Deiters, S. Yamaoka, Fr. Yang of Kichijoji parish, and by several bi-lingual staff members. The Center is part of Ueno parish under the pastor Fr. Nishikawa.

For most of the Catholics we meet in Tokyo, while they are in Japan, these problems of the ordination of bishops do not directly concern them, and so they practice their faith freely, and enjoy coming to the Jesuit China Center on Sunday where they can meet friends of the same faith, language, and homeland. A large number are from the same region of Fujian Province, and are connected by family or mutual friendships.

Usually about 150 attend Sunday Mass. On big feast days such as Christmas or Easter, the Mass is celebrated by the Japanese and Chinese together, with Scripture reading and sermon, as well as singing in both languages. At such times, Ueno Church is packed with many standing. The Chinese consider themselves one with the Japanese faithful, taking part in the planning of the liturgy as well as the cleaning, decoration, and maintenance of the church facilities. We consider our Ueno Church community to be one example of an integrated community of Japanese and immigrant Catholics.


Ando Isamu, SJ

The increase of the aging population in Japan has created a new social situation in the country. Japan has not adopted an immigration policy but needs a labor force in such a field that is not popular among the Japanese youth. Since within a few years tens of thousands of nurses and caregivers will be needed in the country Japan started to look for possible candidates in several Asian countries, like Indonesia and the Philippines.

Since 2009, about 240 nurses and 400 caregivers came to Japan from the Philippines, by groups and were supposed to have been trained in their own country before landing in Japan. The final result has been not encouraging at all. As of now (Year 2013) only 15 nurses and one caregiver have passed the license examination. The fact is that those groups coming to Japan from Indonesia have experienced the same results.

From the “demand” side Japan needs and wants foreign nurses to help assist its old-age people. On the other hand, the Philippines should be able to “supply” nurses and offers them abundantly. The match should work but the reality is different. Media reports sometimes the automatic return of sometimes over a hundred candidates that were unable to pass the license examinations, disappointed by the unfair requirements imposed on them.

The situation is complex and has problems at both sides. Naturally cultural differences and the difficulties of the Japanese language play a big role in disappointments.

Nevertheless, Japan bears most of the responsibility. Since there is no comprehensive immigration policy there is a lack of official support, further Japanese language studies are expensive and limited and those coming to Japan feel that organizations involved, Japanese employers and the co-workers are unable to understand them. These are to be added to the inner difficulties in their daily jobs.

On the other hand, those coming to Japan to get their licenses as nurses and caregivers lack sometimes the training needed to work in Japan and adjust to the Japanese health care system and practices. The Philippine side also needs to understand Japanese culture and customs, often quite different from the multicultural Filipino system.

In consequence, both sides should make more efforts to cooperate and conduct joint training. Japan with an increasing aging population should take the initiative to attract young Filipinos nurses and caregivers to work in Japan.

New Year 2013


The New Year offers an uncertain hope of new things to happen. Since the Great Earthquake and tsunami (March 2011) that darkened the future of tens of thousands of people living in East Japan, the country still remains in an uneasy situation with regard to its future.

If one follows the main stream of the mass media, the general public looks at the Year2012 that has just passed away as a period of political and economic crisis brought about by business stagnation, the unsolved Fukushima nuclear disaster and the political confrontations with Japan’s neighbors. The year just ended with the failure of the Democratic Party of Japan to keep the reins of government. Japan started the New Year with the Liberal Democrats, a “new party” that had held the power for over 50 years, except the last 3 years in the opposition.

The Voices of Migrant Workers Living in Japan
The Year2012 was a significant period for over 2 million foreign workers living in Japan. There were substantial changes in the Japanese legal and political system that touched deeply their lives. One among them was the ruling of Tokyo District Court that stated that “if a Japanese man sires a child with a foreigner overseas and does not file for the child’s Japanese citizenship within three months of birth, then citizenship may legally be denied.” The result would be to help Japanese men to evade responsibility if they fool around with foreign women. In fact, our migrant desk has been involved this past year with some legal cases concerning this issue.

Most probably the case of Govinda Prasad Mainali (a foreign worker) was the most publicized by the mass media. Mainali was serving a life sentence in Japan because of murder he had never committed but after 15 years he was declared wrongfully convicted. He was “released” with a public apology, although, in fact, they transferred him to an immigration jail and was deported to his country of origin.

The abolition of the Foreign Registry Law and the system that did not allow foreigners to be registered with their Japanese families on the local residency registry system was a major legal change that affected all foreigners living and working in Japan.

The results are ambivalent and those stateless and the ones unable to obtain proper documentation (most probably more than one hundred thousand “illegal”) are practically thrown out down the legal cliff. Jobs and dwelling, their daily lives have become so difficult that they are bound to remain in the underground. (by Ando)

[I recommend “The year for non-Japanese in ’12: a top 10”, The Japan Times, January 1, 2013]

New Center Staff Member: Yamamoto Keisuke

Yamamoto Keisuke, Jesuit Social Center staff member
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 168 / December 21st, 2012

Greetings to all. I have been working in the Social Center since August of this year. My name is Yamamoto Keisuke. I graduated from the philosophy department of Sophia University in 1998. I’m not a Christian but I had the opportunity of being introduced to this Jesuit institution and became a staff member. At present, I’m once again learning about Christianity (the Catholic Church and the Jesuits), the viewpoint and mission of the Jesuit social apostolate and, by observing the work of my colleagues and the Director of the Center, I am spending my work time trying to understand what is going on here.

In my efforts to know more about Catholics I have been reading the memoirs of Mother Teresa. I would like to quote some words that especially impressed me, despite their challenging content. “Real love hurts. In order to provide good service to others without offending them, it is a fact that I must joyfully serve them even if I deprive myself of what I am granting.” Japan, where we are actually living, can be considered a country where people try excessively not to hurt others’ feelings. People seem extremely afraid to open themselves to others. That is a precaution against being hurt. In other words, that can be called fear. And this holds true everywhere, whether one is a believer or not.

Nevertheless, as Mother Teresa states, true love, or serving others, means allowing oneself to be hurt. In consequence, loving or serving others might involve the risk of receiving insults from the persons we encounter. In spite of that, however, we should take the risk of disclosing ourselves. If love means serving and opening our hearts to others, it makes no difference whether we are believers or not. Of course, although it is not advisable to take rash risks, we certainly run some risk when we do good for others. I imagine that this requires a lot of courage. But on the other hand, in the first place, no human can either survive or obtain happiness in isolation from others. Taking this into account, it has become very difficult to continue living in Japan, a society where human relationships remain remarkably based on fear of others. I feel that only “faith” can move one to open up to other people. It is not a faith about this or that, but a faith in the One Truth. I believe that only the gift of faith can wake us up to true love and grant us the power to face and serve others.

Words like “confidence” and “conviction” are becoming meaningless nowadays. I pray from the bottom of my heart that, in the encounters achieved through little works by unknown persons, human relationships will be enriched. It is my belief that our great potential for human relationships will never disappear, whatever difficult situations we might encounter.


From the left side: Jessie, Fr. Russell, Fr. Ando

Ando Isamu SJ, Head of Migrant Desk (Jesuit Social center)

Franciscan Chapel Church (FCC) and Jesuit Social Center (JSC) collaboration for free legal consultation for foreigners includes visa and official status, international marriage and other legal issues concerning foreigners.

Fr. Ando Isamu and Jessie Tayama from the Jesuit Social Center, located by St. Ignatius Church of Yotsuya, will come to the Franciscan Chapel Church on the 1st Sunday of the month, from 11:00am to 3:00pm. There will be another 3 months trial: October 7th, November 4th and December 2nd, 2012.

They will conduct first an interview with the applicants at FCC, before the applicant gets to see the lawyer at JSC, on every 4th Monday of the month, from 1pm to 4pm. Each applicant is given 30 minutes to consult the lawyer, free of charge.

The purpose for conducting the interview with the applicants at FCC is:
(1) To summary and focus the case. A copy of the statement that Jessie takes down during the interview will be given to the lawyer.

(2) After interviewing the applicant Fr. Ando and Jessie will know whether the applicant needs to seek legal consultation or not or maybe is more suitable to refer the applicant to another source.

For the interview the applicant is required to bring along: alien card, passport and other relevant private documents as there is a need to check them and to confirm the applicant status.

Hoping that this is a helpful service,
Ando Isamu SJ, Head of Migrant Desk (Jesuit Social center)


Report: Action Oriented toward Building a Society Free of Lonely People

Hiroaki Yoshiba, SJ
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 167 / October 15th, 2012

This year the welfare system made news. It seems that the mother of a TV personality was found to be receiving welfare assistance, despite her son’s large earnings. The case was exposed in the media and brought before the National Diet. The fact that the privacy of a particular person receiving welfare was discussed openly by politicians is something unheard of. Isn’t this a violation of human rights?

“The poor are lazy people” is not a new concept. It has always existed. In modern times England legally jailed poor people and punished them with forced labor in horribly equipped institutions. Only those unable to work were exempted. Even nowadays, private philanthropic organizations examine the poor to see if their poverty results from lack of morality and if they judge that it does, they deem them unworthy of assistance. Thus, since even historically speaking poor people have a negative image, they lose confidence in themselves. In reality there is great variety and pluralism among the poor. Nevertheless, they all meet with the same difficulties in striving for the assurance of sound social participation. Their relationships with people and institutions are weak and there is a tendency towards loneliness.

Some time ago I had the opportunity of attending a conference given by the director of the welfare office in Kushiro City. Kushiro treats persons receiving welfare assistance with special consideration and doesn’t take a disciplinary attitude toward them. The director openly said: “Kushiro has a bad reputation among residents because of its terrible fog. It is difficult to dry one’s laundry. On the other hand, tourists enjoy our foggy city. Fog is not bad and can actually be an asset. In a similar way, receivers of welfare are an asset to us.”

The national policy now is to “assist families receiving welfare to find jobs.” Nevertheless, this type of assistance is merely empty words, without any plan. Here and there we can observe useless vocational training and, precisely because of the weakness of the labor market, welfare receivers experience continual failure and, as a result, they often lose confidence. Some people believe that the job-seeking assistance system only helps the needy to find insecure jobs or to be totally ousted from society. From the beginning, Kushiro has rejected any rigid job-seeking assistance and takes volunteerism as an important middle-way approach to jobs. The approach is not to “make people without a job do patriotic service.” For instance, when 3rd-year middle-school youngsters of welfare families gather, usually to prepare for high school entrance examinations, they are invited to do volunteer work, along with which they are guided in their studies and in sharing experiences. Hopefully, this is quite a valuable experience for middle-school youth. It is also an occasion for parents who have lost their confidence to recover it. Kushiro residents, welfare receivers included, work together planning how to start new businesses. Thanks to such attempts, Kushiro was able to think about how to approach urban renewal. Official activities for welfare receivers do not stop there. For lack of space, I cannot explain here the City’s official concept, which has attracted much attention: “Let’s bring together every citizen to rebuild our society.”

I have formerly contributed two articles to this Bulletin entitled “Walking along with people in distress visiting our churches” and “The Bettle House: Learning from mental distress.” The content of these articles can be found in the booklet Kokoro no Nayami ni Yorisou tame ni, which deals with mental distress. My articles are just common sense and a bit emotional. I referred there to the Church as a place of relief and to the need of building a church community where everybody is accepted, including expert advisers in mental distress. Basically, I have not changed my mind. However, I am inclined to believe that, besides targeting people with mental trouble, there is probably something else we must discover. What is really at stake for people suffering from mental distress is not so much disease and symptoms, but the difficulties arising from their social position. Since they do not receive social recognition, they tend to experience difficult lives and become isolated from others. This phenomenon is not merely typical of the poor people I mentioned above. It also affects lonely elderly persons, the sick, and the disabled. I have come to believe that people suffering from mental distress can also understand those on the fringes of society. We need to establish places where everybody, in dire need or not, can participate together.

The author during a home visit

At St Ignatius Church, where I work, a “Wednesday Tea Salon” is held three times a month. Usually the people who come are those who have attended the early Mass. A variety of people, persons struggling in society and people leading simple normal lives, gather freely and enjoy tea and sweets. For the faithful of St Ignatius parish who are unable to come to church because of old age, a phone conversation service has already begun and home visits are also planned. Even without everyone gathering in the same place, various possibilities can be found.

I have opened a consultation room at St Ignatius Church, which has some facilities for eating and having tea parties. We continue paying visits to people at home or in institutions.

SAHABAT INSAN, Friends of Humanity

Ignatius Ismartono, SJ
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 166 / September 10th, 2012

1) A Glimpse of History
When I worked for the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia as executive secretary of the Commission for Inter-religious Dialogue (1995-2004), I came to know many problems faced by the victims of conflicts in various parts of the country, where 37 dioceses are located. At that time my eyes were opened wide to the victims, and these victims became the focus of our concern and attention. The Bishops’ Conference then inaugurated a desk, called the Crisis and Reconciliation Service, in their inter-religious office. The main mission of the desk was to be present with the victims so that they could be able to transform themselves, to become survivors. The first step to be taken was to build a network with various non-government organizations concerned with the victims. When a big tsunami hit Indonesia in 2004, we began to collaborate with the local young men and women, especially university students, to help the victims.

Numbers of volunteers came to the Bishops’ Conference office to join the Crisis Center and organize the assistance. Some foreign charity organizations invited us to work together in Aceh. Aceh is predominantly Muslim and, thanks to the students, we were accepted by the victims, especially because our work was humanitarian.

After 2004, due to the influx of foreign charity institutions into Indonesia and the strong urging of Caritas International, the Indonesian Bishops established Caritas Indonesia. Since then, the Bishops have entrusted Caritas Indonesia with the concern for natural disasters.

2) Friends of Humanity
The volunteers moved on to become a community. Our legal name is “Sahabat Insan”, Friends of Humanity. We decided to continue paying attention to victims. But, since victims of natural disasters are already helped by Caritas Indonesia, we shifted our concern to victims of man-made disasters, migrant workers. Their numbers are huge and the institutions helping them are also many. We did not start from data collection, nor do we work for advocacy, let alone litigation. While keeping up our contact with the victims, we found that there was a further need. There are failed migrant workers who have to return to Indonesia. Their situation is so desperate that they are in dire need of help. Without such help, they will lose their basic human rights. These are those who come back to Indonesia and enter the harbors, but with no friends to accompany them.

3) Caring for Migrant Workers
The problem is huge and we are tiny. There is an institution called “Peduli Buruh Migrants” (Caring for Migrant Workers), which is led by a woman who was formerly a migrant worker herself. We collaborate with them, helping those who need help. Ms Lily is the one who takes care of our shelter and we assist her especially in financial matters.

4) Those in Dire Need
You may have read some of the information about Indonesian migrant workers provided by Jakarta ANTARA News. At least 101 Indonesian migrant workers, including 29 nurses and 72 care workers, will be sent to Japan on May 17, 2012. “They will be sent to Japan tomorrow, after having received language training at the Japan Foundation for six months,” said Japan’s Ambassador to Indonesia Yoshinori Katori.

He added that this is the fifth year wherein workers have been sent to Japan under the Indonesian migrant workers program. “We hope they work as well as their predecessors,” he remarked. The program was initiated in 2008, when a total of 288 Indonesian migrant workers were sent to Japan. Until now, 791 migrant workers have entered Japan through this program.

“Japan is very satisfied with their work,” he added. “We hope we can strengthen our people-to-people contact through this program.” According to Endang Sulistyaningsih, promotion director of the Manpower Replacement and Protection Agency, Indonesian migrant workers are noted for their work ethics, discipline, and hard work, as well as other traits such as never giving up, saving money, and not being shy to ask questions. “Do not worry. We will never abandon you. Sometimes we will visit you,” Endang added. Twenty-four-year-old Indonesian migrant worker, Indah Gita Safira, intends to work as a care worker in a nursing home in Japan. She has signed an employment contract to work in Japan for four years. She will receive a monthly salary of about 17,450 yen (?). “I will give my best as a care worker in Japan,” she promised.

But you may have read different reports, like “Indonesia Summons Malaysia Ambassador over Migrant Worker Killings” (Jakarta Globe April 24, 2012). “Relatives of the migrant workers who were shot to death in Malaysia filed complaints with the West Nusa Tenggara Police on Monday. On Tuesday Indonesia summoned the Malaysian Ambassador to explain why three Indonesian migrant workers were shot and killed by Malaysian police and to answer unconfirmed reports that the organs of the deceased were harvested. We want them to come as soon as possible and bring along the clarification,” said Tatang Razak, the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry’s director for the protection of Indonesian citizens overseas. He also said the ministry was coordinating with police in Lombok to conduct autopsies to verify reports that organs had been harvested from the three dead men.

The Indonesian government is demanding that Malaysia release the autopsy results and chronology of the workers’ deaths. Tatang said on Monday that there had been reports from the Malaysian government that the three could have been involved in criminal activity when they were shot by Malaysian authorities. “We will find out whether the workers really committed any crime. If they are innocent, someone must take responsibility,” he said.

The foreign affairs minister, Marty Natalegawa, expressed concern about the lack of transparency in determining what had happened to the victims. The government will facilitate another autopsy if that is desired by the victims’ families. “Anything the families desire will be facilitated because this is our problem too,” he said. The bodies of the three, Abdul Kadir Jaelani, 24, Herman, 28, and Mad Noor, 33 were returned earlier this month to their hometowns in East Tombok. They were found dead in Malaysia on March 30, each with gunshot wounds. Suspicions over the motive for their killings arose when two family members of the victims saw the condition of the bodies and said they believed their organs had been harvested.

Rieke Dyah Pitaloka, a lawmaker from the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said an independent autopsy was needed to determine if the three were victims of organ traffickers. She said the responsibility for the autopsies should not be the burden solely of the migrant worker placement agency, PJTKI. The government needs to be proactive and work together with the Malaysian government. “This is not just the responsibility of PJTKI,” Rieke said on Monday. Tubagus Hasanuddin, a PDI-P lawmaker who is deputy chairman of the House of Representatives Commission I, which oversees foreign affairs, said the deaths could be related to an organ trafficking ring and should be probed further. “This is a gross human rights violation and the government must investigate it,” he said.

Meanwhile, the West Nusa Tenggara Police told the families of the slain workers to wait for a letter from the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur providing a detailed chronology of the deaths before filing complaints. “We are not rejecting their complaints, but we advised the families and BP3TKI, the Migrant Worker Placement and Protection Agency to wait for the letter from the Indonesian Embassy in Malaysia first,” said West Nusa Tenggara Police spokesman Lalu Wirajaya. None of the family members witnessed the incident. They only heard about it.

We, Friends of Humanity, do not consider ourselves an institution mainly to help the migrant workers. Our priority is that migrant workers are becoming victims. In other words, “a preferential option for the poor,” the concern of the Catholic Church and the Society of Jesus as well. Recently those in direst need are migrant workers who fail, who are outcast, who come home empty-handed to die. And since we are so small, we have to collaborate with those who share the same concern.

Jakarta, 29 June 2012

History in Action. A presentation of the World Charter of Migrants

Extract from the World Charter Migrants

For five years now, a process has been evolving. Women and men have decided to tell the world that they exist and that they are entitled to rights regardless of where they choose to live. “Nothing for us and without us” is the principle that has inspired the process through which migrants are retaking control over their destiny and regaining their voice that has too long been silenced by political authorities and experts. On the basis of the principles of freedom of movement between countries and the right to stay where one chooses to live, millions of migrants from the four corners of the world have decided to come together to shout to the global society: “Let us pass, let us circulate, let us live”.

A long process
The World Charter of Migrants project was launched in Marseille in 2006 when 120 undocumented families mobilized to fight for their papers. It was one of the migrants, Crimo, who proposed the creation of a charter written by the migrants themselves based on their lives and their experiences. The first of its kind, the text was proposed at different international meetings and gathered support from a multitude of migrants who have since coordinated actions throughout their respective continents. These migrant leaders sought to put in place local assemblies that enabled a collective writing process based on discussions and exchanges between migrants. Various charter propositions emerged from the four continents and the international network produces a final synthesis of these texts.

From September 2010 to January 2011, the final charter was disseminated throughout the local assemblies in order to relaunch a discussion at the global level. During this phase of discussions, changes, and amendments to the final text, migrants throughout the world began to adopt these principles. This contributed to a growing political and social dynamic.

The charter was approved on February 4th, 2011 at Goree by migrants from throughout the world who had launched an action prior to the Global Social Forum in Dakar. Goree Island, a symbol of slavery and deportation, provided and apt location for migrants to propose a new era without barriers nor discrimination……

To read more click here Web:

A Filipina won the case in court for unpaid salaries after 13 months

Jessie Tayama, Migrant Desk (Jesuit Social center)

On July 25th 2011 a Filipino lady ANGEL (anonymous) send an email to me regarding her unpaid salaries from March  to July 2011, she works in the weekends in a pub. It happened on the day that was our monthly free legal consultation and Lawyer Suzuki Masako from Tokyo Public Law Office came to our center. On behalf of ANGEL, I consulted Lawyer Suzuki and her advice was to seek the Labor Office for help since the amount was small (164,000 yen) and it was not appropriate to hire a lawyer to handle this case which will cost 3 times more for the lawyer fees.

July 27th 2011, we started to seek help from the Labor Office. At that time Mr. Charles Alvarez from New York (Columbia Law School) who was on internship with Tokyo Public Lawyer office acted as our interpreter and it was a great help to us too, since we have no knowledge about the Japanese labor office law and how to proceed. From our center we have to prepare and compile all the required documents and to translate some of the documents to Japanese for submission.

From July 29th  till September 30th there were many phone calls made by the Labor officer, letters were sent out and even the Labor officers visited the pub twice. The Mama-san and her Manager made all sort of excuses: they were not in or too busy for an interview or to negotiate. Even when the Labor Office intervened it was without success and the Labor officer suggested us to bring the matter to court.

October 7th, the case was filed in court. The first hearing started on November 24th  for negotiation and Fr. Ando from our center acted as interpreter.

January 13th, 2012 second hearing the Mama-san got scolded by the judge because of unreasonable deduction of the employee salaries. When he commented that there is no such thing as employer is higher than employee, it should be equality in both ways. I was really impressed with the Japanese judge who handled the matter on that day very well especially when foreigners are involved.

February 28th third hearing and March 15th fourth hearing, on both occasions neither Mama-san or her Manager turned up at court. The court postponed the case twice April 25th  and May 21st.

May 28th consulted Lawyer Suzuki again and she made a phone call to the court secretary to expedite the case since it was long overdue, and the next court hearing was set on August 30th .

Finally on August 30th, 2012 the judge presented the verdict and the employee ANGEL (anonymous) won the case.

Strengthening the migrant ministry network

Extract from the Jesuit Asia Pacific Conference (Submitted on August 18th 2012)

Jesuits and collaborators working with migrants and refugees in Asia Pacific gathered in Manila recently to share insights and ideas for co-operation among the migrant ministries within the Conference.

The two-day meeting organised by the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific was held on June 30 and July 1, in conjunction with a migration conference, “Migration, Religious Experience and Mission with Migrants in Asia”, organised by the Loyola School of Theology and the Scalabrini Migration Center.

This is the second time the migration network has met since migration was identified as a common priority for the Conference in July 2010.

One of the key observations of this meeting was the increasing connection between migrant ministry and refugee work; and the importance of closer coordination to address their concerns.

Migrant work at the province level also needs to be strengthened, and some practical areas of project collaboration were explored. One possibility that was discussed is for UGAT Foundation, the established migrant centre in the Philippines, to assist with the setting up of migrant ministries elsewhere in the Conference, particularly in sending countries.

Fr Denis Kim SJ, the JCAP Social Apostolate Coordinator, said that the meeting re-emphasised the need for a migration coordinator at the Conference level and this point was made to the major superiors at their July Assembly.

The group of 23 participants from 10 countries – Indonesia, Korea, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Vietnam and Cambodia – also explored greater collaboration between the migrant ministries and Jesuit Refugee Service.

Nikola Errington, Legal Officer of JRS Cambodia, found the meeting a great exchange of experiences, stories and reflections and said it was a perfect forum to reflect upon the common elements that bind the work of JRS and the migrant ministries.

A JRS Cambodia publication raising the issue of protection space for asylum seekers in South East Asia.

“Together we listened to stories of migrant workers in Taiwan and Korea struggling to maintain fair working conditions with unscrupulous employers and apathetic authorities. We heard stories of strength, with perseverance paramount to those supporting families in their home countries of Indonesia and the Philippines. We heard stories of the suffering of families torn apart, sometimes for many years; children without mothers; and women isolated due to cultural and social divides. We also heard stories of those who built solidarity amongst workers in receiving countries and became strong advocates for their own rights, and those of their peers,” she said.

Nikola said the JRS was able to contribute the point of view of refugees, a distinct group that has particular protection needs because they cannot return to their home country. The JRS teams gave examples of the risks refugees are exposed to because they often remain undocumented or are not seen as different from migrants in the eyes of a State. Also discussed was the importance of identifying refugees within the context of broader mixed migration flows.

At the end of the meeting, the group took the opportunity to update the network contact list to encourage and facilitate cooperation especially on cases that cross national boundaries.

Caption for main photo: An illustration from Dr Maryanne Loughry, RSM AM of JRS Australia showing the increasing numbers of asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia so far this year.

JRS publishes guide for advocates in Southeast Asia

Extract from Jesuit Asia Pacific Conference (Submitted on July 17, 2012 – 7:12 pm)


Jesuit Refugee Service Asia Pacific has published a practical guide for advocates of asylum seekers and refugees in five countries in Southeast Asia. Entitled “The Search: Protection Space in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, The Philippines and Cambodia in Practice”, the document will help advocates in these countries to give accurate information to asylum seekers and refugees about the realities of protection space in the region.

Protection space for asylum seekers and refugees in Southeast Asia is limited and constantly changing, and asylum seekers and refugees face many challenges in negotiating the difficult, long and confusing refugee-status-determination (RSD) processes that will ultimately decide the direction their lives will take.

In a region where only three countries, Cambodia, the Philippines and Timor Leste, are signatories to the UN refugee convention, the challenges of living in an urban setting are amplified on a daily basis as people struggle to make a living, avoid detention, send their children to school and tend to their medical needs.

The guide covers five broad themes: protection concerns, convention obligations and domestic legal frameworks, refugee-status determination, durable solutions, and an outline of the realities of living in the region in relation to employment, education, healthcare and housing. Given the range of challenges, it is essential that those that work with asylum seekers and refugees know as much as possible about the asylum options available in urban areas in the capital cities of Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila and Phnom Penh.

Justicia For Migrant Workers (Toronto, Canada)

Ando Isamu SJ, Head of Migrant Desk (Jesuit Social center)

Tokyo Migrant Desk has received the following message concerning a special event to be held on July 22nd 2012 in Toronto (Canada) to remember so many migrant workers that have been killed or injured at work all over the world.

Those interested, please offer your encouragement and solidarity statements.
From: Chris Ramsaroop
To: Global day action
Date: Wed, 18 Jul 2012 18:49:11 -0400
Subject: [gdaDec18] Re: requesting solidarity statement
Hi everyone

My name is Chris Ramsaroop and I am an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) in Toronto, Canada. On July 22nd we will be having a vigil and march in Ontario Canada to remember migrant workers who have been killed or injured at work. Over six months ago 11 people including 9 migrant workers from Peru were killed in a car crash after leaving work. We are also highlighting this crash and the extreme obstacles that the survivors have had accessing medical treatment in Canada.

I am wondering if we can get a brief statement of solidarity from your organizations for our event. And also if you could send this out to other organizations who may also provide letters of support. The letter does not have to be long maybe a paragraph or a few sentences. Below is our call out and our organization website is

Tokyo, 20 July, 2012

Toronto (Canada)

We have heard that you are going to hold a Vigil and march in Ontario (Canada) to remember all those migrant workers who have been killed or injured at work.
We want to join you in solidarity for this event, aware that this tragic situation is also happening in many countries around the world where migrant workers are left alone and without necessary medical and financial assistance.

We pray that we could be able to build societies where migrant workers and their children are respected and treated as human beings, children of God.

With special prayers for the families left behind by those people that were killed in the car accident after leaving work, over 6 months ago.

Jesuit Social Center
Migrant Desk

URL Tokyo Migrant Desk

REPORT: The Japanese police entered the ground of Kaitsuka to arrest foreigners

Fr. Takashi Motoyanagi(Diocesan Priest)
Catholic Church of Kaitsuka (Yokohama diocese, Japan)

On May 27, when many Filipinos were preparing for the celebration of the last feast of Our Lady in the Catholic Church of Kaitsuka (Yokohama diocese, Japan) about 7 police entered the ground of the Church to investigate Filipinos gathered there for mass at 12:30 noon. Although they had not any search warrant they arrested people there, on the spot. At that time many Filipino children were getting ready to participate in the special religious event there. The parish priest was working in the parish office.

When the Christians realized what was going on addressed the police investigators telling them that it was not allowed to investigate people inside the Church ground. Although they were on duty, it was found out that they were neither holding a search warrant nor an order arrest. The police said that the church was not extraterritorial and that they had the power to investigate and arrest people as they wished, because they knew exactly that a certain Filipino person, without proper visa, was coming to Sunday mass.

The parish priest informed the police that by entering the grounds of the church to conduct investigations of people the police was violating religious activities and infringing religious freedom. Therefore they must go out. One of the investigators strongly told the priest that he should advice the Filipino without proper visa to go out of the church, but if the priest refuses to do that he will be considered guilty by protecting a suspected criminal.
In spite of that, the police proceeded with their investigations advancing coercively against a Filipino person, while the priest, several Filipino women and the president of the Committee of the Church made strong protests. The investigators acted strongly against them also, warning them that if they continued interfering with the investigations they could be also arrested for obstructing the public function of the police. All that continued for over half an hour and at the end they arrested a Filipino person and brought him out to the police station. Many witnessed them.

The incident happened at Kaitsuka Catholic Church in the City of Kawasaki. If you are interested in more details, please contact Fr. Takashi Motoyanagi, the parish priest there. Here you have his e-mail address:

Report: In The Face of the Need for Reconstruction Volunteers in the Tōhoku Disaster Areas

Murayama Hyoe, SJ (Jesuit Scholastic)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 165 / June 15th, 2012

Has the Great eastern East Japan Earthquake already finished? Nobody will answer “Yes” to this question. However, it is not easy for those who live in distant places to be continually concerned about recovery from the Great Tōhoku Earthquake. Great amounts of disaster debris remained piled up several meters high along the seacoast. An estimated 1.5 million tons of tsunami debris have been carried by currents across the Pacific Ocean and have begun to show up on the West Coast of the United States and Canada. Struggles for industrial reconstructions, the anxious life of people living in temporary housing, and many people who lost family members are still suffering their painful memories—we must not ignore this on-going damage even though mass media reports have decreased. The urgent need for volunteers seems to be gradually decreasing, but actually there is much need for manpower in the disaster areas.

During the Golden Week this May, I participated as an organizing member of a volunteer-and-prayer program for the Tōhoku disaster victims planned by Jesuit Fr. Nakai Jun and Fr. Sali Augustine. About twenty young people were brought together from the Catholic parishes of the Chūgoku and Kantō areas and from Sophia University. They divided into five groups with six Jesuit staff members and scattered to five volunteer bases in the Tōhoku disaster area maintained by Caritas Japan and some Catholic dioceses. Each group did different volunteer work for 2 to 10 days according to the need of the places where they stayed. I went to the Yonekawa Volunteer Base in Miyagi Prefecture and shared volunteer activity and prayer with five members. These experiences involved many significant discoveries. On May 5th we gathered together at a Dominican retreat house in Sendai, and the next morning we shared our volunteer experiences together and offered our prayers and hopes to God in the Eucharist to end our program.

In spite of all our efforts, we still have to face unceasing demands for reconstructions, and volunteers soon become aware of their powerlessness. With many other volunteers in Minami-sanriku town I removed a great amount of “debris” and separated them according to each category as required. This town was almost entirely washed away or severely damaged by the tsunami. The damage caused by this natural disaster was deeply shocking. One day I saw a family offering flowers at the site of a house where only the foundations were left. While we were returning to the piles of debris after a short break, I saw this mother and daughter bow their heads towards us. I had mixed feelings because I had not completed even a little of the work of removing debris and felt undeserving of thanks. Nevertheless, they seemed to sense my embarrassment, and began talking with me. Even though I wanted to get back to work quickly, they suddenly began to share their experiences. This mother had lost her husband and her daughter’s husband in the tsunami. She said, “It takes a lot of nerve and is painful to come back to ‘our home’ with only its foundations after the disaster.”

At no time did I feel the powerlessness of volunteers more than when I myself saw people who had survived such a disaster and are now repairing the local infrastructure. A number of people are still suffering from wounds caused by the disaster and are waiting to be healed. The family whom I met told me that young volunteers coming from far away like us are strengthening the local people by working with cheerful smiles and sweaty foreheads. When we look at the debris, we see not only garbage but oyster shells which the fishermen in Minami-sanriku had farmed, along with their fishing nets. The clothes and shoes found among the debris show that their owners ended their lives there. Photos and certificates found in the debris are the very precious memories for bereaved families.

I am not the only one who had experiences like this. The significant presence of volunteers cannot be measured from the aspect of efficiency or tangible results. In fact, many young people who shared the same work and prayer in our program carried their various emotional thoughts back home. We must not forget the compassionate support and charity needed amid this competitive society facing job shortages. Many young people have increased their caring concern for the Tōhoku people who continue to work at recovery and reconstruction, and return to Tōhoku to do volunteer work again. Thus, the Tōhoku disaster areas still need our volunteer recovery support “through our feeble hands and humble hearts.”

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.

God created this world And then he said “It was very good.”

Kim Hyung-wook, SJ (Korea Jesuit Scholastic)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 165 / June 15th, 2012

On March 9 a Korean Jesuit, Fr. Kim Chong-uk, was arrested by the police and jailed for a month. His crime was destruction of government property on Jeju Island. He had openly disturbed government plans to construct a naval base there. He broke through a fence around the naval base construction work and entered into the compound illegally. He was released on April 10 and is now protesting again against the government’s destruction of the environment on Jeju Island.

Jeju Island is located at the south of the Korean Peninsula. It is one of the world’s most beautiful islands, known for its pristine nature and for its being a volcanic island. There are about 280,000 inhabitants there, and they are fighting to protect their village from illegal development projects by government authorities. It sounds like a modern-day David and Goliath story.

The proposed naval base is being built at a site where volcanic lava flows enter the sea, a mile-long area known as Gureombi Rocks. This beautiful rocky coast is sacred to local villagers and has been declared a Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO. Natural freshwater springs bubble up through the surface and soft coral reefs lie off the shore. It is also the only home for the endangered Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin.

In 2007, the Korean government announced it would construct a naval base at this village, but the project was full of problems and didn’t follow legal procedures. Actually, about 94% of the Gangeong village people opposed the plan for this new naval base. Many environment enthusiasts also opposed the construction of the base because it would destroy the natural environment. Located in the southern most area of Korea, Jeju Island needs no military base for “peace safety plans.” The Government openly said that the new naval base was needed in order to maintain peace in the Asia-Pacific region. Environmentalists, however, insist that if a naval base is constructed on Jeju Island, it will give rise to tensions with China. Actually, China has strongly protested this plan on the grounds that it is creating tensions in the Northeast Asian area. Frankly speaking, this naval base aims at fulfilling needs of the U.S.A. more than those of Korea. That is the real reason why a naval base is said to be needed there.

According to Jesuit Social Activist Fr. John Dear, “As far as the United States is concerned, the sole purpose of the base is its strategic location near China, Japan, and Taiwan. The United States has asked South Korea to build a major naval base there for its Aegis destroyers — U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carriers that carry cruise missiles. These missiles, to be kept on U.S. destroyers and submarines at the proposed Jeju Island naval base, could be used someday to destroy Chinese ICBMs.

Fr. Dear continues, “The Korean government’s intention is to build a huge naval base at Gangjeong Village to harbor U.S. Aegis destroyers and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. It is thus obvious that South Korea’s new base would give the United States the immediate capacity to take military action, with nuclear weapons if necessary, against China. Korea would continue to serve as a pawn for the United States and its imperial strategy to surround China. In exchange, the U.S. would continue to protect Korea.”

Five years ago, the Ordinary of the Jeju Island Diocese, Bishop Kang Woo-il, President of the Korean Bishops’ Conference, issued a call urging all priests and sisters to stand by the people of Gangjeong Village. Thousands of priests and sisters have been involved. One day, 20 sisters were arrested. At another protest, 3400 of the nation’s 4000 priests joined in. Some priests have slept on the rocks of the island’s construction site for months at a time. Others have been arrested for obstructing construction equipment. Others have celebrated Mass on the coast as an act of resistance and a way to continue the centuries-long reverence for the rocky coast as a sacred site. Every day they join the villagers in speaking out, sitting in, fasting, praying and taking nonviolent risks to stop the destruction of this sacred seascape.

Finally, I would like to say something about the Jesuits of the Korea Province. In fact, the Society is one of the strongest of all protesting groups. Some Jesuits are already living in the village on Jeju Island. Some priests and brothers have been arrested several times by the police. Until recently, one priest remained in jail for a month, and one priest was judged guilty and given a 2-year sentence. A brother is waiting for a sentence to be passed by the court at the end of this month. Moreover, Jesuits of the Korea Province, included Fr. Provincial himself, have given them their support. For example, the Jesuit Center holds a weekly Mass for peace in Gangjeong, and many Korean Jesuit scholars have produced reports on these activities and have done research on the issue. Some Jesuits have personally visited Jeju Island. Quoting Fr. John Dear, “We have never before been so united as now and have never seen such widespread, steadfast, organized and determined nonviolent resistance. The involvement of so many priests and sisters in the cause of peace and disarmament is impressive. Never in my life have I witnessed the level of commitment and dedication to a cause that I have seen in Gangjeong Village.”

The Korean Provincial, Fr. Sin Won-sik, said at a homily during Mass, “When we live together with the poor, the suffering and the persecuted, we will be like Jesus Christ. That will fulfill our Jesuit mission in this land.” He encouraged all Jesuits in Korea to participate in this activity.

Recently, Fr. General Nicolás also sent a moving letter to the Korea Province encouraging Jesuit activities with regard to the environment, peace, justice, solidarity and so on. Jesuits have traditionally carried a flame with the passion to kindle it in other hearts. This is an important reason why such activities must also spread beyond Korea. All these activities point to our Jesuit identity, since our purpose is to “find God in all things.” That is why Fr. General supports from afar the activities of Korean Jesuits on Jeju Island.

The Homeless Of Shibuya

Shimokawa Masatsugu, SJ
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 164 / April 15th, 2012

Fourteen years ago, when I was a student, I used to get the train at Shibuya station (Tokyo), a place where homeless people set up their shelters. Gradually, I got interested in their problems. On my way to work these days I pass through the same station, where I can still see many homeless people. In fact, I have always had great interest in the slum communities of Asian countries, but ever since the homeless of Shibuya caught my eye, I have felt the need to become involved in the issues of the poor here at home also.

Some 16 years ago, an organization called “Nojiren,” specializing in the situation of homeless people living in Shibuya, was established and I took part in their activities. From the start its most important task was to secure sleeping area at the entrance of a public Children’s Center in Tokyo. As the result of often violent negotiations with the administration of this Center, any homeless unable to find a shelter was allowed to sleep with the others under the broad roof at the entrance of the Children’s Center after office hours, from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. Of course, the conditions were inconvenient, the roof was outside the building and they had to set up their area every evening and clear up the site early the next morning. But at least they would not get wet on rainy days and in some respect could sleep peacefully without being harassed by youngsters and other passersby (mainly guard men and police). In this way they were able to establish new community relationships with the others. Thus, it was quite important for them to maintain access to that site.

Nevertheless, the place was firmly closed off on November 1 last year and nobody can sleep there anymore. People were told that the outer walls of the Children’s Center needed earthquake-proof repair, but there was not any outer wall that needed repair at the entrance of the Center. In fact, 5 months have already passed and no work has been done at the entrance of the building, which shows that the main purpose had been to expel the homeless people so that they could not use that place during the night.

Quite differently from 14 years ago, many citizens’ groups and churches now show interest in the issues of homeless people. Nevertheless, the main focus of interest seems to be immediate assistance, like distribution of food, requests for social-welfare aid and assistance for self-support. Of course, applying for social welfare could be a way to rectify unjust handlings by administrative authorities and helping to support the self-help of homeless people is very important. But actually Japanese society is creating more and more new homeless and not many of them are able to become independent merely by following the orientations given by the administration and aid organizations. Reflecting on the present situation, would it not be very important to organize places for all homeless people to stay, places for them to sleep and at the same time to help to build living communities where the homeless themselves could assist one another? (It would also be important to promote social reforms so that the number of homeless people will not increase.)

The “gratuity of God’s love” is a basic Christian characteristic. God loves people as they are and unconditionally, no matter who they are, and not because they have done well. In other words, even people who are weak and have many defects are loved by God and accepted by Him as they are. I believe that this truth is directly connected with our social realities. In today’s world any homeless person should be able to remain in any place and find a place to sleep.

Nevertheless, lately, the waves of urban development under the initiative of the market mechanism promoted by big companies, especially in macro-urban centers, engulf them. The market system disposes of all useless things and becomes a strong mechanism for efficiency, so much so that products considered without market value are clearly dispensed with. The urban renewal of Shibuya Station, fed by private capital, led to the removal of people who had been able to sleep in front of the Children’s Center, as mentioned above. And again it was linked to the removal of tens of homeless people from Miyashita Park a year ago, when the Niki Corporation bought the rights to rename Miyashita Park.

Since the end of March there has been a movement of strong protest against the forceful eviction of homeless people by the Department of Communication and Transport and the Kōtō Ward Office on the occasion of the May 22 opening of the “sky tree” in Sumida Ward (Tokyo) and the urban renewal of its surroundings. The eviction sites are the riverside at Tatekawa Park in Kōtō Ward and the Arakawa Horikiribashi in Sumida Ward. In Shibuya the tide of renewal is also intensifying with the opening of the commercial station building, Hikarie, and the plans to link the underground center and the Tōyoko railroad lines this year. It is expected that the fight to secure a place for the homeless in Shibuya so that they can sleep in the open will intensify.

Urban renewal might be a social need, but is it good to give the green light to such development, when in the process homeless and poor people are evicted and deprived of the places where they are presently living? Society tends to reduce waste and pursue greater efficiency. Destroying places where people, for instance homeless people, can find shelter seems like depriving Jesus of a place to live and of a time to pray in the name of greater efficiency.

The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and Refugees in Japan

Koyama Hideyuki, SJ (FRJ Board member, Global Concern Institute of Sophia University)

Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 163 / February 15th, 2012

During the very severe Italian winter of 1538, Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, and his first companions opened the doors of their headquarters in Rome to shelter the many refugees and sick people that were looking looked for asylum as a result of hunger and disease. Ignatius and the companions begged for food supplies and firewood to take care of these homeless people. In one year they provided for more than 3,000 refugees.

The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) was founded as a work of the Society of Jesus in November 1980 by Fr Pedro Arrupe, then Superior General. JRS was officially registered as a foundation in Vatican City on March 19, 2000.

JRS programs are found in 51 countries around the world, providing assistance to: refugees in camps and cities, individuals displaced within their own countries, asylum seekers in cities, and those held in detention centers. The main areas of work are in the fields of education, emergency assistance, healthcare, livelihood activities and social services. At the end of 2010, more than 500,000 individuals could be counted as direct beneficiaries of JRS projects.

More than 1,400 workers contribute to the work of JRS. Many of these work on a voluntary basis, including about 78 Jesuits and 66 religious from other congregations. In 2010 the Global Concerns Institute of Sophia University paid a visit to the JRS refugee Kakuma camp in Kenya, where JRS conducts various programs, like Counseling, Mental Health, Safe Haven and Education.

Former Superior General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach expressed his recognition of JRS work for refugees around the world in the following way:
“JRS plants a seed of hope in the aridness of refugee camps, where people’s future is so often in jeopardy. This is particularly the case for young refugees in despair who are unable to gain access to education. Day after day, year after year, they see their lives becoming more and more hopeless.

“It is especially in these camps that JRS becomes an urgent service of hope for refugees. Hope increases when we help refugees have faith in themselves and in their future. It increases when love is shown in deeds of education and vocational training which transform past and present hatred into life with the wisdom which enables reconciliation and offers them the hope of a different future.”

Koyama (on the left)at JRS refugee Kakuma camp in Kenya 2010




Convention on Refugees

The Convention on Refugees was approved by the General Assembly of the UN in 1951. Japan joined it thirty years later. According to the Convention, a refugee is “a person who, owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.” Nevertheless, the pre-history of the Convention goes back to the Holocaust of World War II, when protection was offered to people fleeing persecution under communist regimes. Nowadays the situation of the refugees has changed and new challenges have occurred. The definition must be broadened to protect those who have to leave their land due to economic policy failures, national collapse, natural disasters, and the increase of urban refugees. It is a pity that national borders around the world have been closed and hostility towards unknown persons is on the increase.

Japan’s Recognition of Refugees

After the Vietnam War, from 1978 to 2005, Japan accepted 11,000 refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Nevertheless, only 577 out of 9,887 applicants were qualified as refugees according to the Convention.

In the year 2010, immigration authorities released the following figures: 1,202 persons (342 Burmese, 171 Sri Lankans, 126 Turks, 109 Nepalese, 91 Indians and 363 from other countries) applied for refugee status, but only 39, mostly from Burma, had been accepted. Compared with the previous year it was only an increase of 9. Thirteen have objected to the official decision and another 363, mainly from Myanmar, have been given temporary visas for humanitarian reasons. Compared with Western countries (19,800 persons for the USA, 11,154 for Canada, 9,693 for England, 8,115 for Germany, 7,924 for France, and 2,230 for Italy), Japan’s acceptance of refugees is quite low.

In the year 2010, the Japanese government started a pilot program which accepts refugees resident in a third country, like the acceptance of 27 Burmese from 5 refugee families and 26 more from other 6 families in 2011 living in the Mera refugee camp of Thailand. This program is a step forward but has many shortcomings. According to the Mainichi Newspaper (2012/1/14), two of these refugee families moved to a farm in Chiba Prefecture but, due to misunderstandings with the rural host family, went to live permanently in Tokyo.

Forum for Refugees Japan (FRJ)

The Migrant Desk at the Jesuit Social Center in Tokyo offers free legal consultations, besides supporting the Adachi International Academy. Nevertheless, a need was felt to expand its services to defend the rights of refugees living in Japan and provide assistance through the “Forum for Refugees Japan” (FRJ) network. Thus, two years ago we joined FRJ.

Japan’s Ministry of Justice, feeling the need to cooperate with citizens’ groups giving assistance to refugees, has started a concrete revision of its policies concerning refugee status requirements, immigration jails, resident permits and self-support and, as a result of recognizing its limitations, conducts normal discussions with the members of FRJ.

As a concrete example, 4 Burmese refugees who received provisional relief permits at Narita airport were accepted by the Japan Association for Refugees in Yotsuya. The Catholic Tokyo International Center provided lodging, clothing, and daily services as needed. Further, a Sisters’ Congregation now holds Japanese language courses for them.

I hope that, thanks to such private efforts, compulsory detention of refugees can be commuted. The Jesuit Social Center continues its relationship with JRS and its cooperation with the Forum for Refugees Japan. Added to this, last year I inaugurated a group of students called “Sophia Refugee Service.” My aim is to engage university students in concrete activities for refugees.

Jesuit Social Center, Free Legal Consultation

Ando Isamu S.J. (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 162 / December 15th, 2011

I would like to introduce the “Free Legal Consultation” services that began in the Social Center at the beginning of January 2011.

All of us meet foreign residents in Japan in our daily life, through religious services, educational institutions, or work places. More than half of all the Japanese Catholics belong to many different nationalities. Anyone in contact with foreigners in Japan realizes the complexity of the situations they face, their need to be trained in the Japanese language, and the legal barriers they encounter.

When this Social Center moved to Kibe Hall in Yotsuya, one of the tasks given us was to search for ways of closer cooperation with St Ignatius Church. One of the decisions the Social Center took was to try to provide radical solutions to key issues faced by foreigners in weak positions, like refugees, single mothers, or others unable to find themselves solutions for their problems on their own. Thus, we decided to conduct legal consultations. But for that we needed lawyers. Last October, a resident in Japan of Singaporean nationality, Ms Jessie T. agreed to work with us part time.

Articles in the mass media published last November concerning a new Section of Legal Assistance for Foreigners at the Tokyo Public Law Office caught my attention. The head of the new Section, Ms Suzuki Masako, graduate of Sophia University, came to visit us and we discussed the possibilities of cooperating. After negotiations at the Tokyo Public Law Office with three interested lawyers, we decided to start free legal consultations once a month at the Social Center. Free legal access began in January 2011 and we soon realized the need for personal interviews before meeting with the lawyers in order to focus the issues and provide for interpreters and translators. At present, we have in our files 35 legal cases, already solved or waiting for solutions.

ANGI (anonymous) called us by phone from the immigration jail several months ago. She is a Filipina single mother with 3 children, all born in Japan, age 1, 2, and 4. She was detained in October 2010 for lack of proper documentation. Her children were placed in a welfare home and could not meet her for over 8 months. She was very poor. We visited her in jail with a lawyer, provided some funding, etc. She was deported with her children in June this year 2011.

ANGEL (anonymous) came to us asking for legal advice. She was working very hard on weekends in a pub but did not receive her salary for about two months. In July she met our lawyer. Next, the Labor Office intervened, but without success, and finally her case is now in court. The hearing takes place this November. We are providing an interpreter.

NGUYEN (anonymous), claiming to be a refugee from Vietnam, has appealed to the Japanese government for recognition of his refugee status. The appeal was denied three times and he asked us for legal assistance in August 2011. One of our lawyers is taking care of his case. Many documents need to be translated into Japanese.

Immigration Detention Japan

By Ando Isamu, SJ (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)

October 14th 2011, a special Workshop took place in Tokyo concerning the issue of immigration  detention centers in Japan. The organizers were the Forum for Refugees Japan (FRJ).

The Jesuit social center Migrant Desk also collaborated with FRJ and provided the facilities to hold the 1-day workshop. About 35 people, representing 14 groups linked to the network of FRJ, participated. During the morning inputs, Mr. Daniel A. UNHCR representative in Japan and 3 key members of International Detention Coalition (IDC) provided important information on the issue of immigration detention. The director of International Detention Coalition, Mr. Grant Mitchel drawing on a number of international examples outlined a new approach to alternatives to detention named as ‘Community Assessment and Placement (CAP) model. The idea is how to enforce immigration law by using mechanisms that do not rely heavily on detention. That is meant to give response to irregular migrants and asylum seekers. The experiences of Australia and Hong Kong, where UNHCR, NGOs and government act at unison and a controversial plan of the South Korean government to build new facilities for asylum seekers in an isolated island, criticized by NGOs, were also presented.

The whole afternoon of the workshop was a live exercise in 4 different working groups with regard to the realities of asylum seekers in Japan. The sessions were short and a number of themes were gradually provided by the facilitator, Mr. Grant Mitchel of IDC.

At the end, there was little time left to discuss the action programs, and hopefully FRJ will continue the follow up work at their normal meetings.

This workshop was the first one to take place in Japan (?) and the atmosphere was very good and the content was fruitful. One of the main messages was the need for collaboration not only among NGOs, but also with officials and UNHCR. No matter different approaches, to prevent unnecessary immigration detention is, certainly, a common issue. With regard to the participating NGOs it was not clear whether they referred only to asylum seekers (refugees) or they also included irregular migrants.

Those interested could visit IDC URL

Human Trafficking: Why the World cannot stop it?

by Kojima Yu and Hara Yuriko / Godo Books 2010 / ¥1.300 + Tax

Shibata Yukinori (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 158 / March 15th, 2011

 The Realities of Children and Adult Victims of Human Trafficking

A few days ago I read an article telling the story of a girl from a minority group in North Vietnam who was forced into prostitution and later sold in China by a criminal organization. Since our Center has some assistance programs with Vietnamese NGOs there, I was greatly shocked at this news.

According to enquiries made by the Vietnamese government during a period of 5 years, from 2004 to 2008, about 4008 persons fell victim to human trafficking. And this figure is just a loose estimate. As a result of the one-child Chinese policy, the male population in rural areas has increased and traffickers target girls of tribal groups who want to escape poverty by inciting them to marry in rural China. There are also many cases of girls in Vietnamese cities who are cheated into prostitution as a ruse to get profitable jobs.

Such human trafficking is taking place all over the world. This book offers information on citizens’ movements to protect the victims, explains the historical and economic background of the problem, and, based on the testimonies of victims from all over the world, denounces the realities of human trafficking.

Needless to say, old-style slavery is not accepted in today’s world. Nevertheless, all types of human trafficking, like economic exploitation and traditional social customs which include strong racial and sex discrimination, still remain alive in our societies. For instance, the sex industry, housemaid services, begging, plantation and fishery work, mine work, child soldiers, organ transplantation and so on often end up in human trafficking. However, there is very little reliable data available in this field.

The fact that there are increasing numbers of migrant workers is one reason for active human trafficking. The causes are various, like escape from poverty, the desire for city life, flight from political oppression, and domestic violence or sex discrimination. According to the 2008 ILO Yearly Report, about 200 million workers left their countries to work in foreign lands. This number refers to legal workers. It is believed that illegal ones are more numerous.

Among these, many have been recruited as victims of human trafficking. Persons using illegal means to work abroad are compelled to borrow large quantities of money and thus become victims of forced labor. Even legal migrant workers have their passports and visas taken away and many end up in forced labor. In reality, it becomes difficult to procure accurate figures of human trafficking victims due to the fact that many migrant workers switch from legal to illegal status.

Asia is the region of the world that sends many migrant workers abroad and suffers from human trafficking. During the 1970s and 80s, many left Asian countries to work in Europe and the Middle East, Japan and Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore. Against the background of the continuing development of Asian economies during the 1990s, movement of workers among Asian countries, as well as human trafficking, increased. The case of Vietnamese girls brought to China mentioned at the beginning is just one example.

Japan is also one of the receiving countries for human trafficking. Before the Second World War, Japanese women were sent to Asian countries to work there in many instances as prostitutes, and during the Second World War many Koreans and Taiwanese were forcibly brought to Japan as such workers. Again, many women from Korea and the Philippines were forced by the Japanese military to work as “comfort women” around Asian countries. These days many foreign workers, amid bad working conditions and low salaries, are employed as students and technical trainees.

Several international organizations and NGOs, along with various kinds of legislation, are working actively to suppress all human trafficking. Nevertheless, since international movement of workers is on the increase, there is no way to decrease human trafficking. This was also true in former days. However, nowadays it is not rare to have foreigners living near us, and so it should be easier not only for officials but also for each one of us to provoke action on this issue. This book, easy to understand, could be a suitable first step. Schools could use it as teaching material. It is well worth reading!

The Social Mapping Report [Jesuit Mission]

Ando Isamu S.J. (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 156 / November 15th, 2010 

A Jesuit Initiative in East Asia

In recognition of the need to examine the social context of the Jesuit mission in Asia- Pacific today, a Social Mapping Project was initiated by the Jesuit Conference of Asia- Pacific (JCAP) in early 2009. Around the same time, JCAP participants at the Jesuit international social justice workshop in Madrid in November 2008 asked for a more comprehensive conference-wide database of Jesuits in the social field.

The JCAP office worked with a team of lay collaborators. With the concurrence of JCAP Major Superiors in January 2009, the social mapping project was launched. It has the following objectives:

1) To gain greater insight into the current social context of Asia-Pacific, particularly from the experiences of Jesuits in the field;

2) To identify Jesuit institutions and individuals who are involved in creative initiatives in the social field; and

3) To facilitate discernment of how the Society is called to respond to the invitations and challenges of the social context, especially through international co-operation.

The present realities of Asia-Pacific require more coherent strategies and well-combined efforts across provinces and apostolic boundaries. The increasing numbers of vulnerable migrants, fast-paced and inequitable economic development, threats to marginalized groups, deep-seated conflicts and ecological injustices are among the pressing concerns in the region inviting a greater role for Jesuits and their collaborators.

This study recommends that the Society should identify common apostolic frontiers or priorities to tackle at the Conference level through a multi-sectorial approach. Migration, Environment and Governance of natural resources can be among the priority apostolic frontiers relevant to all countries of Asia-Pacific. Jesuits and companions are engaged in these fields in many parts of the region. Specific goals can be identified for each of these two areas and strategies that involve all the relevant apostolates – intellectual, social, pastoral, education – can be formulated, implemented and monitored at the (JCAP) Conference level.

The social mapping project has revealed that only a small number of Jesuits are engaged in full-time social ministries and these often experience a sense of isolation and lack of support. It has also been highlighted that direct contact of Jesuits with the poor is decreasing. In fact, Jesuits’ lack of commitment to being with the poor and to social justice is a recurrent observation. Moreover, while there are a number of expert individuals and institutions in the Assistancy, current efforts seem to be piecemeal. There is a lack of connection between different apostolates, especially between the social and intellectual ministries. As a result, the sharing of expertise and the implementation of joint projects has been minimal.

Planning can be greatly improved. In particular, the Conference, Provinces and Regions would do well to plan in terms of mission frontiers and not in terms of apostolates.

Finally, a number of younger Jesuits have inherited existing ministries pioneered by their predecessors. However, local and regional contexts have changed. The younger generation of Jesuits will respond to encouragement and flexibility. They are called to boldly re-define the road ahead.

In summary, GC 35 urges Jesuits to build bridges across barriers so as to promote reconciliation with God, with others and with creation. Located in Asia-Pacific, a region culturally and religiously diverse, economically dynamic and politically wide-ranging, JCAP has to respond to this call for reconciliation with boldness and creativity.


The JCAP office identified and contacted Jesuits and collaborators in each Province and Region who were involved in social-related initiatives. Through email surveys, information was sought from these persons regarding their current work, their way of working, their network of contacts, future plans and how they might benefit from greater international co-operation. A total of 103 persons working in the Assistancy were contacted, comprising Jesuits and lay persons engaged in social ministries; Jesuits involved in social initiatives with other organizations and their collaborators; and Jesuits active in social-related concerns through the intellectual, pastoral, education and other ministries.

The most basic question that the social mapping project sought to answer was: In what areas are we now actively engaged? An initial survey revealed that Jesuits and collaborators in Asia-Pacific have been active in the following social-related themes:

1. Migration
2. Environment and governance of natural resources
3. Poverty and sustainable development
4. Indigenous peoples
5. Youth, family and rehabilitation
6. Access to education
7. Civil society, participation and governance
8. Inter-religious dialogue and religious fundamentalism
9. Peace building and conflict resolution10.Natural disaster preparedness, relief and reconstruction

  KLATEN Meeting and Social Mapping Project

 A Social Apostolate Meeting was held in Klaten (Indonesia) under the sponsorship of JCAP from 16 to 20 August 2010 to discuss the issue of migration in East Asia and the Pacific. Nearly 40 delegates, Jesuits and their co-partners, from the countries of the region participated. The participants discussed the mapping report and identified the following key areas that need greater attention.

1) Collaboration: there is a need to move forward on joint projects regarding migration. In concrete, to form networks between sending and receiving countries.

2) Coordination: to communicate more through IT – internet, blogs, social media, etc.
Need of a full-time social apostolate coordinator

3) Closeness to the poor: those in the social apostolate need to carry out self-evaluation. Provinces need reminders about lifestyle, living the vows and monitoring budget policy.

4) Formation with a social dimension: need to include social analysis and critical reflection in the curriculum for scholastics. Use the mapping report as a resource. Get Jesuits, mainly scholastics, to experience the social dimension of our life.

(Please refer to the article “Migrants in Japan”in No. 154 of this Bulletin.)

Participants reflected on migration in Asia-Pacific and agreed on the following goals for the Conference project:

1) To deepen the quality of our accompaniment by being closer to vulnerable migrants and providing them with quality services;

2) To increase reflection, research and formation for work on migration;

3) To better understand and advocate the cause of migrants at the local and international levels; and

4) To increase awareness of migrants’ experiences among Jesuits and in the Church in order to promote responses at various levels.

*Migrant groups
It was also agreed that the project would focus on the following groups of migrants

1) Migrant workers (both international and internal

2) Vulnerable foreign spouses, including “mail order brides

3) Undocumented migrants, including victims of trafficking in persons and smuggling and

4)People in immigration detention centers.

*Areas of action
The following key areas of action for the first 3 years were agreed upon. Detailed action plans were formulated for each area.

1) Sending countries

2) Receiving countries

3) Engagement of other apostolates

4) Advocacy and communication

5) Structure of governance

It was agreed that a task force should be formed to get the migration project moving and that a full-time person should be engaged for a new Conference migration desk. Fr Bernard Arputhasamy SJ agreed to head the task force.

 Province Action Plans 
Each Jesuit Province represented explained the action plans to be taken. I offer here the program of the Japanese delegates.

1) Regarding the social mapping:

Make a summary in the social apostolate committee (SAC) and share the results of the Klaten gathering with other Jesuits, especially with the Scholastics

2) Migration:

(a) Contact Person: Migration desk at Tokyo Social Center (Ando)

(b) Collaboration and Networking with CTIC (Catholic Tokyo International Center), other citizens’ NGOs, Parishes, Schools and Sophia University, AIA (Adachi International Academy)

(c) Build up a network with receiving countries of migrant foreign workers

3) Other key areas:

(a) Marginalization

(b) Human suffering because of spiritual and/or human anxiety

(c) Peace building in the Japanese context


Jesuit Social Center in Tokyo [Bulletin No:150]

Ando Isamu S.J. (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 150 / July 15th, 2009

This is the 150th issue of this Bulletin. The first issue was published 25 years ago as a bimonthly newsletter, A-4 size, 8 to 10 pages in length. Since the essence of the social center’s 28-year history can be found there, we want to present here a general overview of the Center’s present activities.

Social and Pastoral Bulletin number 150

The Jesuit Social Center was inaugurated in April 1981 at Kawadacho (Shinjuku-ku). In July 2006 we celebrated the 25th anniversary with a special celebration in the St Joseph Hall of St Ignatius Church in Yotsuya (Tokyo). The following year, on June 15, 2007, we published a Booklet to commemorate the Center’s 25 years of existence from 1981 to 2006. Here I would like to reflect on what we have done and are now doing.

 Social Apostolic Letter (SAL)

One of the main tasks of the newly founded Center was to establish a system of direct communication with all members of the Japan Province of the Society of Jesus. Thus, upon the initiative of Fr. Weghaus, on December 6, 1980, the Social Apostolic Letter (SAL) began publication in order to keep members of the Province informed about the activities of the Center. Father Provincial formed a special committee of 7 Jesuits (Frs. Weghaus, Ando, H. Hayashi, Kuga, Linthorst, Susukida and Yamada). The committee discussed matters regarding the social apostolate and the content of the new SAL, assisting Fr. Weghaus to solicit advice on how to conduct the social apostolate in the Province.

SAL aimed at including the following content: (1) An editorial on some contemporary social problem. (2) Fr Provincial’s answers to questions submitted by Jesuits of the Province. (3) Short reports on “What we are doing.” (4) Opinions regarding “What we should and could do.” (5) Opinions on “What we are doing but should discontinue.” (6) New problems, vital statistics of Japan, activities of the Center. SAL was discontinued with the 29th issue in March 1983. A year later, May 1984, the publication of the Social and Pastoral Bulletin began (see Booklet p. 11).

Fr Weghaus returned to Germany before the Bulletin was published. Fr. Ando became the new director of the Center, and when Mr Shibata Yukinori started working at the center, he became part of the editorial staff of the Bulletin. Let me quote from the above Booklet.

The Social and Pastoral Bulletin (May 1984) replaced SAL and beginning in September 1992 was issued bimonthly and bilingually (Japanese-English) in A-4 format with 8 to 12 pages. While SAL had concentrated on Catholic social teaching and theological reflection, the new Bulletin, especially after the 1990s, stressed information from the field concerning social movements from inside and outside the Catholic communities (Booklet, p.16).

The Bulletin has continued publication uninterruptedly for the past 25 years. As a general rule, the Bulletin is sent gratis to each Jesuit of the Japan Province, as well as to Jesuits abroad working in the social apostolate and those cooperating with the Center. There are also subscribers who pay the yearly subscription (\1200 for the six numbers a year). The number of readers of the Bulletin as of June 2009 was 475 (338 for the Japanese edition and 137 for the English). About 98 of these are ordinary subscribers.

The Bulletin has accomplished the role of an “information operations room” to transmit to our readers in Japan and in other parts of the world not only the activities of the Center and the way of thinking that inspires them, but also the social problems Japan and the world are presently facing. The Center’s web page has a file of all back numbers of the Bulletin since 1998.

Objectives of the Center and Networking

The Center tries to show the many facets of our Jesuit social apostolate in Japan. We are selective in our activities kin order to maintain a Jesuit identity. The social apostolate is deeply involved in the building of healthy human structures, where people can enjoy respect as images of God and the freedom to live together in harmony and without discrimination, to develop themselves as human beings and to contribute to healthy changes so as to improve our societies. For its part, the Society of Jesus has taken as its priority the specific mission of working for the promotion of faith and justice. It stresses a preference for the poor in this world.

In general, one the main focuses of this Center is NETWORKING. We stress cooperation with the Jesuit Social Secretariat in Rome and the Jesuit Networking in East Asia. The Tokyo Center played an important role in the Jesuit social apostolate in Asia while the SELA organization was in existence, as well as with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Asia. It is always open to other networks of NGOs in Japan and other Asian countries working for refugees and migrant workers, against poverty and violations of human rights, against capital punishment, against landmines, etc.

In cooperation with Jesuit companions and other groups we watch and analyze the situations confronting us and look for ways to act accordingly, aware of our limitations.

Adachi International Academy (AIA)

Let me offer here the example of a concrete program, a small school for migrant workers in the suburbs of Tokyo, which was the result of a long process of continuous contact with the situation of foreign workers living in Japan. The support of the Center was one of the key elements in making a successful start for AIA a year ago. The Jesuit Social Center had from its very beginning a priority involvement with refugees from the Indochina region (Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia) in former camps of Thailand as well as with those that reached Japan looking for asylum. During these last years foreign workers in Japan have attracted our attention. Japanese NGOs and church groups have gradually come forward to take care of refugees and foreign workers in a variety of fields from pastoral and legal issues to offering shelter and advice on health issues and family problems.

Meanwhile, it became clear that a lack of communication due to the difficulties of mastering the Japanese language was like a “chronic disease” that needed special attention. Most people thought that this was a basic issue common to all foreign workers, no matter what their nationalities, but the volunteer programs for learning Japanese that are available in quite a few churches as well as in public places are by no means adequate to provide a suitable solution. In the past I personally had been offering volunteer services on Sundays after helping out in the Umeda parish (Adachi-ku) and participated in programs of all kinds of assistance, going so far as to rent an apartment that functioned as a secretariat for such volunteer activities.

One Sunday two young Filipino workers came looking for advice. Their Japanese employer had told them to stop coming to work the next Monday. They had been fired, but they could not understand the reasons behind their dismissal. I asked them whether they had been given anything in writing. They showed me a piece of paper with their signatures. They could not read what was written in Japanese. The employer had written: “I, the undersigned, will stop working here next Monday.” They had signed the paper trusting their employer, but they had been clearly cheated in an underhanded way.

This is just one instance proving the need for full involvement in the language education of tens of thousands of foreign people working in Japan. Most cannot afford the expense of Japanese language schools and the casual volunteer services offered in many churches and public halls are of limited value.

On July 6, 2008, the Adachi International Academy (AIA) opened officially with a special ceremony of blessing and started operations in an old rented Japanese-style house in Umeda. The location was selected with regard for the big number of foreign workers living and working in Adachi Ward.

Four Catholic religious congregations agreed to share responsibility for this new pilot educational project in cooperation with lay people. In fact, the small school, rather like a Christian “Terakoya,” started functioning with the registering of 13 children in September. AIA is always open for anyone to come, from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. It offers private lessons in the Japanese language to children up to the high school level, and to foreign adults, as well as lessons in English conversation, mathematics and computer. The educational method is a person-to-person approach. The needs of the student concerning time and subject matter are given special priority. Thus, a large number of teachers is often needed. Financial limitations make it compulsory to depend on volunteers. On the other hand, the organizations cooperating together have agreed to look for educators and young volunteers to come to AIA to offer free services. One of the main jobs of the AIA office is to check daily on each student and volunteer so that the education proceeds smoothly. We ask for a low monthly fee to help pay the transportation expense of the volunteers.

The number of AIA users during the past 11 months was over 2,203. Some 50 volunteers have registered: half of these are university students, 14 religious and 10 lay. But, in fact, the actual number of volunteers comes to 35 persons, of whom 17 are university students, 10 religious and 8 lay people.

JAPA VIETNAM (The Japanese Group of Private Assistance to Vietnam)

JAPA VIETNAM was established in 1990 as a citizens’ group. The representative is Fr. Ando, from the Jesuit Social Center, where JAPA VIETNAM’s desk is located. The Secretary General is Mr. Shibata and a 6-member volunteer staff normally participates in the running of the group. There are 300 members helping financially to fund projects operated by Vietnamese groups in Vietnam. In rural areas the programs consist of building small bridges and vital roads, digging wells, as well as forming cow banks and sow raising farms, building classrooms for literacy education and clinics. In urban areas, assistance is provided to programs for street children and slum dwellers and programs for HIV/AIDS patients and their rehabilitation toward become independent. The total amount of funds each year is about 250 million yen, or an average of US$3000 per project.

A JAPA VIETNAM team visits Vietnam once a year. Every 6 months an informative Newsletter is published and once a year a general assembly is held with live reports from the visits to Vietnam. A charity concert and two bazaars are organized every year. During the first two weeks of August this year Fr Ando and Mr Shibata will be part of the team visiting Vietnam. There are plans to hold the general assembly together with a charity concert and a report on the August Vietnam tour around October of this year.

Stop the Death Penalty: Network of Religions

 Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists and Shintoists, together with other non-affiliated groups and individuals, have established the “Stop the Death Penalty” Network. The establishment of the Network was the result of a seminar against capital punishment organized in Tokyo in the year 2003 under the initiative of an Italian Catholic organization, the St. Egidio Community. At the time, the secretariat of the Network was located at the office of Amnesty International, but in 2008 it was transferred to the Jesuit Social Center under the care of Mr Shibata.

Actually, 6 years ago, in 1997, the Jesuit Social Center conducted a national campaign against landmines in collaboration with citizens’ groups, Catholic, Protestant and Buddhist organizations. After that, in 2001, the center organized a “Life Painting Exhibition” of paintings from prisoners on death row. These experiences have helped us cooperate as the secretariat for the “Stop the Death Penalty” Network.

The Network consists of 5 or 6 religious bodies: Catholics, Protestants (NCC), Shinshu Otani, Tendaishu, Seimeizan Schweitzer Temple, Oomoto, etc. and organizes seminars twice a year. An important event is a common prayer meeting once a year of these religious bodies to demand the abolition of all executions, along with public appeals and a signature campaign demanding the abolition of executions.

Based on the experiences and personalities of those participating in this religious Network, Mr Shibata has been actively involved in the recent formation of a task force of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission for the abolition of capital punishment and in a campaign of citizens’ groups protesting executions.

Task Team on “Mental Illnesses”

Back in October 2004 the Province Committee on Social-Pastoral Ministry conducted an enquiry among all the Jesuits in the Province with regard to the main social issues in Japan. In the order of priority given them the results were as follows: First were the problems of foreign workers, then globalization and marginalization, and finally inner mental disorders. In order to address these issues various task forces were established.

The task team on mental illnesses was composed of 3 Jesuits, Frs. Hanafusa and Matsui and Br. Yoshiba, 3 lay people and a Sister issued a complementary enquiry to Jesuits on the matter and gathered several times to analyze the data and decide on the basic directions to follow.

 Theory and reflection are not enough. There is need for field work and private commitment.

Besides pointing out the issues involved there is a need to present successful live instances.

 The main causes of psychological problems cannot be reduced to personal temperament. There is need to clarify the social distortions which surround and disturb people’s lives.

The team members divided up their tasks and published a booklet, Taking a Positive Stand on Psychological Problems. The booklet was issued 3 times with a circulation of 1,700 copies. Since it takes a Christian stand on psychological situations, the booklet was well accepted by Catholic readers.

The task team remained inactive for a while after publication of the booklet, but last May three of the members, Fr. Hanafusa, Br. Yoshiba and Mr. Shibata resumed activities. The team plans to continue preparations for an initiation seminar on psychological issues with practical activities in view.

Association for Solidarity with Friends in Cambodia (Cambo-Ren)

Cambo-Ren was born from the wishes of all members that attended the Cambodia Study Tour of 2003. Fr. Bonet is the representative of the group, which is comprised of some 300 members. Cambo-Ren’s main office is located in the Jesuit Social Center. The local counterpart is the Jesuit Service Cambodia, particularly in Sisophon, near the Thai border.

The group gives importance to the following:

Giving assistance to programs orientated to “human development,” like rural development, education and health

  By reducing consumption the members of the group produce some income that is used to support programs

  By sharing their free time every year the members organize study tours to Cambodia.

Thanks to the assistance provided by members of the group, offering some of their savings and occasional free time, a number of projects in Cambodia have been implemented. Here is a list of them: houses built for victims of landmines, water reservoirs for villages, mobile libraries in 15 different locations, building of schools and study centers, benches and tables for schools, school toilets, wheelchairs, cow banks, wells, teaching materials and assistance to teachers’ salaries. The group visits the sites, discusses the projects directly with the persons involved and the JSC staff and then decides on possibilities of assistance. A year later, a Cambo-Ren group pays a new visit to the site of the project and reports to all Cambo-Ren members. A Newsletter is sent twice a year to all members.

Study tours of 9 days are organized every February during the dry season when the roads leading to the project sites are in good condition. The tour schedule is tightly planned to observe not only the educational programs of JSC for disabled people and children’s home receiving assistance, but also the torture facilities of Pol Pot’s times in Phnom Pen and visits to refugees’ homes. In Siem Reap the visits include a number of projects run by JSC and informative talks of NGO people clearing landmines. The last day is left for a visit to Angkor Wat. The groups are composed of 10 members and we hire a van to move around Cambodia.

Seminar: Let’s Discuss Development with Fr. Anzorena


Back in 1994 we began this seminar of monthly lectures from April to July each year. We used Kibe Hall this year and the theme of the seminar was “30 Years of a Housing Movement with the Cooperation of the Poor and their Supporters.” The lectures introduced the history of the housing movement and its development with future prospects in the Philippines, Africa, the Indochina region and Pakistan.

Fr. Anzorena has long been visiting third world countries, building a network of skilled personnel. He makes efforts to help the poor to become fully independent and deals with government officials to assist NGOs and squatters’ organizations working for the improvement of housing conditions. Fr. Anzorena usually spends half a year visiting countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Thanks to his rich experience the reports on the situation of the countries offer always fresh insights.

Seminar “The voice of the Church for Modern Society: Catholic Social Teaching”

This is a series of seminars that started in 2007. Beginning last year the seminars have been held in one of the meeting halls of Kojimachi Church under the auspices of the Social Center and St. Ignatius Church. The coordinator, Fr. Bonet, and the speakers are Jesuits. The seminars deal with actual social issues concerning people.

First of all, there is a presentation of concrete situations, so that the following session explains the thinking of the Catholic Church and its public declarations. The main themes this year are: 1- Poverty and War. Japan’s actual poverty gap. The Catholic Church denounces modern realities and makes appeals for solutions. 2- History of Human Rights: Lights and Shadows. Human Rights and the Catholic Church; Catholic social teaching and Peace. 3- The Labor situation in Japan; Society seen from the eyes of foreign workers and temporal workers; John Paul II’s encyclical letter on Work and a Christian vision of human work. 4- Three kinds of assassinations: Criminals, War and Executions; Voice of the Church: Culture of death and Culture of life.

The participants are not only Catholics and as much as possible all share their questions and comments.

My participation in the World Social Forum 2009

KOGURE Yasuhisa(Jesuit regent at Jesuit Social Center Tokyo)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 148 / March 15th, 2009

<Towards Belem (Brazil), Site of the Forum >
Last summer, the Jesuit Social Justice Secretariat (Rome) sent an invitation to attend the World Social Forum (WSF-9) to all Jesuit provinces. This time I was sent there by the Jesuit Social Center (Tokyo). The WSF took place from January 27 to February 1. A few days before (January 24-27) a Jesuit Pre-forum “Fe’ namazonia” was organized by the Amazonian Jesuits and I attended both, together with fellow Jesuits and other colleagues, from all over the world working in social justice ministry.

This time I was the only participant from the Japanese Province and it was a real blessing for me to be able to meet with Jesuits involved in the social apostolate, from all over the world, as well as with lay colleagues working at JRS and other Jesuit social institutions. I felt especially happy to encounter other Jesuit scholastics working in social justice ministry during their regency.

The journey to the site of the WSF took me 28 hours. From Narita I travelled to Atlanta (USA). There I changed planes to Managua (Brazil) and finally to Belem. In Atlanta I had the experience of being fingerprinted with my 10 fingers and having my face scanned, as a US visitor. I can still remember the calmly faces of military personnel (many women among them) coming back from Iraq(?) in the next rows, while I was waiting for the immigration procedures.

I arrived to Manaus (Brazil) in the night and I asked the staff of the airport for my next plane to Belem but nobody could understand English. That was my first shocking experience on Brazilian soil. I had been told before that only Portuguese is spoken in this part of the world and I realized it at that moment. While waiting I went out of the airport and found outside a small garden with a “Torii” (shrine gate) and a statue of a crane in a pond. It was written there that the site was a remembrance of 70th anniversary of the first Japanese emigrants to Brazil. The Torii and the crane became a symbol of their hometowns for the Japanese emigrants. That was an emotional moment of the historical link of Japan and Brazil.

A street of Belem

Belem do Para where the WSF took place is the Capital of a Brazilian northern region 2.3 times bigger than Japan. Belem’s population is about 2 million. The city is located at the mouth of the Amazon River 6,500 km long. The second big city near the center of the Amazon River is Manaus. Many Japanese emigrants arrived in Manaus for the first time to settle in the Amazon region 80 years ago (1929). The history of Belem, on the other hand, goes back to 1616 when the Portuguese built a fortress there. During the 19th century natural rubber was found along the Amazon River and due to the development of the auto industry at the time the Portuguese exploited it obtaining huge wealth. Belem and Manaus flourished unprecedentedly at the time. Even now, many old European style buildings stand out along the streets of Belem. The Church of Nazareth in the center of the city is a symbol of the economic boom of Belem City at the time.

< The Two Pre-Forums >

(1) World Forum on Theology and Liberation

I attended the two Pre-forums ahead of the WSF. The 3rd World Forum on Theology and Liberation (January 22-25) dealt with the themes: “Water, Ecology and Theology to build another different world.” Besides Christian theology the Forum concentrated on spirituality, the natural environment and the relationships with our life styles. The stress was on contributions to be taken to build a different world that is more in harmony with the natural environment.

Famous liberation theologian, Leonardo Boff gave the keynote address on January 22. He is now removed from the religious, but many people in the Church respect and support him. Recently, he has published various books on ecological issues from the point of view of “Liberation.” His speech dealt, mainly, with the critical issue of “Water.” Quoting M. Gandhi he made his presentation: “If humanity continues living and doing economic activities, as it is doing now, on the basis of greediness and consumption, our planet and human beings will not be maintained. Our basic living course is questioned.”

The English speaking workshop, including Africans, Native Americans, Europeans, Americans and Japanese shared their relationships with the environment and the expression of their faith according to different cultural contexts. The free atmosphere that characterized the discussions was quite impressive.

(2) Pre-forum Fe’namazonia

The Pre-forum Fe’namazonia (January 24-27) was mainly oriented to the Ignatian family. The Brazil’s Jesuit Amazonian region took the initiative, with the cooperation of Rome’s Jesuit Social Justice Secretariat (SJS) and CPAL (The Social Sector of the Jesuit Provincial Conference). About 230 participants attended the Pre-forum. About 100 were diocesan priests and other religious, as well as lay people and the rest 125 belonged to the Ignatian Family – Jesuits and lay collaborators – gathered from all over the world.

The majority of the participants came from Brazil’s North East, Central and Amazon regions and Jesuits from other Latin American countries. Indians followed and then African and Europeans. We were just 2 Jesuits from East Asia, Fr. Kim San Wong of Korea and I from Japan. The presence of few American Jesuits looked strange to me. As a digression, just the night before the pre-forum a simple exchange event was held to introduce ourselves and our cultural backgrounds. Latin Americans, Indians and Africans that participated in great numbers showed their skills dancing and singing. The two of us from East Asia could not dance together.

Instead Fr. Kim and I introduced our common culture and customs by presenting the planting of rice and how rice planting decayed in East Asia nowadays, because of neo-liberal agro-policies recommended by WTO (World Trade Organization). Then, showing chopsticks we demonstrated how dexterous we are using them. Shouts of “Oh” greeted us. Anyhow Fr. Kim and I could play successfully a lone hand.

The main theme of this Pre-forum was “Religious Faith (s) and the Defense of Life.” Indigenous people, living by the Amazon River (the Riverine) whose life habitat and extremely inhuman situation is in danger, due to rampant development projects that seriously destroy the Amazonian region, as well as Jesuits and collaborator Sisters and lay people working with them in the Amazon, made direct appeals on the situation. Brazilian, Marina Silva, an Indigenous former Minister for the Environment spoke on the possible maintenance of the development of the Amazon and the preservation of the environment.

Delegates from Colombia, Brazil, the Amazon, Africa and India presented their views on religious faith (s) and the defense of life with concrete experiences.

From the second day on the workshops continued according to various themes. Faith, Peace and Reconciliation, Social and Political problems, Human Rights were selected for the first day; Faith and the future of Amazonian Culture, Ecology Challenges and Answers, Religion, the Church and new Religion movements for the second day. The participants divided in groups, according to languages (Portuguese and English), shared together their discussions on the selected themes. Then, a coordinator from each group reported to the general assembly. I attended the workshops both days.

The focus of the discussions on the last day centered, again, on the lights and shadows of the Amazonian region. The groups’ discussions searched for concrete ways we could build up a possible sustainable world. I shared with my group the following, “Ecology has given rise to a new business and, as we can observe at the deforestation taking place in Indonesia with the production of bio-fuels, more CO2 emissions are increasing, and ecological movements fuelled by shortsighted commercial concerns cannot provide us with proofs that they positively influence a real preservation of our eco-system.

There are many issues I hardly understand. Of course, the use of cars and electrical appliances that emit little CO2 can, maybe, contribute to prevent global warming. But, if priority is given to the prevention of global warming, apart from being “mottainai”, control on new cars and electric appliances must occur. In other words, there is no other way but to slow down the speed of the economic system and production that are the assumption of actual mass consumption. And since that will produce problems like unemployment, we must also think about this.” Among the opinions expressed, there were those honestly invocating for changes in life styles, as well as those sticking to the production of raw materials for bio-fuels and large-scale coconut plantations that can, at least temporarily hire people, no matter the harms. People expressed freely their views.

The 4-day “Pre-forum Fe’namazonia” was a very fruitful experience and, especially the presence of the Indian delegation SAPI (South Asian People’s Initiative) and the Amazonian Indigenous “travelling team” was unforgettable. Their opinions, during the discussions of the small groups’ workshops were sometimes surprising to me. Living in first world countries, with such an overflow of information, I somehow felt the danger existing on getting accustomed to think abstractly on the basis of our information. The indigenous travelling team and the members of the Indian SAPI live quite apart and own totally different cultures, but it appeared clearly at the exchange party that they share common sentiments and that, both confront similar difficult issues under the influence of neo-liberal globalization. They have met Christianity, but their spirituality, different from the European, has nurtured their faith or relationship to God. India and the Amazon, different regional cultures and traditions worshipping God, but no matter differences, the image both have of God is so much the same that I felt newly surprised. It’s nothing but my personal view: they seem to have a feeling of God, better than to know him theoretically. I also felt the high level of religious sensitivity common to indigenous people. I remembered the “Life Fabric” or the letter sent by the Native American Chief to President Washington, at the time of the Western settlements when a presidential order was issued expelling the Indians and buying their lands. I was surprised in realizing the prophetic roles of such indigenous people..

< What is the WSF? >

Before reporting on the content of the WSF I want to explain its meaning first.
The WSF held in Brazil from January 27 to February 1 was the 9th Forum that was started in Porto Alegre in 2001.

According to the recorded data published there were 133,000 participants coming from 142 countries and 6,000 organizations (500 from Europe and Africa each and 4,000 from Latin American countries)

WSFs are held every year at the end of January. The reason is to hold them at the time of the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF). In other words, in order to understand the nature and the beginning of the WSF one needs to understand the content of the WEF.

The WEF or the so-called “Davos Conference” is organized every year at the Swiss tourist resort of Davos. In Japan is ordinarily known as the Davos Conference. Usually, about 3,000 people participate. They are CEOs from nearly 1,000 big companies, political leaders, like Presidents and Prime Ministers, selected scholars, intellectuals and journalists. The yearly fee is about 3 million Yen (US$30,000).

About 75% of the 3,000 participants come from Europe (39%) and North American countries (36%) and 4.1% from the Middle East. The populations of Europe and North American countries count for 17% of the world population and that of the Middle East is only 0.8% of the World’s. In fact, 80% of the participants to the Davos Conference represent less than 20% of the world. Thus, it’s easy to understand how regionally biased the WEF is. Thinking about Asia where 60% of the world population lives, its presence at the WEF is just 7.7%. In other words, Davos is not a site directly representing the overwhelming 80% of the population of the world.

On the other hand, the real serious world problems, like wars, hunger, disease, political oppression and violence occur in the lands where this 80% people live. We may say to some respect that the sponsors of WEF are those that have organized the world structures filled with actual gaps. The aim of the adjustments favored by the WEF is, basically, the continuation of promoting the neo-liberal free economic market and one doubt whether Davos really shows any interest in solving North-South differences and world poverty. Anybody confronting world realities can find the answer.

The first WSF was organized in Porto Alegre (Brazil) in the year 2001, in order to confront the Davos WEF and the fact that South America (Brazil) became the founder of WSF holds a great symbolic meaning.

“Another World is Possible,” the motto of the WSF has become well-known everywhere. In other words, there is a general basic awareness considering the present world system as a symbol of structures built by a handful of persons represented at the Davos Conference. Such a world is filled with a poverty gap and oppressive structures where many people are facing all kinds of serious problems. Our aim is to search for possibilities of a different world, not one lead by the Davos WEF.

A place where most people freely participate, discuss and make decisions together. Once such a process is safeguarded another world can be built.

In other words, the WSF in the search for another possible world can object to people, influenced by the present political, economic and social structures of a system producing the gaps and offer an alternative of networks of people dedicated to look for global ways to build just societies for everybody where human rights, democracy and peace are provided to all. This could, most probably, mean an alternative globalization to the present neo-liberalistic one.

In order to fully understand the aim for “Another World” and obtain a concrete image of it, let’s take a look at the 10 goals offered by the WSF-9.

The welcome massage by Labour Party of Brazil

1. For the construction of a world of peace, justice, ethics and respect for different spiritualities, free of weapons, especially nuclear ones;

2. For the release of the world domain by capital, multinationals corporations, imperialist, patriarchal, colonial and neo-colonial domination and unequal systems of commerce, by canceling the impoverish countries debt;

3. For universal and sustainable access to the common property of mankind and nature, for the preservation of our planet and its resources, particularly water, forests and renewable energy sources;

4. For the democratization and independence of knowledge, culture and communication and for the creation of a system of shared knowledge and acquirement with the dismantling of Intellectual Property Rights;

5. For the dignity, diversity, ensuring the equality of gender, race, ethnicity, generation, sexual orientation and elimination of all forms of discrimination and caste (discrimination based on descent);

6. For the insurance (during the lifetime use of all people) of the economic, social, human, cultural and environmental rights, particularly the rights to food, health, education, housing, employment and decent work, communication and food security and sovereignty;

7. For the construction of a world order based on sovereignty, self-determination and on people’s rights, including minorities and migrants;

8. For the construction of a democratic emancipator, sustainable and solidarity economy, focused on every people and based on ethical and fair trade;

9. For the construction and expansion of truly local, national and global democratic political and economic structures and institutions, with the participation of people in decisions and control of public affairs and resources;

10. For the defense of the environment (Amazon and others ecosystems) as source of life for the planet Earth and for the original peoples of the world (indigenous, tribal and riverine, afro-descendent), that demand their territories, languages, cultures, identities, environmental justice, spiritually and right to live.

All participants held their workshops’ discussions upon the basis of such 10 goals. Two Brazilian universities, Universidade Federal do Para (UFPA) and Universidade Federal Rural da Amazonia (UFRA) offered their campuses as the main site of WSF-9.

< The World Social Forum >

Opening parade in a squall

A walking rally in the afternoon of January 27 marked the beginning of WSF-9. Most probably, tens of thousands paraded through the streets of Belem for 4 hours that day. When we, the participants of the Jesuit pre-forum, arrived by bus at the departure point of the rally, people had already filled the streets, pressing each other and bringing along colorful flags, banners and various kinds of musical instruments.

Even if only half of the 133,000 participants and organizations took part in the parade, one can guess the cheerfulness of about 60,000 people parading there.

A Brazilian style sudden squall surprised us at the start of the parade, but no matter the strong pounding of the rain people continued the rally. The young Brazilian participants seemed to enjoy especially the rally under the heavy squall. During the parade I was able to meet with people of Japanese organizations, like “Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution” bringing their flag, “Osaka’s WSF,” “ATTAC Japan” and “People’s Plan Research Center.” I was able to meet with AKIMOTO Yoko of ATTAC Japan and I heard that about 25 persons had come this time to the WSF-9. In fact, during the Forum I could not practically meet any Japanese person. Most probably, the Japanese media did not report on the Forum and it was most interested on the Davos Conference. On the contrary, Latin American reporters were everywhere present. Again, maybe because the participation of Japanese and Asians seemed curious to western reporters I was interviewed by some French and English media people. I think that the awareness on the existence of the WSF is different in Europe and in Japan.

The Forum officially opened on January 28 and hundreds of workshops begun to run in the campuses of UFPA and UFRA. We, the members of the “Pre-forum Fe’namazonia” presented our report at the UFPA.

My main problems during the whole Forum were language hardship and the difficulty to get hold of information. The official language at the former WSF of Nairobi (Kenya) was English, but this one held in Brazil was admirably done only in Portuguese.

Sound demonstration

The main language at the Jesuit pre-forum was also Portuguese, but English-language interpreters perfectly helped to solve language problems. English facilities were poor at the WSF. The reality was that a few workshops were conducted with the help of English-language interpreters, but most workshops lacked them. This was understandable because a majority of the participants were Latin Americans and I had the feeling that was a sign for the Latin American cultural block to assure their identity as an independent region, not belonging to North American English cultural block.

My options were necessarily limited: either to select a workshop with English-language interpreters or one in Portuguese with somebody that could help me speaking English.

As a result, there was no possibility left to select a definite theme, but I went around looking for workshops with interesting themes, like development issues of the Amazon, indigenous and minority groups, pilot programs for ecological preservation, international network for the promotion of human rights, privatization of public services (water facilities, etc.), labor under neo-liberalism, solidarity economics, peace, anti-war movements, etc.

Finally, I would like to mention 2 significant aspects of the WSF-9. The first one was the participation of 85 indigenous groups from the Amazon and the SAPI members from India. They strongly manifested pride to belong to their tribal minority groups. Their very right for identity that is being threatened by neo-liberalistic globalization was made vividly apparent through the expression of concrete situations. “Another World” must be rooted on the basis of “life,” and be sensitive to issues concerning it. It becomes necessary to pay attention to their open reflections and natural wisdom.

Indigenous peoples

The second aspect was the presence of many Latin American youth. It is certainly hopeful to realize that so many young people feel attracted to build “Another World.” Latin American countries are surely moving into searching for ways to build a different society. They are moving away from the USA-led neo-liberalistic FTTA (Federal Technology Transfer Act), and from the international systems, IMF (International Monetary Fund) and WB(World Bank). Instead, they are implementing concrete steps to form a South American Bank, under the frameworks of ALBA (Alternativa Boliviarana para las Americas) and UNASUR (Union de Naciones Suramericanas). On the 3rd day of the Forum, 5 left wing Presidents of Latin America (Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay) gathered and made speeches to an overflowing crowd of people. Of course, all countries have their hidden agendas and the degree of earnestness for a coalition is different. Nevertheless, it is true that the motives behind such political moves in Latin America are caused by the wishes of many around the world to implement more just societies, not a neo-liberalistic world where the stronger prey upon the weaker.

In my way home to the residence I met people of the rural group MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra) parading through the streets. This group is one of the organizations represented at the WSF and it is publicly well-known in Brazil. From the very beginning of its foundation the Catholic Church and the Jesuits continue its support. I heard that the Jesuit novices of the central province of Brazil are always having their monthly experiments with the MST communities. At the negotiations with Brazilian President Lula, just before the WSF started, President Lula promised the MST a million houses for free. I experienced clearly the latent energy of the country that gave birth to liberation theology.

Presidents from 5 countries

This time I had the opportunity of meeting with many people and participating in many events at the WSF-9. It was a wonderful time of blessings for me. Reflecting on my regency on social apostolate, I had 2 years of very good experiences meeting with many people. From April, I will start my theological studies and it would be wonderful if I could be able to slowly digest fully the wonderful experiences I had meeting people. I want to sincerely thank all those I have met during my 2 years of regency.

Report on the JCAP Migration workshop (Seoul)

15th – 17th May 2011, Jesuit Apostolic Center, SEOUL
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 160 / July 15th, 2011

“This tradition of Jesuits building bridges across barriers becomes crucial in the context of today’s world. We become able to bridge the divisions of a fragmented world only if we are united by the love of Christ our Lord, by personal bonds like those that linked Francis Xavier and Ignatius across the seas, and by the obedience that sends each one of us in mission to any part of this world.” (GC 35, Decree 3, 17)

For the first time, Jesuits and collaborators providing direct services to migrants in sending and receiving countries came together around the table at a workshop in Seoul from 15th to 17th May 2011. The objectives of the workshop were:
– To improve links between centers across countries for the benefit of migrants
– To build capacity and learn best practices from each other and from experts
– To plan for common action
The workshop was organized and sponsored by JCAP with the generous support of the Korean province. There were 13 participants from Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam, JCAP as well as a representative from the Good Shepherd Asia Pacific network.

Highlights of the program
Fr Denis Kim SJ gave an overview of migration in Asia (focusing on the North East) and the challenges for the church and the Society. The presentation helped participants to look at the big picture of migration and see its links with culture, religion and development. As some participants commented, a better understanding of these inter-related concerns helped them go deeper in their response to migrants. Fr Denis also shared a framework for looking at migration in receiving countries, which participants found useful. The framework comprises 4 elements – State, Labor market, Culture and Civil society.

Ms Jeong Guesun, Director of “Solidarity with Migrants” shared on the Korean  civil society’s response to migration. Participants learned about the migration situation in South Korea, the developments in migration policy and the role of activists. One of their main take-aways was an awareness that the current challenge in migration work was the empowerment and training of migrants themselves to become active for their own cause. In this regard, Ms Jeong observed that the Filipino migrants were the most well-organized in Korea because of the support of the Catholic Church. Regarding international co-operation, one key area in Ms Jeong’s opinion is the strengthening of the system in sending countries as this could prevent a lot of problems and abuse occurring in receiving countries. Both sides should work together to address the gaps in information, advocacy and preparation of migrants.

Participants also visited Hyehwadong Filipino Catholic Community (HFCC) and were struck by how well-organized it was as a migrant group. With over 1500 members and 200 volunteers in the council and sub-committees, the group was the largest Filipino community in South Korea. It benefits from the chaplaincy of a Filipino MSP priest and the generous support of the Seoul Archdiocese which provides a 4-storey building in the downtown area for their activities. Participants felt that the empowering and self-organizing way of the HFCC provided a useful best practice model which they could develop in their own countries.

Sharing by Centers: After the above inputs and exposure trip, participants shared about the work of their centers and the migration situation in their countries. From this sharing, participants learnt best practices from one another such as the importance of psychological aid, education of migrant children and the need to take up advocacy work to improve migration policies. Those serving migrants in receiving countries gained a deeper understanding of the migrants’ aspirations from the sharing of sending countries. Participants were deeply struck by the case of Nirmala, a domestic worker who was severely abused in Malaysia, and saw that one possibility for future joint action was to address such problems, which seemed more prevalent in South East Asia.

Participants’ reflections
After a time of reflection on Scripture and the inputs at the workshop, participants prayed and discerned about the needs of migrants to address as a top priority. The areas identified included the insecurity of migrants, their need for community, knowledge of their rights, better access to assistance in their own language, better preparation in their home country, fragility of family relationships and poverty alleviation to address the root causes of migration.

Looking at these inputs, it can be seen that a common thread is the participants’ keen sensitivity to the migrants’ perspective and their needs at every stage of the migration process. This probably comes from the participants’ concrete presence at the frontier accompanying migrants. Not surprisingly, this is similar to the philosophy of Jesuit Refugee Service. The JCAP migration project paper poses the question: “What will be the added value of the response of the Society of Jesus to the immense needs of migrants in our region?” From the participants’ reflection and inputs, the JCAP network’s niche contribution possibly lies in the ability to identify what’s needed based on close accompaniment of migrants, and a way of proceeding that sees things from their perspective.

Another striking point about the participants’ reflection was that it became more and more  obvious that to serve migrants effectively, centers in both sending and receiving countries needed to work together. This would make possible better preparation of migrants, exchange of information, accompaniment of migrants abroad and their families at home, education, pastoral care, access to services, protection of migrants’ rights and advocacy. This could be another niche role of the Society. The existence of this JCAP network of sending and receiving countries makes possible integrated service delivery. This is particularly important given that half of migration in Asia Pacific occurs within the region. In future, the network could also consider joint advocacy.

Joint action plan
Based on the participants’ suggestions, the following action plans were agreed upon:

1. Case handling between sending and receiving countries:
– A “case” is defined as a person moving from one place to another and needs help with some problems. When there is need to accompany a case from sending to receiving country or vice versa, an agreed procedure will be followed among our centers.
– This procedure will include contacting each other through email, cell phone etc. (a list of emergency contact numbers of network members was circulated) and providing information such as history of the case, information about the migrant, sender and recipient, address of contact office, etc.
– For the time being, financial expenses in case handling will be covered by the respective local institutions. (Brother Min will provide information about the addresses and procedure seeking financial help from the Joy and Share Foundation.)
– Once this procedure is implemented, it will be evaluated after 6 months or after 3-5 cases.

2. Joint accompaniment of migrant and family:
– To address the negative impact on family life, network members in sending and receiving countries will coordinate with each other in accompanying the migrant and his/her family. This includes migrants who have left their families behind in their home countries as well as marriages with foreign spouses.
– First, data on cases will be collected and the common problems will be analyzed.
– Improvements to services include programs for social gathering, providing education on cultural differences, providing therapy, providing education on family value and meaning, etc. and networking of persons in charge between receiving and sending countries.

3. Preparation of migrants: Education and orientation:
– Accurate information about destination countries is often lacking in the migrants’ home country.
– The JCAP network will collect all available information booklets/web sites from receiving countries (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia) and provide copies to sending countries (Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand) where network members can distribute to those planning to go abroad.
– The information can also be used for pre-departure education and seminars.
– Later, the usefulness of the booklets will be evaluated.

The overall feeling about the workshop was one of consolation. Participants felt that the workshop enabled them to see the bigger picture and gain a deeper understanding of migrants especially from hearing the perspectives of sending countries for the first time. This has given them greater motivation, courage and deeper appreciation for the meaning of their work. For some, it has also inspired new ways of proceeding such as empowerment of migrants, building a pool of collaborators and addressing culture, religion and economic issues.

The workshop has helped to build relationships among the JCAP network members as well as with the Good Shepherd sisters. Although they acknowledged the challenges and workload ahead, participants felt that the migration common project has moved forward in a concrete way. The workshop has facilitated the “building of bridges” among sending and receiving countries and is thus a step towards the call of GC35. It was also apparent that a smaller and more focused meeting involving those directly working on the topic was a more fruitful approach. On-going communication within the network will be crucial.

Next steps
The network members will work on the action plans as listed above. A report on this meeting will be sent to the migration task force and JCAP office. JCAP will also continue to find a full-time coordinator for this network. One of the key tasks for this person will be to work with network members and facilitate greater integration of services, after the first steps taken at this meeting. Later, more can be done to work towards a fully-integrated accompaniment service for migrants across countries and this can perhaps be a new model for the social apostolate.

The next thing to work on would be advocacy. In this regard, the JCAP network needs to continue its reflection and dialogue on specific migration concerns so as to discern a common advocacy issue to address. This could perhaps be the focus of the next workshop.

Date: 30th May 2011

URGENT! Nigerian Family in despair

Can Anybody Help?
Let me tell today about a Nigerian family. They are in EXTREME NEED. They are not yet living in the street, but that could happen next week. No money, no food, no work, not even water and gas in their old apartment. Electricity will be cut tomorrow. Unpaid bills are just piling.
I had before received their SOS calls and yesterday I made time to visit them. They are husband and wife from Nigeria in their forty’s with 3 cute small children, age 5, 3 and 1.

History Record
Husband and wife reached Narita airport on June 15, 2006 in their way to FIJI ISLANDS, without any plan to be in Japan. The wife was 6-month pregnant and upon arrival to Narita was bleeding from her nose and her legs were swollen. As a result, Japanese immigration gave them a 3-day stay in Japan to see a doctor. They took a room at Narita airport Hotel and the husband looked for help in the airport and in other places around, but nobody could understand him in English. Finally he could find a kind person that guided them to a Clinic. The baby was totally misplaced in the mother’s womb and needed long medical care. In the meantime they were staying in the Narita Hotel and spent all money they had to pay the bill (\10,000 a day). Finally some goodwill person guided them to Yokohama and provided them a room to stay free of charge.

They never thought about living in Japan and they wanted to leave as soon as possible, but the circumstances forced them to remain], they assured me.

Finally the child was born and only a year later when they went to Yokohama immigration, they were warned “you must go home” and they felt they were absolutely unattended. By the time, they had spent all the money they had and could not go anywhere.

Deportation order
On 30 November 2010, immigration and police together went to their apartment at around 9:00AM to interview them. The police arrested the husband and kept him at a nearby police station for 10 days. The husband never did anything wrong and the police brought him to immigration. There they told him to go home, but he refused because they do not have any money to go back to Nigeria. On top of that, their mother and father have already died, and there was nobody who could take care of the family. So, their wish was to take care of their family in Japan.

In December 2010, immigration gave a one-month provisional release to the husband. Later in January 2011, the wife and 3 children obtained also one-month provisional release.
They renewed their one-month stay in February again, but later for the next 2 months they could not go to immigration due to lack of money. The husband is sick and cannot (find) work, so there is no income in the family.

Finally, last May, immigration called them to appear but they answered that they did not have money to go. One day, immigration went to their apartment by car and brought them to the immigration office and back home again. That time they “forced” them to sign their deportation order. After that they were given one-month provisional release once more. They are supposed to go to immigration again on October 14, 2011.

We have started to move with our lawyers, but many other problems remain unsolved.I have often heard about “pockets of poverty in affluent societies” like Japan, but the confrontation with people like this Nigerian family always shakes my faith and challenges me to trust God more. [21 September, 2011. Ando from Tokyo]

Special an Interview with Fr. General Adolfo Nicolas, SJ

Special an Interview with Fr. General Adolfo Nicolas, SJ
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 147 / January 15th, 2009

This is an interview done by the Jesuit Social and Pastoral Bulletin to Fr. General Adolfo Nicolas, SJ on the occasion of his visit to Japan. Fr.Nicolas, with the assistance of Fr. Fernando Franco, SJ, the General Secretary for Social Apostolate, sent us a written answer to our questions. We added further comments of Fr. General upon meeting with him in Tokyo on December 25th, 2008. [Interviewer: Ando Isamu, SJ.]

Question: Can we think of some new emphasis or orientations for the Jesuit social apostolate after the last General Congregation 35?

Answer: In its Decree on Mission, GC 35 re-affirms the commitment of the Society of Jesus to proclaiming and living a faith that is engaged in the justice of the Kingdom and in dialogue with other cultures and religions. In this sense, the social apostolate continues to be rooted in this vision of our Jesuit charisma.

There are, however, some elements that can help the social and other apostolates to respond better to the challenges facing us today. The mission of the Society is described as our commitment to join Jesus Christ in reconciling the entire universe to the Father. Our specific action with and for the poor needs to be understood as an effort to build bridges among those who have and those who have not. This action needs also to be integrated with the call to reconcile human beings with God and creation. There is a conscious determination to see the social apostolate, our action for justice as a complex act which touches not only our relationships with one another but also the way we relate to God and to the entire creation. Our promotion of justice is embedded in our effort to help people (“souls”) engage in discovering their true selves and their care for our common earth.

In the social apostolate, as well as in other ministries, there is a new accent on ‘networking,’ rather than having a strong basis, particularly because the problems have all become universal, like poverty, unemployment, violence, and so forth. It is only through ‘networking’ that we can respond to them and, thus, they also provide opportunities for multi-based answers.
I would say, personally, that all our concerns are modified by the needs surrounding us. We don’t have concerns of our own, but the real concerns are those of the world: poverty, unemployment, violence, education, etc.
I was very impressed by a recent article of “Cristianisme i Justicia” that talks about 4 contracts that offer a vision for our involvement:

1- Social Contract: All nations and everybody should work against poverty, unemployment, etc.

2- Natural Contract: We have spoiled nature with our consumerist habits and we must live more simply

3- Cultural Contract: Education for everyone, nobody is excluded. A very important concern for us, for our priority for extraordinary good schools or for an education that can help other schools or for the country to provide education to all

4- Ethical Contract: To treat people as people and not as things. An ethical recovery of values and humanity, the meaning of life.

These will be the context on which we reconsider all the time our involvements, our concerns in the social apostolate.

Question: Which are the main and more relevant tasks to the social apostolate within the overall Jesuit apostolic mission?

Answer: On the basis of this general vision the social apostolate responds to a great variety of contexts and situations with concrete interventions. Looking at this great variety of challenges and responses we may emphasize three types of tasks
The task of accompanying the poor. Jesuits continue to accompany the poor and excluded. This is a task demanding great doses of humility, and a vocation to listen patiently. We may remember the Jesuits accompanying indigenous and tribal communities in Latin America and Asia. I would like to remember also the commitment of the social apostolate to the cause of the Dalit community in India; those who work in poor and degraded urban areas with young dropouts and members of gangs; those who accompany women and children suffering from HIV/AIDS. In some cases, accompaniment is complemented with the provision of basic social services like education and health.

The task of analyzing and reflecting on the ultimate causes of injustice. For us Jesuits accompanying is not enough. We are called to exercise a “learned ministry” and reflect on the ultimate causes of poverty and exclusion. There are many social centres engaged in social research; collaboration between the social apostolate and Jesuit Universities to study and analyse social issues is rapidly increasing. Without being exhaustive I can mention existing collaboration in the area of migration, climate warming and its effects on the poor, forced displacement by so called development, impact of small credit cooperatives on rural women, and on issues of food security. We need, I think, to move ahead on this road and find concrete ways of establishing forms of inter-ministry collaboration. I know the example of a province where a memorandum of understanding has been signed between a recently constituted network of social centres and the Jesuit University.
I would like also to point out to a third and important task: influencing public policy and the centres of power where decisions affecting the poor are taken. In more precise terms this has been called advocacy. Our commitment to establish right relationships implies engaging those having political power at all levels on issues and policies that affect the poor. It is not acting on behalf of the poor but enabling the voices of the excluded to be heard with respect. This again is not a new task. There are many Jesuits and collaborators working in the defence of human rights. At this moment social centres in Africa, Europe and the United States are monitoring a number of extractive foreign companies in central Africa. Jesuits have supported an important group that helps indigenous communities in the Amazonia to fight for their land. There is also a serious effort to advocate for housing for the poor in the United States. Very recently Jesuits and collaborators have held an International Workshop on Advocacy and the results are promising.

These days “advocacy” is coming to the front. It is a search for effectiveness so that it brings up results, but we cannot remain fixed on to this effectiveness that might take all our energies.
The fact is that some problems can never be solved. Now, how to be present to the people who are suffering from real problems, without letting our hope be lost even if the results are not good?

Question: How do social centres function (or maybe should function) within super-provincial networks?

Answer: In a “globalised” world, and in moments of an acute financial, economic and social crisis, social centres need to be rooted in the local, but have to act globally. A great effort is going on to articulate social centres in Assistancy/Conference networks and to operate in connection with other platforms. We have realized that networking as an apostolic instrument requires clear objectives, and dedication of personnel and finances. Networking is not a club of friends exchanging pleasantries. Networking cannot be one more activity that we add to the already overburdened agenda of those working in our social centres. Networking is also a way to enhance the principle of subsidiarity: in a circle of connected hubs (social centres) established in different countries, each hub can lead the others in different themes or campaigns. This method respects autonomy and strengthens solidarity and universality.

I personally think that Social Centers are the basis for systematic reflection, analysis and coordination. They stress social awareness, advocacy and discernment regarding priority issues. On the other hand, individuals, some usually very busy, find it very hard to do the same, but the centers invite to a coordinated response. One of the problems of people who are very busy with other things is ‘dispersion,’ lack of focus and concentration.
Today with such good communications systems the desire to solve too many problems makes us very ineffective. We must keep an eye on the energy and work already existing so that it does not get destroyed and so that we keep our priorities clear.

Question: Jesuits somehow know about JRS; but what has been done at Jesuit level, Research and Action included, with regard to (1) Poverty alleviation, (2) Migration, (3) Global economic crisis and (4) mass unemployment?

Answer: We suffer both from an indigestion of useless information and from lack of significant data about what we are doing. We need also to acknowledge that we are not called to solve these enormous global issues facing humanity. We need realism and humility to know our limitations and to be able to concentrate in what we can do and do it with others.

Let me, however, note in passing the joint programme between social centres and Jesuit Universities in Latin America to tackle the complex issue of poverty. We may remember the dedicated work of many social centres in Europe to promote awareness on the Millennium Goals. The two Jesuit Conferences of Latin America and the United States have signed a memorandum to tackle the issue of migration. The Jesuit network of migration in Latin America is working in close collaboration with the Jesuit network of Southern Europe.

We need to join our voices and our efforts to many others who are today analysing the consequences of the global crisis we are facing. We have not fully understood the extent of its impact on the poor. I am convinced that many of our social centres and universities are already in dialogue to find out the best way of responding to this crisis.
Let me end with a reflection that may help us avoid past mistakes. Following a well known Ignatian principle we must do our best as if the result depended entirely on our effort, knowing that everything depends on God. We need to confront our desire to achieve success, as quickly as possible. The principle of Ignatian indifference and the Asian principle of acting in a manner that is also detached from the fruits of our action are very important.

Different continents are responding to needs in different and various ways. In Brazil, for instance, linking ecology and poverty. In the issues of migration, there are sending countries, like the Philippines or African countries and the accepting countries, Japan, Europe, the United States, etc. Now, our question is how to interrelate all?
All these concerns are present in the Society of Jesus at various levels. The involvement of JRS is clear and a lot of things are happening these days. There is the issue of networking and reflection, as well.
These global problems invite us to work differently. They are the context where humanity is struggling, suffering and looking for solutions. We need discernment to reflect on what can we do with our limited resources. Many initiatives are taking place and other people are already deeply involved. How can we cooperate with other networks? Our tendency is to do our ‘Jesuit thing’ but this is not viable any more. Here we find many ways to provide service to others..

Detention-Deportation in Japan

(By Ando Isamu  – Jesuit Social Center Migrant Desk, June 15th 2011)

While I am writing this a young mother accompanying her 3 little children is in her way for the Philippines. They are not tourists and leave Japan not because of their own will, they are “deported”.  The mother is, in fact, a single mother abandoned by her Filipino husband who had brought her to Japan.

On early March this year, I received a phone from an immigration detention center. The person I had never met before wanted me to visit her because she was very much in trouble and wanted to consult her situation with me. When I finally agreed and was able to visit her, my findings were painfully sad and I became really angry. It was true that the mother was living in Japan for several years undocumented. She had 3 small children, all of them born in Japan. From last October up to today (15 June, 2011) she was forcefully separated from her little ones and interned in an immigration jail. The oldest child at that time was 3 years & 10 months old and the smallest only 1 year & 5 months old. The children were placed in a welfare institution hours away. The mother in jail was never allowed to see them for over 8 months. She was very poor and wanted to remain in Japan and to educate her children here. She didn’t have any money, but immigration was pressing her day after day to get money for their tickets back to the Philippines, in spite that she did not have any possibility to buy them. Finally some of us decided to bring to an end such dramatic situation and gathered the needed cost of the tickets.

This way the case was closed, but the real issue remains unresolved. The legal system is kept untouched: undocumented persons are put in jail and deported. But, how can people keeping that system become so chilly and psychologically “frozen” to separate for more than 8 months a mother from her little ones? Is a detention center the only answer? Where are humanitarian ways? I have heard that there is a kind of a quota of so many thousand cases of undocumented persons to be detained and deported every year. The content of the cases doesn’t matter. To meet the quota is the most important.

Article on Legal Aid

(From The Catholic Weekly Japanese newspaper dated May 22nd, 2011)

On the 4th Monday of every month the Jesuit Social Center (Tokyo) offers free legal consultation for foreigners. For the last 30 years, the Jesuit Social Center of which its present director is Fr. Mitsunobu Ichiro has been active in research and action programs on social issues. Starting last January, its migrant desk has organized legal consultation for foreigners once a month, in cooperation with Tokyo Public Law  Office at the facilities of the center, located in the 4th floor of Kibe Hall, by Kojimachi St. Ignatius Church (Tokyo).

The consultation, 30 minutes per person, is done by appointment and persons versed in English, Tagalog, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Korean are available. Since the Jesuit Social Center bears the cost the consultation is free. The content of the consultation covers wide areas of legal issues, like labor problems, overstay and renewal of visas, refugee status, divorce and international marriage, civil and criminal offense, etc.

Staff member Fr. Ando Isamu, SJ, former director of the Center, explains the reasons why the legal assistance for foreigners started. “The problems migrants in Japan face are complicated and lawyers are needed, especially in cases of a trial in order to find solutions. On the other hand, language barriers, differences in the legal systems and the difficulties in understanding legal terms make it very difficult for foreigners. On top of that, they need courage to go to consult a lawyer in Japanese. Besides that access to law offices are very difficult for them. Thus, we thought to offer foreigners a place where they could have the opportunity of using their own language in a legal consultation.

This is how the consultations take place. First of all, the clients are asked to deposit their application form in the mail post of the Social Center, located at the entrance of the Kibe Hall, before the 2nd Monday of the month. The forms should have their names and gender, besides their telephone to contact them. Later, Fr. Ando and staff, Jessie Tayama (a lay person of Kojimachi Church) will call the client for a one-hour interview. Then, based on the information obtained, the time to meet with the lawyer is decided.

The Tokyo Public Law Office, supported by Tokyo Bar Association, sends the lawyers to the Social center for the legal consultation. The Tokyo Public Law Office established the Section of pay legal assistance for foreigners on November 1, 2010.

On the other hand, since the beginning of the ’80s Fr. Ando has been assisting refugees and displaced persons living in Japan from countries of the Indochina region. Later on he became involved in the situation of migrant workers coming to work in Japan and,  because of their complex and difficult problems that required technical approaches, decided to look for suitable lawyers. Then, the opening of the Section of legal assistance for foreigners of Tokyo Public law Office caught his attention and after discussing the matter with the lawyers in charge, both concerned parties agreed to conduct free legal services for foreign migrant workers at the Jesuit Social Center.

The actual migrant desk of the Center conducts also the following activities: (1) the reediting of the Booklet ”Foreigners Unwanted” (2011 / 98 pages / 300) that exposes the difficult situations of migrant workers actually living in Japan. (2) Networking with civil groups (NGOs) active in issues concerning migrant workers (3) Visits to prisoners detained in immigration jails.

Next free legal consultation schedule: June 27th (Monday), July 25th (Monday) from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. Thereafter, legal services will be offered on the 4th Monday of every month.

Jesuit Social Center Migrant Desk
Tel:  03-5215-1844    Fax:  03-5215-1845







Services for Migrants Expands in Tokyo

A Vietnamese refugee in Japan went to visit his sick refugee mother in the USA. The day after arrival, he suffered a serious road accident and broke his leg. He had surgery three times and while in bed his mother died. Eventually, he was able to move about using a wheelchair. He was denied renewal of his valid 3-year visa by the Japanese consulate in San Francisco, for the reason that he had to do that in Japan. After 6 months, he managed to get a tourist visa with the assistance of the Jesuit Social Centre. Personnel from the Centre then accompanied him to meet the same immigration official who had denied him the renewal of his visa. He is now happily married and safe with a new 3-year visa.

The Jesuit Social Center opened a new migration desk and the Tokyo Public Law Office inaugurated its Legal Assistance Section for foreigners.
A migration desk at the Jesuit Social Centre was opened and some valuable helpers are at work with Fr Ando Isamu (JPN). This desk will reprint a booklet on the situation of foreign workers in Japan that has sold more than 2,000 copies in 3 years, visit detention centers with the help of volunteer groups, look for and establish links with NGOs working for foreign workers, and run short seminars for training young volunteers. The small Academy (AIA) that the Centre had opened for migrants, children as well as adults, is running daily with the help of volunteers in a poor region of Tokyo. It is already in its 3rd year.

A Section of Legal Assistance for Foreigners was inaugurated at the Tokyo Public Law Office, with Masako Suzuki as its first head. The section will specialize in giving legal advice to foreign residents on both criminal and civil cases, ranging from refugee assistance and visa applications to divorcees and labor issues.

Suzuki also serves as secretary general of the Lawyers Network for foreigners, a group of 833 Lawyers nationwide working on various issues related to foreigners that was founded in May 2009. The attorney thinks that Japan has become more exclusive against foreigners recently, especially since the Justice Ministry launched a five-year campaign in 2004 to reduce the number of illegal foreign residents by half.

Report: The Realities of Migrants in Japan

Ando Isamu, SJ
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue:  No. 154 / April 15th, 2010

Back in 2006 Kofi A. Annan, U.N. Secretary General at the time, presented a well thought-out report on migration to be discussed at a “high-level dialogue” on migration and development at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2006. In an article published in The Japan Times on June 11, 2006, he said:

“Ever since national frontiers were invented, people have been crossing them – not just to visit foreign countries, but to live and work there. In doing so, they have almost always taken risks, driven by a determination to overcome adversity and to live a better life.

Those aspirations have always been the motors of human progress. Historically, migration has improved the well-being not only of individual migrants but of humanity as a whole.
And that is still true. In a report that I presented last week to the U.N. General Assembly, I summarize research showing that migration, at least in the best cases, benefits not only the migrants themselves but also the countries that receive them, and even the countries they have left. How so?

In receiving countries, incoming migrants do essential jobs that a country’s established residents are reluctant to undertake. They provide many of the personal services on which societies depend. They care for children, the sick and the elderly, bring in the harvest, prepare the food, and clean the homes and offices. And they are not engaged only in menial activities…

Yes, migration can have its downside – though ironically some of the worst effects arise from efforts to control it: It is irregular or undocumented migrants who are most vulnerable to smugglers, traffickers and other forms of exploitation. Yes, there are tensions when established residents and migrants are adjusting to each other, especially when their beliefs, customs or level of education are very different. And, yes, poor countries suffer when some of their people whose skills are most needed – for instance health-care workers from southern Africa – are “drained” away by higher salaries and better conditions abroad.

But countries are learning to manage those problems, and they can do so better if they work together and learn from each other’s experience.

As long as there are nations, there will be migrants. Much as some might wish it otherwise, migration is a fact of life. So it is not a question of stopping migration, but of managing it better, and with more cooperation and understanding on all sides. Far from being a zero-sum game, migration can be made to yield benefits for all.”
(This article from ‘The Japan Times’ is available at our center.)

The Appeal Committee, aware that nowadays offices assisting poor people are filled with people seeking advice, decided to establish a consultation office at the church and recommended coordinating and supporting such work. I was sent last April to St Ignatius Church to help staff the new consultation office because of my trIn fact, although we use the expression “migrants” in Japan, there is no concept here of an “immigrant.” Thus, officially, there is no immigrant policy like in many Western countries but rather only a policy for dealing with “aliens.”

Kyodo News reports that, according to a survey made by the Tokyo Council of Social Welfare, 30% of Tokyo’s 316 elderly care facilities, in which the majority (90%) of workers are women, employed a total of 196 foreign workers. Filipinas account for more than half of these foreign caregivers, followed by Chinese, Taiwanese, and South Koreans.aining in social welfare. In fact, the steering committee of the church has been very sympathetic to the establishment of such a new office.

The Shaping of Japan’s Immigration Policy

According to a recent Report of the fifth informal Policy Consultation of the Immigration Bureau, Japan will promote the acceptance of high-level foreign medical personnel and caregivers. Japanese descendants and foreign trainees will also be accepted, and the number of foreign students will be raised to 300,000. Tourism and business exchanges with East Asia will also be promoted. On the other hand, the projected decrease in Japan’s population has forced the country to think more positively about accepting foreign labor and about improving the whole immigration system.

At the same time, the Report also points out that there is need for a drastic reduction in the number of 130,000 undocumented foreign people presently in Japan.

Last year about 1,400 persons applied for refugee status in Japan, but only a small number, 30 to be exact, were accepted as refugees. Once the application has been made, the process takes a long time, and only minimal economic assistance is available for housing, work, healthcare, and so on.

Just a month ago, on March 8, at least 70 detainees at the West Japan Immigration Control Center began a hunger strike demanding release on a temporary basis. They wanted to know why their applications for release from the Center were rejected, even though their refugee claims were being reviewed with support from lawyers and legal assistance workers. In fact, there have been reports of detainee abuse and harsh conditions at the Center going back at least a decade. According to an investigation by Kyodo News, 23 detainees at the center attempted suicide between 2000 and 2004.

The detainees halted their 11-day hunger strike after the Center reportedly agreed to meet with both detainees and activists. One of the major reasons why immigration officials changed their mind and agreed to negotiate was because the issue was raised by a politician at a meeting of the Upper House Judicial Affairs Committee on March 16. In addition, the timing of a U.N. visit may have prodded the Center into agreeing to the meeting. (‘The Japan Times,’ March 12 and 22, 2010)

Two years ago, in January 2008, I got a phone call from an East European detainee at an immigration jail asking me to visit him. He had been applying for refugee status just at the time immigration officials took him to jail. When I was allowed to visit him, he was in his third week of hunger strike. I was able to negotiate his release and he is now happily living and working in Japan. Japan has three main immigration detention centers, in Ushiku (Ibaraki prefecture), Ibaraki (Osaka prefecture), and Omura (Nagasaki), plus other big temporary centers like the one in Shinagawa, where hundreds of foreigners are detained. The one in Ushiku holds over 500 foreign prisoners. There alone dozens of Burmese claiming to be refugees have been detained in a sort of limbo for as long as a year.

A physician, Dr YAMAMURA Junpei , has spent the past decade treating foreigners in Japan – from illegal overstayers to asylum seekers. Once a month since 2002, he has visited the Immigration Center in Ushiku, where he monitors the mental and physical problems of detainees. During his monthly visits to the Center, he sees an average of seven or eight detainees, sometimes as many as ten.

Yamamura has been vocal about problems inside the detention centers, noting especially mental and physical abuse by officials as well as lack of proper medical treatment. In March 2007 he published “Namida no Kabe” (Wall of Tears) along with five others active supporters of asylum seekers, including a lawyer and a staff member from the human rights organization, Amnesty International. They hope to educate the general public on “the reality of immigration detention centers,” Yamamura said.

The first part of the book presents a general overview of the centers and points out problems regarding the treatment of detainees. It notes that anyone in violation of the Immigration Law can be detained, whether they are asylum seekers, illegal overstayers, elderly, young, pregnant, or ill. Families are torn asunder, the book says. Young children get taken away to child-welfare centers, while their mothers and fathers are locked up separately inside the detention center.

Lengthy detentions are also a major problem, the book points out, because even after deportation orders are issued for Immigration Law violators, these violators can continue to be held for an indefinite time. Locked within the detention center, the detainees have no idea what the future holds. It could be months or more than a year or two before they are given provisional release or deported back to their home country.

For people seeking asylum after fleeing their country for fear of religious or political persecution, the mental pressure and terror of being sent back is intense, “and for some asylum seekers, deportation could mean death,” Yamamura warned. (‘The Japan Times,’ May 2, 2007)

Such realities are not normally known to most people. Similar things occur when one is trying to enter Japan, as, for instance, at Narita airport. A few months ago a Filipina I know well, who is married to a Japanese man, applied for a visa so that her mother might visit Japan. The visa was given, but on her mother’s arrival in Narita she was taken to a special office, where dozens of people were investigated and deported back to the Philippines on the next plane. Nothing could be done, and I imagined she was just unlucky. Nevertheless, a few days ago I happened to come across the following article in ‘The Japan Times’ (March 23, 2010): “Degrading treatment at Narita immigration”

” I studied in Japan recently to complete my degree. My mother, an Indonesian citizen, came to visit me often while I was in Japan. Every time she arrived she would stay within the time period allotted by immigration at Narita.

One time after a vacation, I returned to Japan with her. The immigration officer accused her of trying to stay/live in the country despite our insistence that she had never stayed over the time limit allowed by immigration. In the end she was sent home.

The story did not end here. The immigration officer took her and me to a room where he questioned us. He laughed and jeered at the fact that I did not speak Japanese very well. He also laughed at us when my mother cried because she was about to be deported.”

Present Foreign Population in Japan

Japan currently has about 2,220,000 registered foreigners. Of these, 660,000 (30%) are Chinese and 590,000 (27%) are resident Koreans. They are known as “old-comers” because they, their parents, or their grandparents had arrived in Japan by the time Japan invaded China and annexed Korea. Hundreds of thousands of Koreans came to Japan as workers especially during World War II. Later, the rapid economic development of post-war Japan attracted many other people from East Asia, especially from the Philippines, to work in Japan, and in the 1990s the official policy of summoning workers with Japanese ancestry from Latin American countries brought more than 300,000 people from Brazil alone, as well as others from Peru and other South American countries.

Some Personal Experiences 

I have always felt a big gap between the attitude of ordinary Japanese people towards “alien” workers and the official stand taken by the country itself through immigration officials and the police. I have often been moved by the kindness shown by many Japanese citizens, especially when foreign workers needed help, but I cannot hide my feelings of extreme displeasure at the way immigration officials and the police often behave towards them.

The Abaya family 

I had never met the Abaya family before, but on March 19 this year a FAX reached my office from Araneta Cubao (in the Philippines). It said:

“On behalf of the Abaya family, my mother and my sisters, we would like to extend our sincerest gratitude for all the unsolicited help you have extended. Without all your support – PHYSICALLY, MENTALLY, EMOTIONALLY, FINANCIALLY and above all SPIRITUALLY, all of these will not be possible.”

The FAX goes on, but the whole issue was quite dramatic. A Filipino overstayer got sick and was diagnosed as having both livers seriously affected. It often happens that no hospital wants to accept an undocumented foreign worker without health insurance. The police were tipped off, but they could not arrest such a sick person. To be fair to them, the police looked for a hospital that finally accepted him. The hospital immediately started him on dialysis and, since he began to react positively, he wanted to return to his family in the Philippines as soon as possible. Meanwhile the hospital bill was skyrocketing. The doctors could not allow him to take a plane because his life was in danger. The official papers needed for his return were urgently drawn up, but then Immigration requested his presence and he had to be taken from his hospital bed to Shinagawa by car, an hour’s ride, because an ambulance was too expensive. In spite of his condition, the interview took practically the whole day. Maybe this was a normal legal situation, but how different from common-sense standards!

A Vietnamese person I know well, who is living in Japan legally with his family, told me a few days ago of a friend of his who was undocumented but wanted to return to Vietnam. They set a day, but my acquaintance made a wrong move by inquiring at a police box how to get to Immigration. He said that two policemen almost jumped on them and seized them. They interrogated them and then sent them off in a police car to the big Ayase police station, where the interrogation continued for some two hours. My acquaintance had to act as interpreter for his friend, who could not speak much Japanese.

Finally, they were released and told how to reach Immigration. But when they changed trains at a station still far from Immigration in Shinagawa, there were two police officers standing there who interrogated them again and handcuffed the undocumented Vietnamese. The other one was told to go back home because the police would bring his friend to Immigration. To say the least, everything was quite overdone.

United Nations Rights Rapporteur in Japan for an Official Inspection

I could continue forever, but let me mention the recent official visit to Japan of a U.N. expert on the rights of migrants. According to the Japanese mass media, Jorge Bustamante, U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants came to Japan on March 23 for an official inspection. He interviewed migrants and their families and discussed the various issues with ministry and agency officials. Bustamante expressed concern over the separation of families due to deportation orders and made clear that his findings were going to be made public when he submits a report on Japan to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights sometime before the end of the year. Bustamante’s main responsibilities include examining ways of overcoming obstacles to the protection of the human rights of migrants.

Bustamante held a press conference on March 31 and outspokenly urged the Japanese government to terminate its program for overseas industrial trainees and technical interns, saying it might amount to “slavery” in some cases, fueling demand for exploitative cheap labor in violation of human rights. He proposed replacing that program with a program of employment.

Some Proposals

Lastly, let me return to the article of U.N. former General Secretary Annan mentioned above.

As long as there are nations, there will be migrants. Much as some might wish it otherwise, migration is a fact of life. So it is not a question of stopping migration, but of managing it better, and with more cooperation and understanding on all sides. Far from being a zero-sum game, migration can be made to yield benefits for all.

The Catholic Church in Japan has already had long experience in this field. In fact, half or maybe even more than half of our Catholic population consists of foreign people. I am sure that readers of this Bulletin can certainly share many fruitful experiences from their own contacts with “aliens” living and working in Japan. In writing this article my aim has been to initiate some direct dialogue with people providing pastoral care for foreign Christian communities in Japan as well as with people attending to their educational and other personal needs; and, hopefully, with people more directly involved in advocacy work. This is a global issue that seriously affects all East Asian countries, not only Japan.

On the other hand, since this is a Jesuit social center, I would like to invite Jesuits interested and involved in work with “migrants,” as well as their co-workers, to contact me so that we can create an open network to share experiences and information and to search for possible improvements in our commitment to better the situation of migrants in Japan. Our Center is not only open to suggestions but is also ready to launch such a network and make it work with your cooperation. The Center can share experiences and information about advocacy, pastoral and educational methods, and other such concerns. We also need to explore together the possibilities of cooperation with Jesuit structures that are being set up in the East Asian Assistancy. I hope many will want to share their experiences for the benefit of “migrants” living and working in Japan.

Another world is possible.- World Social Forum 2007 in Nairobi –

Ando Isamu, SJ
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 136 / February 15th, 2007

Last January was the stage of two main world events that tried to shapethe future orientation of the international community for the years to come. The sites were different and symbolic: Nairobi in Africa and Davos in Europe. The programs were somehow opposite. In Davos (Switzerland) the issue was how to advance or rectify the policies of globalization and free movement of capital, but in Nairobi (Kenya) the call was for strict controls on capital and the liberalization of people’s move. In Davos businessmen
and politicians gathered secretly behind closed doors, but in Nairobi about 40,000 people from all over the world expressed freely, in the open, their dissatisfaction with a world system that being global produces more poverty, oppression and military conflicts than peace, security and comfort. People experience that they are mislead and cheated by international institutions
and their leaders.

An Ignatian Family Encounter
Days ahead of the World Social Forum (WSF) Jesuits from all 5 continents started to gather in Nairobi to begin a 3-day “mini-forum” to learn about Africa and share knowledge and information on important international issues affecting people’s lives. By January 17 about 155 delegates from over 35 countries gathered at Hekima College (Nairobi). We were Jesuits, religious and lay persons cooperating in Jesuit-inspired works and about 1/3 of the participants came from the African continent. Several Jesuit seminarians studying at Hekima College were also present with us.

Why so many Jesuits and fellow lay-cooperators (the Ignatian Family) gathered in Nairobi? What is in the minds of Jesuits with regard to the World Social Forum? As far as I know, no matter the importance of the World Economic Forum of Davos there was no Jesuit presence there. But why it was so different in Nairobi?
The 3-day Jesuit encounter combined plenary sessions and global orientations with 5 different workshops oriented towards some key global issues of the African continent that are considered also important world wide. They are: [1]refugees and migrant workers [2]HIV/AIDS, [3]Conflict situations,[4]Public Debt, Trade and Government, [5]Exploitation of natural resources and poverty.
Fr. General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach was scheduled to open the Encounter but was unable to be present and sent a special message to the Ignatian Family assembled in Nairobi.

“It is with great joy that I welcome the initiative taken by the whole Assistancy of Africa and Madagascar to hold an international encounter on the theme Spiritual and Social Transformation in Africa and Madagascar as a prelude to the 7th World Social Forum at Nairobi. I offer special greetings to you and to all the participants who have gathered from the whole continent of Africa, the island of Madagascar and from other parts of the world. You are fortunate to experience the traditional hospitality of Africa!

The theme you have carefully chosen expresses a deep aspiration to share, with the whole Church, in the integral evangelisation of Africa and Madagascar; an evangelisation that demands from us a renewal of our commitment to the service of faith, the promotion of justice, a greater sensitivity to the rich cultural diversity and an openness to other religious experiences (GC 34, D 2, n. 19).

The task of looking for an integral transformation of individuals and communities in the African continent presupposes a compassionate understanding of the complex and difficult situation confronting many of the countries. More than 20 years ago, the participants at the First African Synod, and later John Paul II himself, compared the situation of Africa to the man who was on his way to Jericho (Lk 10, 30-37) and fell into the hands of the robbers who stripped him of all he had, beat him and then departed leaving him half dead (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, 41: AAS 88 (1996) 27). New external and internal forces have combined to maintain and, in some cases, aggravate the marginalization of many countries of the region.

In this ‘ocean of misfortune’ as General Congregation 34 described the marginalization of Africa (D 3, n. 12), there are many signs of life, and hope as many Jesuits and other apostolic partners have kept on the struggle to build a future for those who come after them (GC 34, D 3, n.12). I would like to stress the momentous nature of this gathering as an important step in crystallising these hopes and in affirming the willingness of the Society in Africa and Madagascar to shape its own future.

The set of various workshops you plan to conduct during this encounter give us an idea of the immense, and at times, unknown efforts, that the Society in Africa, and more particularly, the social apostolate, have made in many crucial areas. I think it is important to mention some of them briefly.

With the support of the Jesuit Refugee Service thousands of displaced persons and refugees have been accompanied, educated and their cause defended at many international fora. A variety of efforts have been underway to mediate in delicate situations of conflict and war; the Hekima Peace Institute intends to carry these efforts forward in an academic setting and is looking for closer cooperation with other international partners. Some social centres have fought courageously against the burden of international debt, coupled to unfair trade practices; they have contributed to strengthening democratic processes and have strived to make national governments more accountable to the common good. The network AJAN has been able to strengthen and coordinate the efforts of many individuals, give respectability to the Church’s involvement with the pandemic spread of SIDA and, above all, accompany with dignity many of those suffering from its effects. Some recently undertaken initiatives have started to link more effectively the advocacy efforts in Europe and the United States with the work done by some social centres and groups against the most blatant violations of human rights by multinational companies.

As you aptly mention in the documents explaining the objectives of this Encounter, our Jesuit vocation to be “servants of Christ’s mission” (GC 34, D 2, n. 1) defines our apostolic identity in terms of service. “As companions of Jesus our identity is inseparable from our mission” (GC 34, D 2, n. 4). The foundational experience of Ignatius at La Storta is also a call to be “servants of his mission, to labour with him under the same Cross until his work is accomplished” (GC 34, D 2, n. 4). This vocation “to be placed” with Jesus carrying his Cross is also a profound call to be with those who are today crucified, abandoned and marginalised. This foundational experience of Ignatius becomes a beacon to guide our reflections on how to achieve this spiritual and social transformation as aspects or dimensions mutually and intimately connected. As a universal apostolic body, “we want […] to be present, in solidarity and compassion, where the human family is most damaged” (GC 34, D 2, n. 4).

Finally I would like again to thank all of you who have made an effort to be present at this encounter, and those who have worked tirelessly to make it a reality. I also believe that this gathering can help you to prepare a joint public presence at the forthcoming World Social Forum where the aspirations of all those for whom we work and our particular way of proceeding can be forcefully put forward.

Let me end by encouraging you to walk ahead in strengthening the bonds between all the institutions and individuals engaged in transforming the social reality, in developing a wide consciousness that would promote among you greater cooperation and unity of purpose, and in developing a truly African and Malagasy Society of Jesus ready to build on the richness and confidence of the various cultures and peoples it is involved in.”

Program of the Jesuit Encounter
The characteristic nature of this Encounter was to deepen the Ignatian spirituality in the context of African actual social realities. The practice of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola is the basis of Ignatian spirituality. It consists on a radical view of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, healer of people and stresses his life style always at the side of the poor and destitute, ready to give them hope, because of the dignity they have as children of God. It insists, first of all, on the conversion of oneself before trying to change others and structures. The transformation of social realities must start from imitating the action taken by God upon seeing the real situation of people around the world. As St. Ignatius observes in one of the most important meditations of the Spiritual Exercises, the Holy Trinity observing people around the earth decided to send Christ to become one of us and thus save human kind. This was a radical decision that inspires us to reflect that Jesuits have received the mission to serve others, a radical challenging mission.

The Spiritual Exercises end with a call to lives of love, not so much on words but on deeds, on action for loving God and others as ‘equals.’ There was also much discussion on discernment, on paying attention to experiences of joy and hope, as well as to desperation and disappointments, on the selection of sound judgement, on community building and individual respect, and on greater solidarity with the poor. In front of difficult social realities it is very important to seek the truth and objective information, to analyze it and use it to serve others, to listen to people’s experiences.

The social realities of African countries were offered by various African speakers in contrast to Ignatian spirituality, during the morning sessions. The post-colonial African continent has produced a variety of liberation movements with new social challenges in the economic, political and cultural fields. Although democracy is alive in several countries, independent states still following colonial ways are not able to deliver needed changes. Boundaries built by colonial powers still endanger the need for integration. The workshops in the afternoon sessions stimulated very live discussion on poverty, inequalities and violent conflicts, on the exploitation of natural resources, on refugees and migrant workers, on the spread of HIV/AIDS, on women’s discrimination, on national debt and the influence of multinational companies with their global economic policies, etc.

The World Social Forum
There was much confusion and lack of information in Nairobi days before the WSF started. We were told, for instance, that the Kenya government denied permission to hold the Forum in a place already decided and that at the very last moment a different one had to be fixed. Finally, on January 20, the opening ceremony of the WSF took place safely in a very big Park where the Moi new National Stadium is located.

Thousands of people marched through the city of Nairobi to confluence into the Park Uhuru. Groups of people walked dancing, singing and shouting slogans through the streets of Nairobi and gathered around a big central stage surrounded by a hill, similar to a natural amphitheatre holding about 40,000 people. Present there were the international committee of the WSF and several well-known personalities, like former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda, Nobel laureates Wangari Maathai and Bishop Desmond Tutu, etc. Mr. Chico Wittaker, considered to be the author of the first WSF in Porto Alegre (Brazil, Year 2000) declared the first WSF in Africa opened.
Hundreds of workshops were organized daily in the vicinity of the beautiful Moi National Stadium and a special Jesuit Logistics Committee prepared in the evenings a selective program of useful workshops for Jesuits to attend. Many workshops would provide a space for fruitful discussions, but many others could not be held because the speakers were absent. Often, speakers were unprepared and that occasioned frustrations. Looking for workshops organized by Asian groups I run into some small ones dealing with Japanese ODA projects in Kenya or against exploitative migration and human trafficking, organized by groups like ATTAC Japan, the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), etc. Attending a workshop on Migration I realized how similar are the issues faced by migrant workers all over the world and noticed the fact of a new official Convention between Japan and the Philippines, by which Japan has agreed to accept thousands of Filipino/a workers in exchange of a site in Luzon island to dump industrial waste from Japan.

The Jesuit delegation held a seminar at the WSF on the theme “Social Transformation in Africa: an Ethical Face.” The seminar was well attended, and issues earlier identified as priorities in Africa and discussed at the Encounter were looked at from an ethical perspective.
Anne Peeters from JRS read aloud some sections of a testimony by an Ethiopian refugee entitled “There is more than one way of dying.” There are over 10 million refugees and displaced persons in Africa alone.

Paterne Mombe SJ from Togo dealt with violence against women, one of the main causes of the spread of AIDS. The adult rate of infection from HIV/AIDS is as high as 24.1% in Botswana, 20.1% in Zimbabwe, or 18.8% in South Africa. In Kenya alone about 6.1% of the population, 1,300,000 adults and children are HIV infected.

Antoine Berilenger SJ spoke about natural resources, one of Africa’s blessings, and paradoxically, one of its main curses. There is neither fair nor free trade; prices of agricultural commodities are fixed by the powerful, and African countries have been forced to open their markets to foreign products.
Peter Henriot SJ brought home the point poverty should be seen as an affront to life. Who profits from war and conflict? Who manufactures the arms and collects the money? Conflicts usually arise over natural resources.
Frank Turner SJ closed the session, highlighting the need for advocacy and briefly explained its meaning with regard to action that could be taken in industrial countries.

Highlights at the WF
The main avenue surrounding the Moi National Stadium provided an image of what could be to live in “a different possible world.” Bazaar type stalls managed by Africans sold all kinds of merchandise and souvenirs and thousands of foreigners from African countries and from all over the world strolled along looking for the sites of the workshops or observing the demonstrations and shows of different groups. Farmers or landless people, AIDS groups, street children, minority groups from India, Palestinian independent groups, Human rights organizations and Christian groups, and many others.

Workshops exposed misconceptions people have when it comes to child labor, like the poor does not want education or globalization creates more opportunity for children to go to school. There is widespread misunderstanding that child labor is necessary to provide enough income for the household. School is the best place to work.

African health institutions indicate that at least 586,911 Africans are dying from TB annually and that 24 million people living with HIV/AIDS have TB. The annual AIDS death figures for Africa alone is 2.1 milllion.

Regarding the issue of migration, there was a universal call to dedicate the International Workers Day in May 2007 to the rights of migrant workers in the world. There is an estimated 200 million in the whole world. The refusal of industrialized countries to accept Africans trying to reach European coasts was strongly criticized by high profile politicians, “Europeans exploited us for 400 years. Why do they refuse our young people when they try to enjoy part of their riches now?”
The 7th World Social Forum in Nairobi was a special moment in the face of the severe inequality in the process of globalization, terror and the war that feeds it. The WSF continues to expand and its increasing network creates hope. “Much of its power originates from being an open space, founded in the respect for diversity and plurality. The recognition of the principles and ethical values of freedom of choice and opinion, equality, solidarity, interdependence, participation and shared responsibility, non-violence, the preservation of common goods and nature – all of this fuels the WSF as a factory of ideas and alternative proposals to the devastating and exclusive capitalist dominion.” (Candido Grybowski, member of the International Council of the World Social Forum)

From Slums to Another World
A sea of participants wearing colorful T-shirts filled Uhuru Park. They came some 7 km southwest of Nairobi, from the Kibera slum house to about 800,000 people, the largest slum in East Africa, and marched through the venues of the Forum claiming the immediate need to erase poverty from Nairobi and all Africa, to provide them with water, roads and all necessary services, decent housing, welfare and education. One afternoon about 70 of them, in a sign of defiance, assaulted two open restaurants inside the venue of the Forum and took all food and drinks shouting loudly, “We want food! We want food!”
During my stay in Nairobi I visited the slums of Kibera with a Jesuit scholastic that has made a study of the situation there. I was deeply impressed by the inhuman living conditions. That is a totally different world.

The size of the households I interviewed, said the young Jesuit, varies from 4 to 19 persons, including the father, the mother and the children. They all live in single rooms with mud-walls and rusted iron-sheet roofs, without any formal system of electricity provision. These single rooms of about 3 meters by 3 meters as average are rented from landlords who live outside Kibera and who may own up to 10 rooms, the number of rooms depending on the size of the plot. The average monthly rent is Ksh. 600 (about \1,200). Access to food on a regular basis is very limited. Seven households simply declared: “We eat when we get.” Depending on what they get, a family can have one meal or two a day, but some days none at all.
Sanitation conditions in general are pitiful. There is only one latrine and one bathroom for a whole plot, which concretely means for about 50 persons. The water is sold to slums dwellers by private owners; the lack of proper sewers added to the heaps of uncollected garbage and human waste, make the environmental conditions unhealthy.
Access to decent health care services is a real head-ache for the great majority of Kiberans (Kibera dwellers) because of their high cost in good health centers.

There is a Jesuit parish, as well as several Catholic parishes serving the slum dwellers, as well as various NGOs. There are no official services and institutions present in Kibera, but I was much impressed by the education activities undertaken by lay persons of Christian Life Communities. They have initiated a School for the children of Kibera slums and built classrooms inside the slums, where 90 children are studying now. After 5 years they plan to build a School nearby for over one thousand children in a land bought by the Archbishop of Nairobi. Their dream is: “In Kibera also another world is possible.”

Where is the World Social Forum headed?
As the seventh edition of the World Social Forum, WSF has become a sort of Mecca for all those in search of a fairer world under the motto “Another world is possible.” It comprises an amalgamation of organizations, big and small, international and local, pertaining to very different ideologies; social movements, base communities, trade unions, and many dissenting groups. All are searching for concrete solutions to the challenges facing the building of another world based on the principles of justice, equity and respect of human rights, where, thanks to a more humane globalization, the economy will be at the service of people.

Undoubtedly, from its first meeting, the Forum exceeded all expectations as to the number of participants and its geographical expansion. As Sami Nair, an Egyptian intellectual and one of the leaders of the Forum of Alternatives, points out: “The World Social Forum has played an important role, but it is a system that is beginning to wear out.”
There is an intensive debate going on between those who consider that the Forum, given the huge diversity of the organisations that attend it, should be an encounter and space for dialogue, and those who want it to take unique stands, issue joint documents and carry out collective actions. (Valeria Mendez de Vigo, Entreculturas, Spain)

Any Lessons for us in Japan?
Japanese presence in the WSF was minimal, a natural fact due to distances and lack of interest in African issues. Nevertheless, anybody attending the Forum in Nairobi could realize that most of the issues discussed or exposed at the WSF are “global” and affect our lives and major decisions. Just to select priorities of the Jesuits present in Nairobi: migrant workers and refugees, trade and developments patterns, debt, depletion of natural resources, peace and arm conflicts, networking, Ignatian spirituality and involvement in world affairs are a few examples.

The Forum, through the major participating organizations, presented many concrete programs to try to define and build another possible human world and the methods taken and attitudes exposed could be of great help to us in Japan. Social transformation could only be attained by organizations that are able to do network together. It is also very important to put aside preconceived ideas about people and communities and go to listen to people and to the real stories they may have. A priority to change systems is, first of all, to respect people and their human dignity. All discrimination is wrong and must be corrected. Information is a very important asset in daily life. In many third world countries people are not given information on what is going on and all over the world true facts are hidden. Search of the truth and strict analysis tools will help much our work in Japan. In other words, study and research are a must for social transformation.

We have to convince ourselves and those in contact with us that “another Japan is possible,” “another Japanese Jesuit Society is possible.” We have enough spiritual motivation and the collaboration of many lay-coworkers dedicated as ourselves to spread Gospel values of faith, justice and peace.

It has been difficult for me to pick up the highlights of the WSF Nairobi 2007. You can find a fuller picture in Jesuit HEADLINES published by the Social Justice Secretariat

Report: New Changes in the Japanese Immigration Law

Ando Isamu, SJ (Jesuit Social Center) 
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue:  No. 149 / May 20th, 2009

A controversial bill to revise the immigration laws has been presented to the Japanese national Diet to be approved before the current Diet session ends at the beginning of June.
One of the most basic changes in the legislation is a total control to be given to the central government, the Justice Ministry. The bill, open to public discussions by the lawmakers, has already drawn criticism from citizens’ groups and from some legislators of the opposition parties, as well as from the Japanese Bar Association. Nevertheless, the problem remains with the politicians, and since their constituencies do not give much weight to issues concerning foreign residents, these issues will not influence their election.

Foreign Residents Remain out of the Public Discussions

Foreign residents have been badly hit by the prolonged economic crisis. Many have lost their unstable jobs and their daily lives are in danger of total collapse. Many are seriously thinking of going home but they cannot afford the expense involved, especially those that came years ago from far away regions like Latin America. The present crisis has opened up various hidden social taboos, like the friction between the Japanese and foreign communities. This was true – is it still true – regarding Koreans living in Japan. I experienced it clearly when the first Vietnamese Boat People reached Japan, already in the late ’70s. They were officially told to look for other countries to settle down. Japan was not a choice.

In order to build ethnic reconciliation bridges like exchanges and positive dialogue between Japanese and foreign residents, the public role of government is very important regarding this issue. So is education at home and in the schools. Of course, religions can always serve as good social catalysts. At present (2007), since there are over 2 million foreigners living in Japan, this can be considered an important national issue.

Japan wants to increase the number of tourists, foreign students, and young technicians from abroad and must accept the risk of having undocumented people. It cannot prevent that. To cut the flux of foreigners into Japan would be to act against the interest of the country. According to rather modest population predictions for the future, the population of Japan by the year 2050 will decrease by between 30 and 40 million. On top of that, a high percentage of the population will be senior citizens. In a global situation where more than 200 million people are moving out of their own countries annually, Asian neighbors, like Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia, with increasing youth populations, look for opportunities to work in Japan.  Actual Controversial Immigration Bill

In 1989 Japan revised the immigration law when Japanese politics were in great turmoil during the bubble economy years, but the revision was not fully discussed in the Diet. The results were an influx of Japanese-Brazilians and Peruvians, who numbered over 400,000 by the year 2007.

Today, 20 years later, in a different economic situation but in a similar political crisis, a revision of government-sponsored immigration laws is up for discussion in the Diet with the aim of getting the new bill passed at the beginning of June, when the Diet is expected to go into recess.

The main target is full control of foreign residents by the Justice Ministry, tightening immigration regulations on them. The alien registration cards will be replaced by new ones called “zairyu” containing IC chips. Foreigners are required to carry them at all times and failure to do so could occasion a fine of 200,000 yen. At the same time, not reporting promptly change of address, place of employment, marital status, etc are also subject to fines. The new bill seems to imply that the residency status of foreigners will be lost for failing to report new addresses to the officials.

In fact, the present dual administrative structure, with the central government granting residency permits and the local municipalities issuing alien registration cards and other services, will cease to exist and everything will be concentrated in Immigration alone, so that resident registrations, for instance, would be handled by the Justice Ministry, not by the local municipalities where foreigners live. There are, nevertheless, some positive points, like the concession of 5-year residency permits (at present, these are only for 3 years) and the acquisition of social insurances.

The undue official surveillance and centralization included in the new immigration bill have raised the opposition of many groups. Besides that, foreigners now are able to approach over 1,787 local municipalities which are in contact with their daily lives but, if the new bill is enacted, they will only have the choice of looking for 76 immigration offices, all over Japan. Moreover, and this is the big difference from municipalities, such offices are not in contact with foreign residents’ daily lives. Given the increasing number of divorced spouses – especially foreign wives – due to domestic violence, the change will create serious issues. As a result, the number of their children unable to attend school will increase.

Those who are interested should take a look at the statement (19 February 2009) of the Japanese Bar Association in their web site []