Category Archives: Migrant Desk

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.

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.

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.”

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.”

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.

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 –

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.

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:

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

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”

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.

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.)

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:

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


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)


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.

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

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

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.