Category Archives: Migrant Desk

More residence card forging rings shifting operations to Japan

(Extract 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)

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.”

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
(Extract 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.

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.


Foreign Workers a Challenge to Japanese Society and the Catholic Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.”

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

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

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


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

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

Migrants’ Desk in the Jesuit Social Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Migration In East Asia

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

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

Top Emigration Countries in Asia Year 2000

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

Emigrations from Asian in receiving countries Year 2000

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesuits and Migration in the JCAP Region

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

KIbe Hall Buillding

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

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

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

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

Ignatian Advocacy Network August 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JCAP meeting in Seoul 2011

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

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

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

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

Report from JRS Asia Pasific in Thailand

Patcharin Nawichai, JRS Mae Sot Project Director
Dana MacLean, JRS Asia Pacific Communications

Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 170 / April 15th, 2013

1. Let’s get rid of Landmines
April 4 is the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, when thousands of people in more than 70 countries remember the survivors and communities affected by landmines and call for an end to the curse of anti-personnel mines.

Thailand wants all landmines cleared by 2018 in accord with the deadlines set out in article five of the Mine Ban Treaty.

In 2001, Thailand had around 2,557 square km of mine-affected areas. After 10 years of de-mining by NGOs like the Thailand Mine Action Center (TMAC), around 528 square km of suspected and confirmed hazardous areas are now left to be cleared, according to the Level 1 Survey by Norwegian People’s Aid.

“Raising awareness and providing assistance for mine action and victims is very important. Thailand has made significant progress over the past 13 years. The survivors’ life quality has improved significantly, but some of my friends still cannot get easy access to specialized services. We sincerely hope that the effort will continue and that victims on the ground will be more greatly benefited by this. I don’t want to see any more new victims in Thailand in the future,” said the leader of the Pong Nam Ron Landmine Survivor Network in Chanthaburi province, Chusak Saelee.
Source: JRS Asia Pacific Web: THAILAND, “Today is the day to push for clearing 500km of mines”

2. Voices from the factory
January 1, 2013
JRS has been working with migrants in Mae Sot since 2006 to assist with livelihoods for vulnerable communities Mae Sot, 31 December 2012 — Thailand is home to hundreds of thousands of Burmese migrant workers, more than 100,000 of whom are employed in Mae Sot’s factories.

1- Rose*, 28, originally from Taunggyi in southern Shan state of Myanmar, was brought to Mae Sot by her father when she was 12 years old. At the age of 13, a broker took her to Bangkok to work in a noodle shop where she earned 1,000 baht (US $34) per month. Three years later, after getting married and becoming pregnant with her first child, Rose returned to Mae Sot to escape the anxiety of being arrested, which migrants face daily in Bangkok. Rose’s experience is not unique.

2- Poe Poe*, 18, from Phyu township in eastern Myanmar, has been working in a garment factory since the age of 13. Long working hours without breaks or sick leave, the struggle to save money, and the absence of proper safety standards and labor rights characterize the experience of Rose, Poe Poe, and thousands of other migrant workers in Thailand.

Work Conditions
Rose cleans the floors and tables of a garment factory for 150 baht per day (US $5), working for more than ten hours each day. For every one hour that the workers are late for their shift, they lose three hours of wages. Similarly, the consequence of missing one day of work is three days of work without pay.

Yet Rose is grateful for her job. “I like to work here because I receive good pay,” she told JRS Mae Sot staff. But she admits that economic difficulties are a constant source of stress. “I still need money to pay for my children’s education,” she said. “I once paid an agent 4,500 baht to take me back to Bangkok by walking through the jungle so I could find a higher income job. We were cheated and left in the middle of nowhere,” she says, disappointment brimming in her eyes.

But Rose is one of the lucky ones who have never felt endangered in the factory. Her workplace maintains a sound reputation for good management. “I never felt unsafe, but cleaning floors and tables is not a comfortable job,” Rose affirmed.
Poe Poe, on the other hand, works in a different garment factory and feels unprotected in the dormitory, as there are no separate lavatories or showers for women. Although she has not been physically attacked, Poe Poe feels unsafe when taking a shower as she is often watched by men.
In addition, the equipment in the factory is not always safe. The older sewing machines used to make the garments are dangerous, according to Poe Poe. “The owner hasn’t listened to complaints. We are really afraid to use those machines… Newly employed workers handle the old machines because they have no choice,” she said.

Labor Rights
In 2012, JRS Mae Sot sponsored two group discussions led by the Overseas Irrawaddy Association for migrant workers on labor rights.
“Our rights are not fully respected because we are not given enough breaks,” said Rose. Poe Poe sews for more than ten hours per day without stopping. “We don’t have enough rest. It’s not fair at all,” she said. Although she wants to find another job, she feels trapped because her parents are there with her in the factory. “I really want…better conditions and higher pay, but if I quit, my parents will have no place to stay,” Poe Poe said.
Both Poe Poe and Rose maintain dreams about returning to their hometowns in Myanmar to farm. “I like living in Thailand because it’s safe and there are many ways to earn money. However, if my parents, who are currently staying in Myawaddy, want to go back to Taunggyi, I will go with them. We still have available land to do farming,” said Rose. “If I can save money, I will take my family back home to do crop farming. There we’ll have a happy life,” Poe Poe sighed.

[Edited by Ando Isamu, SJ, from Tokyo Jesuit Social Center,]
Source: JRS Asia Pacific Web “THAILAND: Voices from the factory” Maesot, 31 December 1012
(*1,2 :Names have been changed to protect identity)

Strengthening the migrant ministry network

Extract from the Jesuit Asia Pacific Conference (Submitted on August 18th 2012)

Jesuits and collaborators working with migrants and refugees in Asia Pacific gathered in Manila recently to share insights and ideas for co-operation among the migrant ministries within the Conference.

The two-day meeting organised by the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific was held on June 30 and July 1, in conjunction with a migration conference, “Migration, Religious Experience and Mission with Migrants in Asia”, organised by the Loyola School of Theology and the Scalabrini Migration Center.

This is the second time the migration network has met since migration was identified as a common priority for the Conference in July 2010.

One of the key observations of this meeting was the increasing connection between migrant ministry and refugee work; and the importance of closer coordination to address their concerns.

Migrant work at the province level also needs to be strengthened, and some practical areas of project collaboration were explored. One possibility that was discussed is for UGAT Foundation, the established migrant centre in the Philippines, to assist with the setting up of migrant ministries elsewhere in the Conference, particularly in sending countries.

Fr Denis Kim SJ, the JCAP Social Apostolate Coordinator, said that the meeting re-emphasised the need for a migration coordinator at the Conference level and this point was made to the major superiors at their July Assembly.

The group of 23 participants from 10 countries – Indonesia, Korea, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Vietnam and Cambodia – also explored greater collaboration between the migrant ministries and Jesuit Refugee Service.

Nikola Errington, Legal Officer of JRS Cambodia, found the meeting a great exchange of experiences, stories and reflections and said it was a perfect forum to reflect upon the common elements that bind the work of JRS and the migrant ministries.

A JRS Cambodia publication raising the issue of protection space for asylum seekers in South East Asia.

“Together we listened to stories of migrant workers in Taiwan and Korea struggling to maintain fair working conditions with unscrupulous employers and apathetic authorities. We heard stories of strength, with perseverance paramount to those supporting families in their home countries of Indonesia and the Philippines. We heard stories of the suffering of families torn apart, sometimes for many years; children without mothers; and women isolated due to cultural and social divides. We also heard stories of those who built solidarity amongst workers in receiving countries and became strong advocates for their own rights, and those of their peers,” she said.

Nikola said the JRS was able to contribute the point of view of refugees, a distinct group that has particular protection needs because they cannot return to their home country. The JRS teams gave examples of the risks refugees are exposed to because they often remain undocumented or are not seen as different from migrants in the eyes of a State. Also discussed was the importance of identifying refugees within the context of broader mixed migration flows.

At the end of the meeting, the group took the opportunity to update the network contact list to encourage and facilitate cooperation especially on cases that cross national boundaries.

Caption for main photo: An illustration from Dr Maryanne Loughry, RSM AM of JRS Australia showing the increasing numbers of asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia so far this year.

JRS publishes guide for advocates in Southeast Asia

Extract from Jesuit Asia Pacific Conference (Submitted on July 17, 2012 – 7:12 pm)


Jesuit Refugee Service Asia Pacific has published a practical guide for advocates of asylum seekers and refugees in five countries in Southeast Asia. Entitled “The Search: Protection Space in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, The Philippines and Cambodia in Practice”, the document will help advocates in these countries to give accurate information to asylum seekers and refugees about the realities of protection space in the region.

Protection space for asylum seekers and refugees in Southeast Asia is limited and constantly changing, and asylum seekers and refugees face many challenges in negotiating the difficult, long and confusing refugee-status-determination (RSD) processes that will ultimately decide the direction their lives will take.

In a region where only three countries, Cambodia, the Philippines and Timor Leste, are signatories to the UN refugee convention, the challenges of living in an urban setting are amplified on a daily basis as people struggle to make a living, avoid detention, send their children to school and tend to their medical needs.

The guide covers five broad themes: protection concerns, convention obligations and domestic legal frameworks, refugee-status determination, durable solutions, and an outline of the realities of living in the region in relation to employment, education, healthcare and housing. Given the range of challenges, it is essential that those that work with asylum seekers and refugees know as much as possible about the asylum options available in urban areas in the capital cities of Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila and Phnom Penh.