Category Archives: Migrants in Japan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Five students from Afghanistan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letters are meaningful

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

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

Living in Japan-Foreign Children ― 

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

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

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

Sri Lankan man dies at Shinagawa detention center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fernando died two days later.

The Immigration Bureau rejects allegations of negligence.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hate Speech is Unacceptable it is Illegal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The first week of July has witnessed 2 contrasting important news. The first one shows how the Japanese government deals with foreign immigrant workers that have remained “illegal” in the country and were sent to immigration jails. Mass media has just reported that a few days ago the Japanese government chartered a special plane to deport 70 Filipinos overstayers kept in immigration jails to the Philippines.

This is the result of a well-planned policy backed by an official budget of 30 Million Yen allocated this year to deport a certain number of “illegal” immigrants. The official claim is that there were 62,000 foreign workers living illegally in Japan as of January and the government is decided to look for them and expel them from the country, no matter the way to do it. And as far as I know there has been no major public reaction against such move.

In contrast to this, in the other side of the world the newly appointed Head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francisco, made an official visit to the Italian island of Ampelusa to meet with thousands of immigrants from Africa, many of whom died at sea, in boats which were vehicles of hope and became vehicles of death. In the public mass in Ampelusa he made clear the position of the Catholic Church with regard to immigrants.

“I want to say a word of heartfelt gratitude and encouragement to you, the people of Lampedusa and Linosa, and to the various associations, volunteers and security personnel who continue to attend to the needs of people journeying towards a better future.

How many of us, myself included, have lost our bearings; we are no longer attentive to the world in which we live; we don’t care; we don’t protect what God created for everyone, and we end up unable even to care for one another! And when humanity as a whole loses its bearings, it results in tragedies like the one we have witnessed.

These brothers and sisters of ours were trying to escape difficult situations to find some serenity and peace; they were looking for a better place for themselves and their families, but instead they found death. How often do such people fail to find understanding, fail to find acceptance fail to find solidarity.

The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference. In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!

We are a society which has forgotten how to weep, how to experience compassion – “suffering with” others: the globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep!”

I strongly felt that we are two worlds apart! (by Ando Isamu,S.J.)

Born as a Burmese in Japan

Tuan Sian Khai
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 171 / June 15th, 2013

My name is Tuan Sian Khai. My parents fled to Japan in 1991 to escape from the fear of persecution because of their anti-government activities. That was why I was born in Japan. I am now a student at Kansei Gakuin University’s School of Policy Studies, studying mainly public policies.

I was born on October 6, 1993, in Seibo Hospital in Shinjuku Ward. My parents did not have visa status at that time. My mother did not even possess an alien registration certificate. When my mother came to Japan, she was robbed of her passport by a broker. Six months later she was able to recover it, but the visa had been replaced by a different one from the one she got when she landed in Japan. When she became pregnant, she could not get a maternity record book from the ward office because she did not have an alien registration certificate. She was asked to register my birth in Shinjuku Ward because I had been born there. My father, who did not know the Japanese language, registered my birth at Shinjuku Ward and brought me up without being aware of any subsequent procedures.

My parents went to the Myanmar Embassy to acquire Myanmar citizenship for me because of their own Myanmar citizenship. They were asked to pay a large sum in taxes. But my parents were having a hard time making their living and refused to pay that amount of unjust taxes. So I was not granted Myanmar citizenship because my parents were involved in any anti-government activities at the time. I got preventive injections but had to pay a large sum of money in a private hospital because I did not have an alien registration certificate. I was unable to receive either free health examinations or free prevention injections in the ward.

When I became old enough to go to kindergarten, my parents could not arrange anything for me, but a close acquaintance of the Chin ethnic group acted as my sponsor so I was able to go to a kindergarten from 1998 to 2000 in Kamata (Ōta Ward). However, I had to take a train from Den’en-Chōfu where we live to the kindergarten near my guardian’s house. After finishing at the kindergarten, I entered a primary school in Shinjuku and got my alien registration certificate, which designated my nationality as “stateless.” In 2004 we applied for refugee status. The Immigration Bureau asked us to change my nationality from stateless to Myanmarese and we went to the ward office as told. Indeed, now “Myanmar” appears as my nationality, but I still have no legal document proving my nationality. That is why I am still a stateless person.

Burmese Tuan Sian KhaiI still do not possess citizenship. I am now a university student but I am very anxious about my future. I cannot answer about who I am. In addition, if my parents return to Myanmar after the situation in Myanmar changes, what should I do? I do not have Myanmar citizenship. Our family may be separated. And when I go abroad to study with a reentry permit and encounter some trouble, where can I seek protection? I do not have anything to prove my Myanmar citizenship at the Myanmar Embassy and my reentry permit does not prove my Japanese citizenship. I will not know what I should do. A refugee (as defined by the Geneva Convention) has a passport and can receive protection from the UN whenever they go anywhere, but I have only a special stay permit due to humanitarian considerations, so I have nothing to guarantee my safety.

I am most anxious about finding a job. Even if I try job hunting, I am not sure whether some company will employ me. My greatest desire is for you Japanese to set up a public organization or a consultation desk to support stateless persons.

I am now a representative of “Meals for Refugees,” providing meals to areas where refugees come from to university cafeterias. This project is to raise awareness among university students about the situation of refugees in Japan by introducing 45 menus in the book Flavors Without Borders published in February by NPO Japan Associations for Refugees. At present three universities in Tokyo and two in Kansai participate in this project and are working together for the World Day for Refugees on June 20.

Nowadays the word “refugee” is overused. For example, nanmin, the Japanese word for refugee, is used for kitaku nanmin (persons in northeast Japan stranded due to the great earthquake or failure of the nuclear power station), net café nanmin (those seeking refuge in internet cafés) or lasik nanmin (persons suffering from failure of LASIK surgery). I’m afraid that more and more young people will not know the real meaning of “refugee.” I strongly desire that people will understand the real meaning and avoid using the term wrongly.

I have a dream. It is to contribute to the construction of a railway system in Myanmar by introducing to my homeland the Japanese railway system, especially the shinkansen bullet train, which I have been fond of since childhood. I think it will take a long time to complete Myanmar’s democratization process, even though it has been hastening toward democratization ever since the transition from military to civilian control. There are ethnic conflicts and civil wars and it will take a lot of time and money to solve these issues. I wish these facts were better known in Japanese society. I would like the Japanese people to know that Myanmar is not yet a peaceful country.

I am now in the second year of the university and will come of age this year. As the second generation of refugees, I would like to contribute to the betterment of Japanese society so that the younger ones who come after us and the next generation of refugees will live with none of the inconveniences we experience.

People’s Contradictory Cries in Tokyo

Ando Isamu, SJ

Spring symbolizes life and hope in Japan where harmony is considered to be a traditional value. Nevertheless, I would like to mention two incidents going on these days in Tokyo that provoke concern in a near future.

On one hand, a group of people living in Japan on expired visas, supported by Japanese citizens, started to hold on May 20th, 2013 are holding off a 5-day sit-in in front of Tokyo’s Immigration headquarters. They protest the official policy to deport visa over-stayers on chartered planes. According to official reports over 3,030 visa violators have received deportation orders this year. The number of visa violators is in the vicinity of 62,000. Official records take only into account “numbers” and make plans to deport 350 people yearly. But behind the cold figures there are children, human people unable to work due to legal restrictions and the sick.

Through the activities of this Jesuit social center we often experience the fear and stress imposed on these people due to the hidden persecution of the actual legal barriers. The persons conducting the actual sit-in hope their voices will be heard at the top of immigration. But the fact is that, except English media, Japanese mass media shows deaf ears up to their cries.

On the other hand, the month of May is watching a series of angry incidents in a central region of Tokyo known by a concentration of Korean shops and Korean population. The place is Tokyo’s Shin-Okubo district. The protesters, incited by right-wingers are Japanese citizens that oppose the presence of Koreans and Chinese, not only in that district but also in the whole country. The use of bellicose rhetoric with discriminated words, like describing Korean residents as “cockroaches” and instigating to exterminate them has been going on for the last months. We can find that by surfing the Internet. Nationalist groups are behind such movements.

Freedom of speech naturally can foster that. Nevertheless, the delicate Japanese and Korean, Chinese historical relationships together with the fluid situation in North Korea and the controversial island borders with China and South Korea, all these add much concern for the near future. The current public hateful remarks do not foster any kind of mutual understanding and could develop towards an anti-foreigners move. Some think that the imposition of a law to ban people from inciting discrimination would solve the problem. The solution is not as simple. A change of attitudes towards reconciliation is a must. The Jesuit social center is eager to hear positive opinions for real action. We want suggestions.


R. Deiters SJ
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 169 / February 15th, 2013

In Tokyo nowadays it is not unusual to hear Chinese spoken in the trains and over the speakers in Akihabara stores. At least one out of every hundred people in Tokyo is a recent Chinese immigrant from the PRC (“mainland China”). Since about 1980, after policy changes following the death of Mao Zedong (d.1976), the number of Chinese coming to Japan has steadily increased so that now they are the most numerous of any one nationality–close to 30%– among all foreigners in Japan.

Why do they come? To better their life. Many are admitted to study, first in a language school, then in a university or technical school, but usually with the hope of working–even part-time while studying, and then getting a more permanent job in Japan later. Some women gain entry into Japan as wives of Japanese, often in a “paper” marriage arranged by a broker Up until about 2005, when the police began a largely successful campaign to arrest and deport illegal residents, some had overstayed their visa in order to gain enough money for the future of their family or to launch a business after going back to China.

Are many of them Catholic? After much suffering and turmoil from the founding of the PRC (1949) until about 1980, the Catholic Church, as well as each of the other four recognized religions, is now free to have open churches and carry on all kinds of religious activity, but under close supervision of the government through the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA). A considerable number of bishops, priests, and believers do not follow the directives of the CCPA, and carry on church activities without official approval. They are the so-called “underground Church” community to which perhaps as many as 35% adhere

In China, the estimated number of all Catholics is 12,000,000–about 1% of the total population. Because seminaries and Sisters training programs were suppressed from about 1950 to 1980, most of the bishops, priests, and Sisters are under 45 with only a few over 80 who were ordained before the 1950’s. Many of the faithful are also young. It is a very young Church, but a Church without experienced senior leaders aged 50 to 80. In recent years, several hundreds of young priests and Sisters have done advanced studies in theology and pastoral fields in Europe and the U.S.A. with the help of Church organizations.

From the early 1950’s the government set up for all religions the “Three-Self” policy: self propagation, self administration, and self support. In practice this means that only PRC citizens may engage in evangelization and pastoral work; all officials (bishops, priests, Sisters) in the Church must be citizens of the PRC; and the Church is to be supported from within China. Each religion must form a semi-government organization, for Catholics, the CCPA, to supervise the execution of government policy The government does not, in principle, recognize the right of the Pope, a foreign, non-Chinese entity, to nominate bishops. Often the candidate proposed by the CCPA for bishop is accepted also by the Pope, and so the bishop can be both validly ordained and acceptable to the government. However, sometimes the Pope, finding the candidate unacceptable, requests the priest to withdraw. However, the priest under pressure from the CCPA accepts to be ordained illicitly, in violation of church law. Also, bishops who are to give the ordination or take part in such a ceremony may also be pressured by the government in various ways (bribes, blandishment, or threats) to take part in an illicit ordination. The result, however, is confusion, because such a bishop is, by church law excommunicated and without valid jurisdiction over the priests and faithful. Among more than 100 bishops, such illicitly ordained bishops are not many, but in those areas where the local bishop has been illicitly ordained, the priests, Sisters and believers are left without guidance, and confusion results.

At the request of some Chinese Catholics in Tokyo in 1987, a monthly Mass for Chinese began on the campus of Sophia University, and in 1991 the Jesuit Catholic Center was launched in an old dormitory in Nakano Ward. In 2001, the pastor and faithful of Ueno Catholic Church offered to form an integrated community with the Chinese Catholics and provide office and activity space. Now every Sunday at 1:30 pm in Ueno Church, there is a Mass in Chinese, and the Sacraments are provided. Fr. Inoue Kiyoshi, the Director., assisted by Frs. R. Deiters, S. Yamaoka, Fr. Yang of Kichijoji parish, and by several bi-lingual staff members. The Center is part of Ueno parish under the pastor Fr. Nishikawa.

For most of the Catholics we meet in Tokyo, while they are in Japan, these problems of the ordination of bishops do not directly concern them, and so they practice their faith freely, and enjoy coming to the Jesuit China Center on Sunday where they can meet friends of the same faith, language, and homeland. A large number are from the same region of Fujian Province, and are connected by family or mutual friendships.

Usually about 150 attend Sunday Mass. On big feast days such as Christmas or Easter, the Mass is celebrated by the Japanese and Chinese together, with Scripture reading and sermon, as well as singing in both languages. At such times, Ueno Church is packed with many standing. The Chinese consider themselves one with the Japanese faithful, taking part in the planning of the liturgy as well as the cleaning, decoration, and maintenance of the church facilities. We consider our Ueno Church community to be one example of an integrated community of Japanese and immigrant Catholics.


Ando Isamu, SJ

The increase of the aging population in Japan has created a new social situation in the country. Japan has not adopted an immigration policy but needs a labor force in such a field that is not popular among the Japanese youth. Since within a few years tens of thousands of nurses and caregivers will be needed in the country Japan started to look for possible candidates in several Asian countries, like Indonesia and the Philippines.

Since 2009, about 240 nurses and 400 caregivers came to Japan from the Philippines, by groups and were supposed to have been trained in their own country before landing in Japan. The final result has been not encouraging at all. As of now (Year 2013) only 15 nurses and one caregiver have passed the license examination. The fact is that those groups coming to Japan from Indonesia have experienced the same results.

From the “demand” side Japan needs and wants foreign nurses to help assist its old-age people. On the other hand, the Philippines should be able to “supply” nurses and offers them abundantly. The match should work but the reality is different. Media reports sometimes the automatic return of sometimes over a hundred candidates that were unable to pass the license examinations, disappointed by the unfair requirements imposed on them.

The situation is complex and has problems at both sides. Naturally cultural differences and the difficulties of the Japanese language play a big role in disappointments.

Nevertheless, Japan bears most of the responsibility. Since there is no comprehensive immigration policy there is a lack of official support, further Japanese language studies are expensive and limited and those coming to Japan feel that organizations involved, Japanese employers and the co-workers are unable to understand them. These are to be added to the inner difficulties in their daily jobs.

On the other hand, those coming to Japan to get their licenses as nurses and caregivers lack sometimes the training needed to work in Japan and adjust to the Japanese health care system and practices. The Philippine side also needs to understand Japanese culture and customs, often quite different from the multicultural Filipino system.

In consequence, both sides should make more efforts to cooperate and conduct joint training. Japan with an increasing aging population should take the initiative to attract young Filipinos nurses and caregivers to work in Japan.

REPORT: The Japanese police entered the ground of Kaitsuka to arrest foreigners

Fr. Takashi Motoyanagi(Diocesan Priest)
Catholic Church of Kaitsuka (Yokohama diocese, Japan)

On May 27, when many Filipinos were preparing for the celebration of the last feast of Our Lady in the Catholic Church of Kaitsuka (Yokohama diocese, Japan) about 7 police entered the ground of the Church to investigate Filipinos gathered there for mass at 12:30 noon. Although they had not any search warrant they arrested people there, on the spot. At that time many Filipino children were getting ready to participate in the special religious event there. The parish priest was working in the parish office.

When the Christians realized what was going on addressed the police investigators telling them that it was not allowed to investigate people inside the Church ground. Although they were on duty, it was found out that they were neither holding a search warrant nor an order arrest. The police said that the church was not extraterritorial and that they had the power to investigate and arrest people as they wished, because they knew exactly that a certain Filipino person, without proper visa, was coming to Sunday mass.

The parish priest informed the police that by entering the grounds of the church to conduct investigations of people the police was violating religious activities and infringing religious freedom. Therefore they must go out. One of the investigators strongly told the priest that he should advice the Filipino without proper visa to go out of the church, but if the priest refuses to do that he will be considered guilty by protecting a suspected criminal.
In spite of that, the police proceeded with their investigations advancing coercively against a Filipino person, while the priest, several Filipino women and the president of the Committee of the Church made strong protests. The investigators acted strongly against them also, warning them that if they continued interfering with the investigations they could be also arrested for obstructing the public function of the police. All that continued for over half an hour and at the end they arrested a Filipino person and brought him out to the police station. Many witnessed them.

The incident happened at Kaitsuka Catholic Church in the City of Kawasaki. If you are interested in more details, please contact Fr. Takashi Motoyanagi, the parish priest there. Here you have his e-mail address:

The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and Refugees in Japan

Koyama Hideyuki, SJ (FRJ Board member, Global Concern Institute of Sophia University)

Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 163 / February 15th, 2012

During the very severe Italian winter of 1538, Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, and his first companions opened the doors of their headquarters in Rome to shelter the many refugees and sick people that were looking looked for asylum as a result of hunger and disease. Ignatius and the companions begged for food supplies and firewood to take care of these homeless people. In one year they provided for more than 3,000 refugees.

The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) was founded as a work of the Society of Jesus in November 1980 by Fr Pedro Arrupe, then Superior General. JRS was officially registered as a foundation in Vatican City on March 19, 2000.

JRS programs are found in 51 countries around the world, providing assistance to: refugees in camps and cities, individuals displaced within their own countries, asylum seekers in cities, and those held in detention centers. The main areas of work are in the fields of education, emergency assistance, healthcare, livelihood activities and social services. At the end of 2010, more than 500,000 individuals could be counted as direct beneficiaries of JRS projects.

More than 1,400 workers contribute to the work of JRS. Many of these work on a voluntary basis, including about 78 Jesuits and 66 religious from other congregations. In 2010 the Global Concerns Institute of Sophia University paid a visit to the JRS refugee Kakuma camp in Kenya, where JRS conducts various programs, like Counseling, Mental Health, Safe Haven and Education.

Former Superior General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach expressed his recognition of JRS work for refugees around the world in the following way:
“JRS plants a seed of hope in the aridness of refugee camps, where people’s future is so often in jeopardy. This is particularly the case for young refugees in despair who are unable to gain access to education. Day after day, year after year, they see their lives becoming more and more hopeless.

“It is especially in these camps that JRS becomes an urgent service of hope for refugees. Hope increases when we help refugees have faith in themselves and in their future. It increases when love is shown in deeds of education and vocational training which transform past and present hatred into life with the wisdom which enables reconciliation and offers them the hope of a different future.”

Koyama (on the left)at JRS refugee Kakuma camp in Kenya 2010




Convention on Refugees

The Convention on Refugees was approved by the General Assembly of the UN in 1951. Japan joined it thirty years later. According to the Convention, a refugee is “a person who, owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.” Nevertheless, the pre-history of the Convention goes back to the Holocaust of World War II, when protection was offered to people fleeing persecution under communist regimes. Nowadays the situation of the refugees has changed and new challenges have occurred. The definition must be broadened to protect those who have to leave their land due to economic policy failures, national collapse, natural disasters, and the increase of urban refugees. It is a pity that national borders around the world have been closed and hostility towards unknown persons is on the increase.

Japan’s Recognition of Refugees

After the Vietnam War, from 1978 to 2005, Japan accepted 11,000 refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Nevertheless, only 577 out of 9,887 applicants were qualified as refugees according to the Convention.

In the year 2010, immigration authorities released the following figures: 1,202 persons (342 Burmese, 171 Sri Lankans, 126 Turks, 109 Nepalese, 91 Indians and 363 from other countries) applied for refugee status, but only 39, mostly from Burma, had been accepted. Compared with the previous year it was only an increase of 9. Thirteen have objected to the official decision and another 363, mainly from Myanmar, have been given temporary visas for humanitarian reasons. Compared with Western countries (19,800 persons for the USA, 11,154 for Canada, 9,693 for England, 8,115 for Germany, 7,924 for France, and 2,230 for Italy), Japan’s acceptance of refugees is quite low.

In the year 2010, the Japanese government started a pilot program which accepts refugees resident in a third country, like the acceptance of 27 Burmese from 5 refugee families and 26 more from other 6 families in 2011 living in the Mera refugee camp of Thailand. This program is a step forward but has many shortcomings. According to the Mainichi Newspaper (2012/1/14), two of these refugee families moved to a farm in Chiba Prefecture but, due to misunderstandings with the rural host family, went to live permanently in Tokyo.

Forum for Refugees Japan (FRJ)

The Migrant Desk at the Jesuit Social Center in Tokyo offers free legal consultations, besides supporting the Adachi International Academy. Nevertheless, a need was felt to expand its services to defend the rights of refugees living in Japan and provide assistance through the “Forum for Refugees Japan” (FRJ) network. Thus, two years ago we joined FRJ.

Japan’s Ministry of Justice, feeling the need to cooperate with citizens’ groups giving assistance to refugees, has started a concrete revision of its policies concerning refugee status requirements, immigration jails, resident permits and self-support and, as a result of recognizing its limitations, conducts normal discussions with the members of FRJ.

As a concrete example, 4 Burmese refugees who received provisional relief permits at Narita airport were accepted by the Japan Association for Refugees in Yotsuya. The Catholic Tokyo International Center provided lodging, clothing, and daily services as needed. Further, a Sisters’ Congregation now holds Japanese language courses for them.

I hope that, thanks to such private efforts, compulsory detention of refugees can be commuted. The Jesuit Social Center continues its relationship with JRS and its cooperation with the Forum for Refugees Japan. Added to this, last year I inaugurated a group of students called “Sophia Refugee Service.” My aim is to engage university students in concrete activities for refugees.

Human Trafficking: Why the World cannot stop it?

by Kojima Yu and Hara Yuriko / Godo Books 2010 / ¥1.300 + Tax

Shibata Yukinori (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 158 / March 15th, 2011

 The Realities of Children and Adult Victims of Human Trafficking

A few days ago I read an article telling the story of a girl from a minority group in North Vietnam who was forced into prostitution and later sold in China by a criminal organization. Since our Center has some assistance programs with Vietnamese NGOs there, I was greatly shocked at this news.

According to enquiries made by the Vietnamese government during a period of 5 years, from 2004 to 2008, about 4008 persons fell victim to human trafficking. And this figure is just a loose estimate. As a result of the one-child Chinese policy, the male population in rural areas has increased and traffickers target girls of tribal groups who want to escape poverty by inciting them to marry in rural China. There are also many cases of girls in Vietnamese cities who are cheated into prostitution as a ruse to get profitable jobs.

Such human trafficking is taking place all over the world. This book offers information on citizens’ movements to protect the victims, explains the historical and economic background of the problem, and, based on the testimonies of victims from all over the world, denounces the realities of human trafficking.

Needless to say, old-style slavery is not accepted in today’s world. Nevertheless, all types of human trafficking, like economic exploitation and traditional social customs which include strong racial and sex discrimination, still remain alive in our societies. For instance, the sex industry, housemaid services, begging, plantation and fishery work, mine work, child soldiers, organ transplantation and so on often end up in human trafficking. However, there is very little reliable data available in this field.

The fact that there are increasing numbers of migrant workers is one reason for active human trafficking. The causes are various, like escape from poverty, the desire for city life, flight from political oppression, and domestic violence or sex discrimination. According to the 2008 ILO Yearly Report, about 200 million workers left their countries to work in foreign lands. This number refers to legal workers. It is believed that illegal ones are more numerous.

Among these, many have been recruited as victims of human trafficking. Persons using illegal means to work abroad are compelled to borrow large quantities of money and thus become victims of forced labor. Even legal migrant workers have their passports and visas taken away and many end up in forced labor. In reality, it becomes difficult to procure accurate figures of human trafficking victims due to the fact that many migrant workers switch from legal to illegal status.

Asia is the region of the world that sends many migrant workers abroad and suffers from human trafficking. During the 1970s and 80s, many left Asian countries to work in Europe and the Middle East, Japan and Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore. Against the background of the continuing development of Asian economies during the 1990s, movement of workers among Asian countries, as well as human trafficking, increased. The case of Vietnamese girls brought to China mentioned at the beginning is just one example.

Japan is also one of the receiving countries for human trafficking. Before the Second World War, Japanese women were sent to Asian countries to work there in many instances as prostitutes, and during the Second World War many Koreans and Taiwanese were forcibly brought to Japan as such workers. Again, many women from Korea and the Philippines were forced by the Japanese military to work as “comfort women” around Asian countries. These days many foreign workers, amid bad working conditions and low salaries, are employed as students and technical trainees.

Several international organizations and NGOs, along with various kinds of legislation, are working actively to suppress all human trafficking. Nevertheless, since international movement of workers is on the increase, there is no way to decrease human trafficking. This was also true in former days. However, nowadays it is not rare to have foreigners living near us, and so it should be easier not only for officials but also for each one of us to provoke action on this issue. This book, easy to understand, could be a suitable first step. Schools could use it as teaching material. It is well worth reading!

Report: The Realities of Migrants in Japan

Ando Isamu, SJ
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue:  No. 154 / April 15th, 2010

Back in 2006 Kofi A. Annan, U.N. Secretary General at the time, presented a well thought-out report on migration to be discussed at a “high-level dialogue” on migration and development at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2006. In an article published in The Japan Times on June 11, 2006, he said:

“Ever since national frontiers were invented, people have been crossing them – not just to visit foreign countries, but to live and work there. In doing so, they have almost always taken risks, driven by a determination to overcome adversity and to live a better life.

Those aspirations have always been the motors of human progress. Historically, migration has improved the well-being not only of individual migrants but of humanity as a whole.
And that is still true. In a report that I presented last week to the U.N. General Assembly, I summarize research showing that migration, at least in the best cases, benefits not only the migrants themselves but also the countries that receive them, and even the countries they have left. How so?

In receiving countries, incoming migrants do essential jobs that a country’s established residents are reluctant to undertake. They provide many of the personal services on which societies depend. They care for children, the sick and the elderly, bring in the harvest, prepare the food, and clean the homes and offices. And they are not engaged only in menial activities…

Yes, migration can have its downside – though ironically some of the worst effects arise from efforts to control it: It is irregular or undocumented migrants who are most vulnerable to smugglers, traffickers and other forms of exploitation. Yes, there are tensions when established residents and migrants are adjusting to each other, especially when their beliefs, customs or level of education are very different. And, yes, poor countries suffer when some of their people whose skills are most needed – for instance health-care workers from southern Africa – are “drained” away by higher salaries and better conditions abroad.

But countries are learning to manage those problems, and they can do so better if they work together and learn from each other’s experience.

As long as there are nations, there will be migrants. Much as some might wish it otherwise, migration is a fact of life. So it is not a question of stopping migration, but of managing it better, and with more cooperation and understanding on all sides. Far from being a zero-sum game, migration can be made to yield benefits for all.”
(This article from ‘The Japan Times’ is available at our center.)

The Appeal Committee, aware that nowadays offices assisting poor people are filled with people seeking advice, decided to establish a consultation office at the church and recommended coordinating and supporting such work. I was sent last April to St Ignatius Church to help staff the new consultation office because of my trIn fact, although we use the expression “migrants” in Japan, there is no concept here of an “immigrant.” Thus, officially, there is no immigrant policy like in many Western countries but rather only a policy for dealing with “aliens.”

Kyodo News reports that, according to a survey made by the Tokyo Council of Social Welfare, 30% of Tokyo’s 316 elderly care facilities, in which the majority (90%) of workers are women, employed a total of 196 foreign workers. Filipinas account for more than half of these foreign caregivers, followed by Chinese, Taiwanese, and South Koreans.aining in social welfare. In fact, the steering committee of the church has been very sympathetic to the establishment of such a new office.

The Shaping of Japan’s Immigration Policy

According to a recent Report of the fifth informal Policy Consultation of the Immigration Bureau, Japan will promote the acceptance of high-level foreign medical personnel and caregivers. Japanese descendants and foreign trainees will also be accepted, and the number of foreign students will be raised to 300,000. Tourism and business exchanges with East Asia will also be promoted. On the other hand, the projected decrease in Japan’s population has forced the country to think more positively about accepting foreign labor and about improving the whole immigration system.

At the same time, the Report also points out that there is need for a drastic reduction in the number of 130,000 undocumented foreign people presently in Japan.

Last year about 1,400 persons applied for refugee status in Japan, but only a small number, 30 to be exact, were accepted as refugees. Once the application has been made, the process takes a long time, and only minimal economic assistance is available for housing, work, healthcare, and so on.

Just a month ago, on March 8, at least 70 detainees at the West Japan Immigration Control Center began a hunger strike demanding release on a temporary basis. They wanted to know why their applications for release from the Center were rejected, even though their refugee claims were being reviewed with support from lawyers and legal assistance workers. In fact, there have been reports of detainee abuse and harsh conditions at the Center going back at least a decade. According to an investigation by Kyodo News, 23 detainees at the center attempted suicide between 2000 and 2004.

The detainees halted their 11-day hunger strike after the Center reportedly agreed to meet with both detainees and activists. One of the major reasons why immigration officials changed their mind and agreed to negotiate was because the issue was raised by a politician at a meeting of the Upper House Judicial Affairs Committee on March 16. In addition, the timing of a U.N. visit may have prodded the Center into agreeing to the meeting. (‘The Japan Times,’ March 12 and 22, 2010)

Two years ago, in January 2008, I got a phone call from an East European detainee at an immigration jail asking me to visit him. He had been applying for refugee status just at the time immigration officials took him to jail. When I was allowed to visit him, he was in his third week of hunger strike. I was able to negotiate his release and he is now happily living and working in Japan. Japan has three main immigration detention centers, in Ushiku (Ibaraki prefecture), Ibaraki (Osaka prefecture), and Omura (Nagasaki), plus other big temporary centers like the one in Shinagawa, where hundreds of foreigners are detained. The one in Ushiku holds over 500 foreign prisoners. There alone dozens of Burmese claiming to be refugees have been detained in a sort of limbo for as long as a year.

A physician, Dr YAMAMURA Junpei , has spent the past decade treating foreigners in Japan – from illegal overstayers to asylum seekers. Once a month since 2002, he has visited the Immigration Center in Ushiku, where he monitors the mental and physical problems of detainees. During his monthly visits to the Center, he sees an average of seven or eight detainees, sometimes as many as ten.

Yamamura has been vocal about problems inside the detention centers, noting especially mental and physical abuse by officials as well as lack of proper medical treatment. In March 2007 he published “Namida no Kabe” (Wall of Tears) along with five others active supporters of asylum seekers, including a lawyer and a staff member from the human rights organization, Amnesty International. They hope to educate the general public on “the reality of immigration detention centers,” Yamamura said.

The first part of the book presents a general overview of the centers and points out problems regarding the treatment of detainees. It notes that anyone in violation of the Immigration Law can be detained, whether they are asylum seekers, illegal overstayers, elderly, young, pregnant, or ill. Families are torn asunder, the book says. Young children get taken away to child-welfare centers, while their mothers and fathers are locked up separately inside the detention center.

Lengthy detentions are also a major problem, the book points out, because even after deportation orders are issued for Immigration Law violators, these violators can continue to be held for an indefinite time. Locked within the detention center, the detainees have no idea what the future holds. It could be months or more than a year or two before they are given provisional release or deported back to their home country.

For people seeking asylum after fleeing their country for fear of religious or political persecution, the mental pressure and terror of being sent back is intense, “and for some asylum seekers, deportation could mean death,” Yamamura warned. (‘The Japan Times,’ May 2, 2007)

Such realities are not normally known to most people. Similar things occur when one is trying to enter Japan, as, for instance, at Narita airport. A few months ago a Filipina I know well, who is married to a Japanese man, applied for a visa so that her mother might visit Japan. The visa was given, but on her mother’s arrival in Narita she was taken to a special office, where dozens of people were investigated and deported back to the Philippines on the next plane. Nothing could be done, and I imagined she was just unlucky. Nevertheless, a few days ago I happened to come across the following article in ‘The Japan Times’ (March 23, 2010): “Degrading treatment at Narita immigration”

” I studied in Japan recently to complete my degree. My mother, an Indonesian citizen, came to visit me often while I was in Japan. Every time she arrived she would stay within the time period allotted by immigration at Narita.

One time after a vacation, I returned to Japan with her. The immigration officer accused her of trying to stay/live in the country despite our insistence that she had never stayed over the time limit allowed by immigration. In the end she was sent home.

The story did not end here. The immigration officer took her and me to a room where he questioned us. He laughed and jeered at the fact that I did not speak Japanese very well. He also laughed at us when my mother cried because she was about to be deported.”

Present Foreign Population in Japan

Japan currently has about 2,220,000 registered foreigners. Of these, 660,000 (30%) are Chinese and 590,000 (27%) are resident Koreans. They are known as “old-comers” because they, their parents, or their grandparents had arrived in Japan by the time Japan invaded China and annexed Korea. Hundreds of thousands of Koreans came to Japan as workers especially during World War II. Later, the rapid economic development of post-war Japan attracted many other people from East Asia, especially from the Philippines, to work in Japan, and in the 1990s the official policy of summoning workers with Japanese ancestry from Latin American countries brought more than 300,000 people from Brazil alone, as well as others from Peru and other South American countries.

Some Personal Experiences 

I have always felt a big gap between the attitude of ordinary Japanese people towards “alien” workers and the official stand taken by the country itself through immigration officials and the police. I have often been moved by the kindness shown by many Japanese citizens, especially when foreign workers needed help, but I cannot hide my feelings of extreme displeasure at the way immigration officials and the police often behave towards them.

The Abaya family 

I had never met the Abaya family before, but on March 19 this year a FAX reached my office from Araneta Cubao (in the Philippines). It said:

“On behalf of the Abaya family, my mother and my sisters, we would like to extend our sincerest gratitude for all the unsolicited help you have extended. Without all your support – PHYSICALLY, MENTALLY, EMOTIONALLY, FINANCIALLY and above all SPIRITUALLY, all of these will not be possible.”

The FAX goes on, but the whole issue was quite dramatic. A Filipino overstayer got sick and was diagnosed as having both livers seriously affected. It often happens that no hospital wants to accept an undocumented foreign worker without health insurance. The police were tipped off, but they could not arrest such a sick person. To be fair to them, the police looked for a hospital that finally accepted him. The hospital immediately started him on dialysis and, since he began to react positively, he wanted to return to his family in the Philippines as soon as possible. Meanwhile the hospital bill was skyrocketing. The doctors could not allow him to take a plane because his life was in danger. The official papers needed for his return were urgently drawn up, but then Immigration requested his presence and he had to be taken from his hospital bed to Shinagawa by car, an hour’s ride, because an ambulance was too expensive. In spite of his condition, the interview took practically the whole day. Maybe this was a normal legal situation, but how different from common-sense standards!

A Vietnamese person I know well, who is living in Japan legally with his family, told me a few days ago of a friend of his who was undocumented but wanted to return to Vietnam. They set a day, but my acquaintance made a wrong move by inquiring at a police box how to get to Immigration. He said that two policemen almost jumped on them and seized them. They interrogated them and then sent them off in a police car to the big Ayase police station, where the interrogation continued for some two hours. My acquaintance had to act as interpreter for his friend, who could not speak much Japanese.

Finally, they were released and told how to reach Immigration. But when they changed trains at a station still far from Immigration in Shinagawa, there were two police officers standing there who interrogated them again and handcuffed the undocumented Vietnamese. The other one was told to go back home because the police would bring his friend to Immigration. To say the least, everything was quite overdone.

United Nations Rights Rapporteur in Japan for an Official Inspection

I could continue forever, but let me mention the recent official visit to Japan of a U.N. expert on the rights of migrants. According to the Japanese mass media, Jorge Bustamante, U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants came to Japan on March 23 for an official inspection. He interviewed migrants and their families and discussed the various issues with ministry and agency officials. Bustamante expressed concern over the separation of families due to deportation orders and made clear that his findings were going to be made public when he submits a report on Japan to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights sometime before the end of the year. Bustamante’s main responsibilities include examining ways of overcoming obstacles to the protection of the human rights of migrants.

Bustamante held a press conference on March 31 and outspokenly urged the Japanese government to terminate its program for overseas industrial trainees and technical interns, saying it might amount to “slavery” in some cases, fueling demand for exploitative cheap labor in violation of human rights. He proposed replacing that program with a program of employment.

Some Proposals

Lastly, let me return to the article of U.N. former General Secretary Annan mentioned above.

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

The Catholic Church in Japan has already had long experience in this field. In fact, half or maybe even more than half of our Catholic population consists of foreign people. I am sure that readers of this Bulletin can certainly share many fruitful experiences from their own contacts with “aliens” living and working in Japan. In writing this article my aim has been to initiate some direct dialogue with people providing pastoral care for foreign Christian communities in Japan as well as with people attending to their educational and other personal needs; and, hopefully, with people more directly involved in advocacy work. This is a global issue that seriously affects all East Asian countries, not only Japan.

On the other hand, since this is a Jesuit social center, I would like to invite Jesuits interested and involved in work with “migrants,” as well as their co-workers, to contact me so that we can create an open network to share experiences and information and to search for possible improvements in our commitment to better the situation of migrants in Japan. Our Center is not only open to suggestions but is also ready to launch such a network and make it work with your cooperation. The Center can share experiences and information about advocacy, pastoral and educational methods, and other such concerns. We also need to explore together the possibilities of cooperation with Jesuit structures that are being set up in the East Asian Assistancy. I hope many will want to share their experiences for the benefit of “migrants” living and working in Japan.

Situation of the Filipino children in Japan

Kogure Yasuhisa, SJ (Jesuit Social Center)
Social and Pastoral issue: No. 138 / June 15th, 2007

Can you guess how many Filipino/as are living now in Japan? According to the latest statistics (2007) published by Japanese Immigration authorities, there were 195,000 registered Filipinos and 28,000 overstayers in Japan, what means that about 223,000 persons from the Philippines are, at present, living in Japan next door to us.

Nevertheless, there are many others that do not show up in these numbers. Many children that were born in Japan from the overstayers do not appear in the statistics. The same can be said of children born from Filipinas and Japanese couples that hold, in fact, Japanese citizenship, but due to divorce of their parents live together with their Filipina mothers and spend their daily lives speaking Tagalog. They are not included in such statistics with the results that they spend their lives with us confronting very rigid difficult realities.

I cannot express my reflections here now about globalization and the issues of foreign migrants, but I would like to say something about the situation of the children of Filipinos living in Japan.

As a consequence of many consultations regarding children and of my own commitment to activities with them, I came to realize that, the ordinary Japanese cannot even imagine how difficult is for those children to follow school education. This is not limited only to children of Filipino/as but it is also the same situation concerning children from other nationalities, like Chinese, Brazilians, Peruvians, etc. living in Japan.

No matter those children were born and raised in Japan, there will be a decisive gap with those children born from Japanese parents, concerning the different levels of school education and Japanese language skills. Of course, it will be even more difficult, if not nearly impossible for those children that spent their childhood in the Philippines and enrolled in Japanese schools, where cannot follow their studies.

On top of that, most of their parents with a hand-to-mouth living are working hard (their work contributes in fact to the support of the Japanese economy!) and, as a result, the parents do not have the time and money to provide education to their children. The reality is that Japan’s education system, as well as education authorities, are in no way suitable to answer the needs concomitant to the situation confronting foreign migrants. In other words, they are left to themselves. These children affected by the global phenomenon that originates in the economic theories regarding migrants’ markets, are the ones most influenced by the economic forces, in spite of not being given the opportunity to make any decision.

 If one looks at Japanese society from the point of view of these children, I think it is easy to realize how strongly neglected and ignored are people living in a weak position. How to confront them? Can Japanese society really build up a basic human rights system where people’s personal rights are given recognition? Under a system of free competition will people in a weak position continue to be neglected and disregarded? These questions will become a test for a sound society. Of course, it is clear that these issues rebound against us Japanese and question ourselves.

(Mr. Kogure is a Jesuit seminarian working for a period of 2 years at Tokyo’s Jesuit Social Center.)

10th Scholastics’ and Brothers’ Circle Meeting: Migration

Thomas Njaralamkulath (Jesuit Scholastic)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 137/ April 15th, 2007 

The 10th Scholastics’ and Brothers’ Circle (SBC) of East Asia and Oceania Assistancy was held at Malacca, Malaysia between 21st December, 2006 and 6th January, 2007. The meeting was attended by thirty scholastics and two brothers-in-formation from the different provinces and regions of the Assistancy. It was unfortunate that due to visa and immigration restrictions, delegates from China and East Timor were unable to attend the meeting. Scholastic Thomas and Brother Muraoka represented the Japanese province. The theme selected for the 10th SBC was “Migration and Urbanization.” The meeting was facilitated by Fr Jojo Fung, SJ and Fr Paul Dass, SJ.

The tenth meeting of the Scholastics and Brothers’-in-formation Circle began by locating the issues and challenges of migration within the primary sources of our Jesuit Spirituality: the Gospels, the Spiritual Exercises, and Constitutions. Fr Paul Dass SJ, Secretary of the Social Apostolate in the Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceania, presented the underlying framework of these sources as a means to discover the Jesuit model for mission in the social apostolate, together with the individual’s personal call, common ideals, criteria for discernment, and apostolic strength.

As a model for social involvement, the Exercises reveal a four step process: experience, analysis, reflection and action. Consideration of each of these steps provides the justification and motivation for Jesuit involvement in the social apostolate:

Experience: Experience is the starting point of a Jesuit who makes the Spiritual Exercises and who also works in the world. Two elements are integral: exposure and immersion. Exposure requires a preparedness to step out the comfortable and to be affected by what is read, seen and heard. Immersion is a developed form of exposure: it is more total envelopment in the new environment, which enables an inner understanding of another world to come about. The prime result is empathy.

Analysis: While experience exposes a Jesuit to the “what,” any understanding of the causation of “what” demands the question “why.” Analysis is the application of difficult questions, principles of logic and general critical thinking to elements of the prior experience. The fruit of this enquiry is an increased awareness of the cause and effect of a particular event, environment or state of affairs. Accordingly, experience and analysis become the two most important tools for making an Ignatian discernment.

Reflection: Reflection is the stage of process whereby the Jesuit gathers together the knowledge gained, and takes it to prayer. Here, the Jesuit is open to the movement of the Spirit, employing the Ignatian tools of Scripture and the individual’s own narrative. This sense of the Spirit’s movement must tend to whatever serves the greater good, the more universal benefit, the more urgent necessity for a greater number: in other terms, the Magis.

Action: Action springs out of a discernment of the will of God based on the Word of God and prayer. Although the particular action need not be world-changing, the significance lies in the concrete engagement. This fourth step enables a deeper entry into the alienation and marginalization of the other so prevalent within the ministries of the social apostolate.
Accordingly, in the same way that the structure of the 10th SBC meeting was conceived according to Fr Dass’ model for Jesuit involvement in the social apostolate, so does the following report consider the proceedings of the 10th SBC meeting in terms of the following categories: Experience, Analysis, Reflection and Action.


For the majority of the SBC meeting participants, the experience of this year’s conference theme of migration began prior to the meeting, during the formulation of each country’s report in relation to migration. In researching the policy and practice of each province’s national government, many participants had the opportunity – in many cases for the first time – to consider the national situation on migration and modes of Jesuit response. In the case of other scholastics and brothers-in-formation, the research and composition of country reports re-inforced prior personal experiences of the migrant worker situation, such as past care for refugees or migrant workers who have sought for help through the existing apostolates of the Society. Listening to the country reports from various provinces and regions was an enriching, shocking and thought provoking experience.

The immersion program: The next experiential element of the program constituted an immersion experience for all participants. Introduced by Fr Paul Dass SJ, the program was designed to enable participants to be present with migrant workers, in order that each of us could bring to our analytical skills derived from studies those experiences of reality which are held by migrants. Fr Paul emphasized that the experience of being unable to transcend language barriers would be an essential part of the experience. This linguistic handicap enabled us to enter more deeply into the experience of a migrant in a foreign land. Fr Paul also impressed on each participant the need to come to this experience without prejudice and uninfluenced by previous experiences with migrants. We were also expected to employ the method of the Application of the Senses in order properly appreciate the effect of the experience upon our inner life.

During the immersion, we were separated into four general groupings. The Vietnamese scholastics were with Fr Paul Dass, SJ. Another group composed of three Indonesian scholastics joined a predominantly Catholic community of Indonesian migrant workers from Flores. The third group went to a community organized by the NGO Tenaganita to a place called Port Klang. Majority of the participants went to the different communities of migrant workers in Kuala Lumpur organized by the JRS counterpart organization in Malaysia.

For three days, each one of us was presented with the opportunity to interact and live with the migrant workers. We struggled with their living conditions, while at the same time appreciating deeply their great hospitality. We spoke and we listened to them despite the seeming language barrier. We ate with them, and we joined in their humble Christmas celebrations. We were moved by their steadfast faith and their resilience in overcoming their lives’ challenges. In hearing their stories, each of us was drawn to ask the question “why this is happening to them?”

Upon our return to Malacca, we were given opportunity to pause and reflect on the question, “What does all this experience with migrant workers mean to me?” The processing of our experience of the immersion was undertaken as a community, given that there was much to be learned each other’s experience of the short immersion program. Thus, we described our experience and articulated how this immersion has affected us. A central element of this process was critical analysis of the situation in terms of social, cultural, economic and political structures. On the affective side, we also concentrated on the religious and faith dimensions of the issue of migration. In this way, we were able to move forward by integrating head knowledge with the movement of our hearts. In summarizing the effect of the experience, Fr Dass observed that is was through our actual experience of immersion with various groups of migrant workers in Kuala Lumpur and Johor that our sympathy for the troubles of the migrants transformed into real empathy. It is this empathy which evokes a Jesuit to make a commitment “to make the plight of the migrant and displaced, [our] own plight.” On reflection, such experience of immersion could not have happened at a more appropriate time than on Christmas when we celebrate the Incarnation of our God who in His great love for us, immersed Himself deeply into our wretched lives, to be with us, to be one with us, to be one of us. Our immersion with the migrants, thus, found greater meaning in the celebration of the birth of Christ.


Equipped with a series of moving experiences, we were then invited to analyze such experience with the assistance of Dr Irene Fernandez, a Malaysian expert in the issue of migration and human rights. Dr Irene opined that we are presently experiencing a Third Wave of Globalization. The First Wave of Globalization occurred as European countries began their conquest of the world to reap the resources of other lands. The Second Wave of Globalization began after Europe had undergone the industrial revolution and was in search for cheaper means of production. In this period, the world began to witness off shore productions and the “green revolution.” Finally in the Third Wave of Globalization, the focus is on trade. In this stage of migration, capitalism is practiced without restraint. There is an ever-growing insistence on removing all barriers to trade and opening up all markets to competition.

As a consequence of this capitalistic ideology, every dimension of human life is evaluated based on the criteria of efficiency and economics. Dr Irene stipulated a number of emerging issues from globalization including the commodification of labor where laborers are treated as objects to be traded. In extreme circumstances this process has resulted in the stripping the human person’s rights and dignities. This Third Wave of Globalization has also brought about new forms of discrimination and violence targeted especially to the peoples of poorer, underdeveloped nations. Neo-liberal tendencies of globalization have resulted in deregulation and privatization of governmental sectors. While this may have increased efficiency in various sectors, it has also resulted in the commodification of basic necessities such as water. In effect, this colonization of the life-world by economics means that even access to basic necessities is regulated by financial considerations.

Dr Irene Fernandez highlighted the importance of analyzing the problem of trafficking as a component of migration. In human trafficking, we witness the reality of migrants as modern day slavery where people are forced into prostitution and bonded labor, where smuggling and trafficking of babies occur. Foreign brides coming from poorer countries looking for husbands from richer countries end up as maids with very little freedom. We were urged also to read documents such as the International Convention of Migrant Workers and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Dr. Fernandez insisted on stipulating specific violations of human rights when defending the rights of migrants.
Dr Irene’s input was delivered by means of lecture, small-group work, feedback and personal sharing. On this basis, scholastics and brothers-in-formation were given the opportunity to contribute to discussion and conversation.


The third component of our SBC meeting, conducted by Fr. Jojo Fung, S.J., enabled the scholastics to reflect upon their experiences from an Asian theological perspective. Fr Jojo insisted upon the necessity of a unique Asian theology that springs out of specific experiences in Asia with the “anawim”: those poor and dejected people in our midst. Fr Jojo facilitated a non-textual approach in conducting this theological reflection by expressing these concepts in paintings, poem-prayers and chants. This form of expression is the strength of Asian Theology. Drawing on biblical sources, Fr Jojo highlighted how the relations among the Israelites and the other people of the Old Testament developed over time. At first foreigners were seen as a threat to the people of Israel but this relationship developed to become one of mutual respect. This model of relationship developed to become one of partnership especially among the peoples of the New Testament. In this stage of history, people were considered to be equal in dignity because of the salvific action of Christ and the call to mission offered to all people.

After presenting the issue of migration in the light of the Old and New Testaments, Fr. Jojo led us to a reflection that allowed us to realize how God has been truly present at every stage of the migration of human persons and how we in turn need to be present to and for one another. God is present as He directs all movements and as He calls forth His agents to lead His people in the sojourn of life. His unchanging presence manifests His unfailing faithfulness to His beloved people who are always on the move. In a sense, God is also on the move as He journeys with each and every one of us.

Seeing how the story of our lives is a story of movement and migration, we recognize indeed how we are all called to undertake our journey in solidarity with others, most especially with the marginalized, the oppressed and the dispossessed. Integral to this call is our commitment to make a prophetic stance-to stand up for what is right and true at all cost. As what the Bishops in Asia have rightfully done, we must question critically the development model in Asia, which emphasizes too much on economic growth and dehumanizes people in the process. Moreover, we must be united in the condemnation of forced migration that has become prevalent among Asian countries but have unjustly benefited only the few who are rich and in power.

On the other hand, it must be emphasized that, despite the unfavorable situation in which some Christian migrant workers find themselves in, they remain to have the capacity to become agents of evangelization. Indeed, some good arises from such a dark situation. Empowered by God’s loving graces, they become preachers in deeds more than simply preachers in words. Through their edifying lives of service and charity, people all around them will recognize them as Christians.

Finally, as we recognize that we, ourselves, are part of this great journey with one another towards God, we, as Jesuits, will have to follow the path our pilgrim Father Ignatius has taken. We, too, must walk side by side with Christ, who is a Pilgrim par excellence in order that His Spirit may fill our hearts and lead us to make a difference in the sojourn of the People of God in this world.


This section constitutes the recommendations proposed by the delegates of the 10th SBC. Following twelve days of input, discussion and deliberation in relation to migrants, migrant workers and refugees, the delegates of the SBC recommend, in order of priority:

Formation and formation communities

1. that each scholastic and brother in formation undertakes a personal commitment to and intentionally takes responsibility for his own Jesuit mission formation, theological education and integrative development, according to the heart of Ignatius, the spirit of General Congregation 34 and the mind of Father General. Actions which would expressly assist this process include:

1.1 selecting rigorous academic programmes and courses which teach, to a very high standard:

1.1.1 socio-political awareness together with social analysis and critical thinking skills;

1.1.2 an understanding of global and domestic economic structures;

1.1.3 an appreciation of fundamental human rights and obligations;

1.1.4 the theological and spiritual bases of a faith that does justice, as informed by the Spiritual Exercises;

1.1.5 Catholic Social Teaching; and

1.1.6 those humanities related fields that confer the ability to understand, analyze, reflect upon, articulate and debate issues and problems relating to contemporary social phenomena, such as migration;

1.2 consciously taking initiative to concern and creatively involve ourselves with matters relating to migration, migrant workers and refugees, in order to re-enliven young Jesuits’ commitment to the social apostolate and facilitate the formation for mission and integrative development required of a Jesuit. Working within the extant structures of the Society, such initiative could take the form of:

1.2.1 seeking out a Jesuit mentor who is active and experienced in the social ministries;

1.2.2 participating in, and actively contributing to, appropriate networks, workshops and seminars which concern issues and problems of migration, migrant workers and refugees;

1.2.3 undertaking pastoral work among migrants and refugees;

1.2.4 taking any opportunity to attend such mission exposure programmes that relate to migration, migrant workers and refugees and which are co-ordinated by the Society or related organizations; and

1.2.5 applying for regency in the social apostolates of the JCEAO member provinces, including those specific ministries which specialize in providing assistance, relief, education and advocacy services for the migrant and refugee communities;

1.3 establish an action group comprising volunteers from within the body of SBC delegates, to pursue and promote issues within and without the Society pertaining to human rights violations, migrant workers and refugees occurring in the East Asia and Oceania countries;

Feedback to the Province and Jesuit Communities

2. that SBC delegates formally communicate to their respective communities the information and experiences gained at the SBC meeting in relation to migration, migrant workers and refugees. Moreover, to the extent that it will be practical or helpful, SBC delegates should endeavour to:

2.1 write and offer for publication in provincial/regional newsletters and magazines, on web sites and for distribution among email groups; and

2.2 organize and present workshops concerning migration, migrant worker and refugee issues for the benefit of those in formation.

Youth, young adult and campus ministry

3. that, having regard to the priority and necessity of recommendation one, wherever a scholastic or brother in formation may be involved in youth, young adult or campus ministry, that Jesuit undertakes to promote the importance of fundamental human rights, and the derivative issues of migration, migrant workers and refugees. To the extent that these are practical and helpful, this commitment may be manifested in the following ways:

3.1 by discernment of what moves young people in today’s society, and the communication of an alternative values’ system grounded in “deepest desire” and a “faith that does justice”;

3.2 by introducing a migration, migrant workers and refugee component to the programme of the relevant ministry;

3.3 by offering exposure and immersion programmes within the Society’s social ministry located in the Assistancy of East Asia and Oceania, and with related non-government organizations and partners; and

3.4 by inviting young people to join us as partners in our mission wherever an appropriate opportunity presents itself.

Involvement with the Society’s social apostolate

4. that, given the richness of the social ministries conducted by the Society in the East Asia and Oceania Assistancy, SBC delegates involve themselves within the Society’s extant social apostolate structure, including:

4.1 connecting with the Jesuit (Refugee) Service and relevant personnel, in order to facilitate exposure to and immersion in their work, and communicate the JRS message to the communities in which we work and minister;

4.2 collaborating with lay people in both Society and related organizations. Such involvement may include Yiut-sari (Korea), ACTS (Malaysia), UGAT (Philippines), JSS (Australia) and migrant chaplaincies generally, in order to learn from their successes in mission, and overcome traditional patriarchal and institutional obstacles;

4.3 contributing to provincial/regional publications, web sites and other media regarding questions of human rights, migration, migrant workers and refugees. In time, and in an appropriate context, this contribution may be extended to secular publications;

4.4 being available to be incorporated into, or working in partnership with, diocesan agencies and other religious congregations in areas of common concern with regard to migrants.

Foreigners in Japan: Still Knocking at the Door of the Church

Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J. (CITIC Meguro)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue:  No. 106 / February 15th, 2002

The original idea of CTIC, some twelve years ago, was that of a Socio-Pastoral Center. But, as it often happens, the urgent and the immediate take always priority over other dimensions that require reflection, long range planning and careful follow up. The Original CTIC has been doing an excellent work at helping Migrants in the urgent and pressing problems of survival, legal and immigration problems, pressing marriage conflicts and the like.

As the needs of the growing foreign communities multiplied, the urgency and importance of long range pastoral accompaniment and follow up became more and more evident and Tokyo Archdiocese decided to open a new CTIC Center in Meguro. This Center has mostly Pastoral objectives, which, naturally, can never be severed from the general human situations and needs. Thus we are working now on Training Seminars, Renewal of Sacramental and Community life, Accompaniment and Pastoral care of people in emergency situations like detention, serious or difficult illness and the like. We want to contribute to lively Pastoral programs in Parishes, coordination of this wide ministry to foreign groups, all in an ongoing dialogue with Priests and other Ministers to Migrants and their families. We are also working together with the Sister Centers of Urawa and Yokohama, who are dealing with similar issues and concerns.

The great geographic extension of Tokyo is a handicap when it comes to service to groups that are very busy and who can hardly administer their time and movements with much freedom. This has brought the Diocese to accept the opening of a new small CTIC Center in Chiba, which will service that area of the Archdiocese, where there are many foreign workers and where the priests and lay people have been offering very good service for many years. This new Center will begin to function in April of 2002.

 It does not take much time to realize how complex and unsettled the situation of foreigners in Japan is. Much has been written and said about the economic, political or social needs, problems or difficulties that foreigners meet in the country. I consider them well known and take them for granted in these lines, so that I can concentrate on the so-called “Pastoral” situation. In doing this I am trying to see beyond the emergencies into the long term personal reality of so many people who “had to leave” their family and country, their culture and home and risk everything in order to follow the dream of a new future, be it permanent or temporary.

The first and most obvious fact is the situation of being “uprooted from their own Culture.” This is much more than missing the food, the Festivals and the traditional dances they grew up with. Culture has been defined as “a pattern of shared meanings and values, embodied in a network of symbols, myths and rituals, created by a particular group as it struggles to adjust to life’s challenges and educating its members about what is considered to be the orderly, correct, and decent way to feel, think and behave.

” For the ordinary citizen, living permanently, or for long stretches of time, outside his or her own culture is equivalent to be in a situation of personal chaos, with a very deep sense of loss, of not knowing how to feel, how to behave, how to make sense to others.
For a great number of immigrants this sense of loss is made more serious because it goes together with a sense of “religious wandering away from home.” Religion has given color, depth, and horizons to many of the cultural systems from where foreigners come.

Together, culture and religion have provided people and their communities with means and sources of meaning, of healing, of belonging and personal, as well as social, integration. It is easy to understand why people who might not be very regular in going to Church at home, become very eager to join Sunday Mass in Japan. For many this can be the link to mental and spiritual sanity, the promise that they can make it without breaking down, the hope that, in spite of everything, they will be able to overcome the darkness and chaos that now surrounds them.

This need is all the more urgent because the situation of most of the foreigners looking or hoping for work in Japan is one of human and social “depreciation.” Not a few of those coming to Japan suffer a loss of social standing and a high degree of loss of self-esteem here. They will be holding jobs far below their personal qualifications, education or capabilities. They are often looked down upon and will seldom be even considered worthy to be consulted, promoted, or helped move on to better or more challenging jobs. This is a source of indescribable loneliness; it brings even lower one’s already low self-esteem; it is a source of a painful insecurity that affects their ability to perform, to relate and to even address their own children with dignity and basic human pride.

One area that we have to study further and take much more seriously than here to fore is the effect that migration has on human and moral values. We are dealing here with a massive reality of poverty, insecurity, joblessness, social and political instability, that has been throwing millions of people into inhuman situations where most of the decisions become “survival or last resort” emergencies. How this affects the heart, the thinking, the values, the very faith of those affected is an urgent subject of dialogue and study. Very early after they decide to do something about survival, they have to take one or another measure that would normally be considered deceptive (like using a false passport, using a borrowed name, lying about age), or immoral (like marrying in order to obtain a Visa, developing emotional relationships without commitment). It is always a source of wonder to meet some of these persons and encounter a purity of heart, a delicacy of compassion and solidarity, a fine tuning of spiritual sense… that we would hardly associate otherwise with some of the lies they have told or the jobs they have been doing. What is happening here? How do these facts change our stereotyped perceptions and definitions? Where and how is the Spirit of God really at work? We had heard about these examples in the past, all the way to the time of the Gospel. But we had not encountered them in such a numerous (should we say “massive”?) way. What does that say to our pastoral concerns and ministry?

We have also the innumerable issues that accompany any human community, but that become more acute and serious in the situation of insecurity, instability and stress in which foreigners find themselves. Marriage, family and education come invariably to the top of the list. If marriage is always the most serious test to human maturity and the capacity for interpersonal communication and shared growth, it is not difficult to understand why so many inter-cultural marriages of our people fail. The lack of human, cultural, social and other preparation for marriage and family life; the absence of discernment in the choice of partner, in the planning of a new family, in the organizing of the new shared life; the ignorance about Japan, its cultural traits, its system of education, its chances and its constraints, etc. are some of the factors that make of inter-cultural marriages one of the most difficult human adventures one can imagine.

The pastoral consequences of the above points and many other minor, but ever present, issues are obvious. The need of help, support, discernment, and accompaniment through this maze of problems is extraordinary and is knocking at the doors of the Church and at the hearts of every (Christian) person. Abandoning these people and communities is not only abandonment, but handing them over to “a violent market” that is very eager to have ever-new clients. I am referring here to the merchants of death, of greed or of stupidity, who would make human weakness and pain the object of their sales strategy. This extends widely from drug or alcohol, to the recruiting for gangs, and even to the misguided manipulation that lands people in religious sects or groups.

There are many challenges facing the Christian Churches, and the whole Japanese society, in these times of globalization and the accompanying migration and displacement of peoples. We can look briefly, first, to some challenges to our habitual perspectives and attitudes in the form of transitions.

The first transitions we are challenged to make is from a First, good-will, welcome of the Foreigners in our midst, with some minor changes in our Parish life, to a real and full welcome that brings forth a total reconsideration of our Parish, its structures and its activities.

This necessitates a second transitions from the present situation in which Foreigners are still treated as (reluctantly received, tolerated, accommodated, welcomed or honored) “guests,” to a situation where they will be and made to feel as full ordinary members of the Church. “Guests” are offered limited space, limited time, and a minimal menu of (not too well prepared) services; full members are entitled to full space and time, the capacity and possibility of involvement and participation in all Church activities and programs and being considered for responsible ministry.

This should be part of a transition from a respectful, but passive perception as a parallel community to a real dynamic inter-cultural interaction that would help all the represented groups feel at home and move towards a future integration.

It calls also to a transition from a benevolent, mild, almost invisible but real prejudice to a dialogue of hearts in which all of us are involved in discovering the deeper human experience and motivations of local and foreign Christians alike.

We need also a transitions from a narrow moralistic view of the situation of many foreigners who have difficulties with immigration papers, permission and other legal references, to a wider and fairer understanding of the human situation from which they come and the survival or liberation imperatives that move their limited life choices.

Maybe the wider transitions is that from a Japanese Church at the service of Japanese Christians, with an opening to some exceptions, to a Japanese Church at the service of humanity, open to and sharing with the wide world as it comes to us in the persons and lives of the people moving now to Japan.

In other words, we are challenged to make the courageous and risky transitions from an orderly “Ministerial Church,” able and organized to take care of its needs, to a “Prophetic Church” committed to live the Gospel with others and becoming, in turn, an invitation to the whole Japanese society for a new emerging human family.

The change in perspectives has to go hand in hand with new programs that will make the vision concrete and help in making the transition real and operative. Let me list some of these challenging programs:

4.1 An integrated Pastoral Program for all, Foreigners and Japanese Christians. This program has to be made in the face of real needs and responding effectively to them as well as to the whole situation. Here we think of Community Building, Life-and-Sacrament interaction and growth, faith development, life in the Spirit, social and professional discernment, etc.

4.2 A global plan, extending through three generations, on how to best serve incoming Christians from abroad, through life and emergency crises until they find a meaningful integration in Japanese Church and Society.

4.3 An ongoing reflection and Dialogue with Migrants on the bi-cultural development of their personal and religious identity and all its stages.

4.4 A meaningful integration of the Migrants and itinerants into a restructured Diocese (see as reference the letter from the Archbishop “A step forward”), with total and welcomed participation at all levels, wherever and whenever this is possible; or on a gradual process as it becomes possible.

4.5 Well planned and organic preaching (on Sunday Masses) with the help of “remedial catechesis for adults,” as helps to the Migrant community, for a mature faith life in a modern, pluralistic and free society like Japan.

4.6 Concrete programs of training in skills that range from daily life, relationships, etc. to more complex issues of culture, community building, conflict resolution, and the like.

4.7 Gradual integration (even if it takes three generations for it to happen) of all ethnic groups into a Community of believers where “the simple fact of being human” becomes the real, operative base on which to build the Church, with no other ultimate foundation than Christ.

If we come back to CTIC now we have to say that the meaning of our work in this Center is not to take over the above challenges. The challenges are for the Church as a whole and the response has to take place where the Christian communities are, in the Parishes and supra-parochial activities.

Our contribution can be at its best when we take part in the process as offering support, skills, helps, at times even coordination, cooperation and, always, service.

It will be one of our tasks to keep reflecting, together with those who have been and continue to be working actively and wisely in close friendship and cooperation with the different foreign communities, inside and outside the Catholic Church.

We do not need to be very visible because the real life and growth takes place where people are, not in the service Centers of this world. Our joy will be to be able to assist and contribute to that life; and for this we will always be happy to be helped ourselves with all kind of personal, spiritual, advisory and material support.

Migrants and Itinerants in Japan will continue to help us refresh our reading of the Gospel and keep before the eyes of our hearts the deeper issues of human life and the most genuine sources of hope and joy.

Tokyo, Jan. 2002

The fate of foreign workers as Japan enters the 21st century

Shimokawa Masatsugu (Ando Isamu, SJ Jesuit Social Center)  
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 91 / August 15th, 1999

A short while ago a new Immigration Revision Bill passed the House of Representatives (Lower House) and it will most probably go through the Upper House, in a matter of weeks. The whole matter passed “unnoticed” in the Japanese media and the public, as different from other bills discussed in the Diet, like the ones concerning the Japanese anthem and flag, for instance. Nevertheless, the bill directly affects the lives of thousands of foreign workers in Japan. Rumors about the matter are starting to spread and people are panicking. In Adachi-ku (Tokyo), home to several thousand foreign workers, the ‘Musubi no Kai’, a small anonymous organization established this year to assist foreign workers in that region, has started to conduct public gatherings to provide right information and advice.

This revision bill, prepared by Japanese Immigration, is the continuation of the revision of the immigration law begun already 2 years ago. In fact, Immigration tried to stop stowaways coming into Japan, concerned by the increasing illegal smuggling activities of yakuza groups, like the “Snake heads”. The results have been rather dubious, showing that the solutions must be found some other way. In any event, the new revision of the bill presents a stricter policy.

Actual Figures of Foreign Workers in Japan
According to Labor Ministry investigations, there are 660,000 foreign workers in Japan, accounting for about 1 per cent of the working population. Of those foreign workers, an estimated 277,000 have overstayed their visas. The number has gradually declined after reaching its peak of 299,000 in 1993. However, exact figures are not known because smugglers do not pass through the Immigration Offices. (From the Editorial of Asahi Evening News, January 3, 1999) Although 6 months have already passed and as a consequence of business recession many workers have lost their jobs and decided to return to their countries, the new Revision Bill stresses that there are, at present, about 270,000 illegal overstayers.

From the point of view of Christian communities, the Catholic Tokyo International Center (CTIC) has published interesting results of a survey, comparing the Catholic population of native Japanese and expatriates, in the Tokyo diocese. The Tokyo diocese includes Tokyo metropolis and Chiba prefecture. There are 81,020 Japanese Catholics (55%) and 66,766 expatriate Catholics (45%) in all. In the 5 wards, East of Tokyo, Japanese Catholics are 4,498 (42%) and the expatriate 6,232 (58%).

Japanese official immigration policies, compared to other western countries and international standards, show different perceptions. The classical example has always been the situation of Koreans in Japan. More recently, in the late 70s and 80s the Japanese official reluctance to accept refugees, and the actual strict situation of foreign workers show that Japan is not in favor of accepting people from outside. Changes have occurred but they are due to pressures from abroad, as in the case of accepting refugees. During the 80s the lack of manual workers opened a little the interpretation of strict immigration laws. At present though, since there is not much work available for foreign workers, Immigration seems to have a free hand, using other social issues like the increasing of crimes committed by foreigners in Japan. In fact, proportionately speaking, figures show the opposite: there has been a reduction, according to studies done.

Remarks of the UN Human Rights Committee Concerning Japanese Immigration
The UN Human Rights Committee made public (5 November 1998) its concluding observations to the Japanese government, after a careful study of the Japanese official report and other counter-reports. With regard to immigration practices it states in article 19, “The Committee is concerned about allegations of violence and sexual harassment of persons detained pending immigration procedures, including harsh conditions of detention, the use of handcuffs and detention in isolation rooms. Persons held in immigration detention centers may remain there for periods of up to six months and, in some cases, even up to two years. The committee recommends that the State party review the conditions of detention and, if necessary, take measures to bring the situation into compliance with articles 7 and 9 of the Covenant.”

Again in article 10, the Committee states: “More particularly, the Committee is concerned that there is no independent authority to which complaints of ill-treatment by the police and immigration officials can be addressed for investigation and redress. The Committee recommends that such an independent body or authority be set up by the State party without delay.”

Such remarks and recommendations are by no means new, but improvements are far from sight. In fact, the new revision bill, if passed, will create more confrontation with the International Human Rights Covenant, of which Japan is a Signatory State party.

The New Immigration Revision Bill
Briefly said, from now on, illegal entry into Japan and its following overstaying will become criminal offences. Due to the period of prescription of the law, persons overstaying more than three years, if they surrender voluntarily to immigration or have been caught by immigration officials, are deported without fine or sentence. And this is, in spite of a law that allows a maximum of 3year imprisonment and fines up to 300,000 yen.

If the new bill becomes a law, illegal entry and illegal overstaying will also be considered crimes, with the same legal punishment as now. The difference will be that, since they are criminal offences, detention and fines could be strictly exacted. Groups of Japanese supporters, volunteers as well as company managers could be, indirectly, in trouble with the officials and the police, from now on.

Overstayers and stowaway persons face deportation. There is no change from the actual system, but the real difference will be that, reentry will only be allowed after 5 years from the date of the deportation.

According to the present law (Denial of landing, Article 5, n.9) “Any alien who falls within one of the following categories shall be denied permission for landing in JapanÅc Any alien who has been deported from JapanÅc and one year has not elapsed from the date of the deportation.” This article of the new law, not to allow reentry before 5 years have elapsed, will hit hardly illegally overstaying foreigners with Japanese spouses and those holding stable jobs in Japan. According to the National Network of Solidarity with Migrant Workers (1999/4/16), there were over 150,000 expatriate spouses with proper visas in 1997, and during the same year 15,000 more entered Japan legally. Thoughtful consideration should be given to people who, entering Japan illegally and/or illegally overstaying their visas, happen to marry a Japanese citizen or a legally admitted refugee. Five years is a long period of time, enough to break family links and, of course, to make business managers lose their interest in those foreign workers they want to retain, because they know them well.

According to the new bill there will be a period of 6 months before the law goes into force. Considering the present political atmosphere, since the bill has already passed the House of Representatives and the Liberal Democrats are in alliance with the Liberal Party and the new Komeito, there should be no major problem for this new immigration bill to become a law, sometime before this October. If that is the case, the law will be implemented around April next year 2000.

Implications of the New Immigration Law
From the side of the foreign workers, there will be a lot of discontent without knowing what to do. Many will start thinking of leaving just before the law is implemented, hoping they can get reentry for Japan within a year.

Nevertheless, since they are deported nobody can assure Immigration will give them reentry permits, after a year, once the law takes effect.

Many will remain underground, betting they will not be found. Their perception being that there is no way to implement the new law. The ground for this is that, about 80% of people deported in Japan freely surrender. Exposure cases are only 20%. Jails and detention centers are already full and immigration does not have enough people to take charge of new tasks. On the other hand, yakuza organizations and other groups, which the new law is to be applied to, will not easily stop their lucrative business of smuggling people into Japan.

It is clear, though, that the new situations created by the immigration law will be a new blow to the human rights of foreign workers, regarding human respect, just working conditions, possibilities of renting apartments, and securing their health and sometimes even their lives. Will expatriate Catholics, for instance, feel free to manifest their faith, as a group, in Japanese public churches?

Japan is now making history that, later in the 21st century, will receive harsh historical judgement. Japan is in need of friends from abroad, especially from Asian countries, but she is creating enemies among those who really know Japan, and the Japanese language. Is this needed in the name of national interest? Is the new bill up to the international role Japan should play in the coming century?