Ministry of Justice’s human rights bodies offers free counseling services to foreign residents

(Extract from The Expat’s Guide to Japan- last updated: February 23, 2020)

Have you ever experienced discrimination because of your race or nationality, in your local community or workplace? Examples include being refused a rental property or store service on grounds of nationality, or one’s children experiencing bullying at school.

With the aim of giving proper respect to the human rights of foreign residents, the Human Rights Bodies has set up human rights counseling services accessible by phone (Foreign Language Human Rights Hotline), online (Human rights counseling services on the Internet) and in-person (Human rights counseling centers), through 50 Legal Affairs Bureaus and District Legal Affairs Bureaus nationwide, to support foreign residents who are not fluent Japanese speakers.

In addition, these bodies will assess through human rights consultation, the situation and, as a need requires, carry out investigations and take appropriate steps to help victims and prevent future occurrences. If you are worried about a possible human rights issue, get in touch. A staff member will be on hand to discuss your problem, and together you can look for the best possible solution.

Their services are available in English, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Spanish, Nepali, Thai, Filipino and Indonesian.
(Internet counseling services are available only in English and Chinese)

*As the bureau is a governmental body, all advice is neutral and impartial.
*Advice is offered free of charge, and no paperwork is required.
* Referrals, legal advice, mediations*¹ between the relevant parties and interventions*² demanding an improvement in behavior from human rights offenders are offered, as considered appropriate.
*¹ *² these measures will only be taken with the understanding and agreement of the relevant parties, and cannot be forced if either party is unwilling.
Foreign Language Human Rights Hotline
Counseling services available by phone, online and face-to-face:

Phone (Foreign Language Human Rights Hotline):
0570-090911 9:00am-5:00pm, Mon-Fri (closed for New Year Holidays)

Online (Human rights counseling services on the Internet) : (English) (Chinese)

Face-to-face (Human rights counseling centers):
Legal Affairs Bureaus and District Legal Affairs Bureaus (Japanese only)

Read more here:  (PDF)

Japanese government bolsters support for foreign students seeking jobs

(Extract from Japan Times – December 20th, 2019)

The government revised Friday its comprehensive measures, which were drawn up in December 2018 in a bid to realize an inclusive society, in hopes of bolstering support for foreign students seeking jobs in Japan.

Measures to create an environment in which international students can find work easily and policies to expand the scope of foreign nationals who can take tests in Japan to obtain new types of work visas were included in the revised package.

The new package was adopted at a meeting of related ministers, which was held at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo.

As part of measures to increase opportunities for foreign students to find jobs here, the government will inform companies of a system in which foreign nationals are permitted to stay in the country even if there is a gap between their graduation and employment.

It will urge such students to apply for internships as well.

The government plans to hold briefing sessions at a consultation center for foreign people that will open in fiscal 2020 to spread information on the recruitment of international students.

The government will also expand the scope of people who will be allowed to take the tests for the new visa program in Japan.

While only mid- and long-term foreign residents in principle are eligible to take the tests in the country under the current system, the government will allow short-term visitors, including those visiting on business or sightseeing trips, to take the tests here as well.

Meanwhile, it was reported at the meeting that the total number of foreign residents in Japan with the new work visas stood at 1,019 as of the end of November.

Pope calls for an end to ‘tragic exodus’ of migrants

(Extract from UCAnews – November 21st, 2019)
Pope calls for an end to ‘tragic exodus’ of migrants

Francis tells Bangkok audience that migration is ‘one of the principal moral issues facing our generation’

Pope Francis focused on Asia’s migration crisis today as he made his first public speech on his seven-day visit to Thailand and Japan.

After being given an official welcome at Government House in Bangkok and meeting Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, he addressed civil and religious leaders and members of the diplomatic corps.

The pope called migration “one of the defining signs of our time” and “one of the principal moral issues facing our generation.”

He said he hopes “the international community will act with responsibility and foresight to resolve the issues that have led to this tragic exodus and will promote safe, orderly and regulated migration.”

“The crisis of migration cannot be ignored,” the pope said. “Thailand itself, known for the welcome it has given to migrants and refugees, has experienced this crisis as a result of the tragic flight of refugees from nearby countries.”

According to the 2019 report of the UN working group on migration in Thailand, of the 69 million people living in Thailand, 4.9 million are non-Thais, an increase of 1.2 million in five years. The largest groups come from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Thailand has about 93,000 refugees living in nine camps. Most are are ethnic minorities from Myanmar. Bangladesh is accommodating more than one million Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar.

Pope Francis described Thailand as “the guardian of age-old spiritual and cultural traditions,” a multiethnic and diverse nation that has “long known the importance of building harmony and peaceful coexistence between its numerous ethnic groups.”

Human trafficking, especially of women and children for prostitution and for domestic service, is a major problem in Thailand, according to the UN Action for Cooperation Against Trafficking in Persons.

“Thailand is recognized as a key destination for human trafficking in the Mekong region in addition to being a source and transit country for forced labor and sex trafficking,” the UN said. The problem involves poor Thais as well as migrants.

Addressing Thai leaders, Pope Francis drew special attention to women and children “who are wounded, violated and exposed to every form of exploitation, enslavement, violence and abuse.”

He praised the Thai government’s efforts “to extirpate this scourge” and “for those working to uproot this evil.”

“The future of our peoples is linked in large measure to the way we will ensure a dignified future for our children,” he said.

Pope Francis also looked briefly at the political situation in Thailand, congratulating the country for holding a general election in March for the first time since the military coup in 2014 that installed Prayut as prime minister. After no party or coalition of parties was able to form a government, the parliament voted for the general to continue in office.

But, mostly, the pope focused on Thailand as a country of ethnic, cultural and religious diversity, although about 90 percent of the population is Buddhist.

“Our age is marked by a globalization that is all too often viewed in narrowly economic terms, tending to erase the distinguishing features that shape the beauty and soul of our peoples,” he said. “Yet the experience of a unity that respects and makes room for diversity serves as an inspiration and incentive for all those concerned about the kind of world we wish to leave to our children.”

The pope confirmed the commitment of Thailand’s “small but vibrant Catholic community” to confront “all that would lead us to be insensitive to the cry of our many brothers and sisters who yearn to be freed from the yoke of poverty, violence and injustice.”

Pope Francis said the name Thailand literally means “Land of the Free,” adding that freedom is possible “only if we are capable of feeling co-responsible for one another and of eliminating every form of inequality.”

He said it is vital to ensure that individuals and communities can have access to education, dignified labor and health care to attain the “minimal levels of sustainability that can enable an integral human development.”

Foreign students in Japan hold back on applying for newly created visas due to past illegal overwork

(Extract from Japan Times – November 15th, 2019)

Many foreign students in Nagoya have recently been found to be reluctant to apply for newly created visas intended to bring more workers from abroad, fearing their applications might not be accepted because they have been working more part-time hours than permitted for those with student visas.

Even if they pass the exam for the new visas, they have strong concerns that their past work records could prevent them from obtaining the residence status, although such cases have not been confirmed so far.

Some international students and their employers say the problem lies in the fact that many foreign students have to work more than allowed to support themselves while in Japan, where the cost of living is high and businesses are relying on them to cover a labor shortage.

“I want to reduce my part-time work hours from now even if it might be too late,” said a 23-year-old Vietnamese man studying at a vocational school in Nagoya.

Hoping to work in the restaurant industry, the man passed a proficiency exam to qualify for the new “specified skills” visa in July, but people have told him he shouldn’t file a visa application with the Immigration Services Agency.

The man came to Japan in the fall of 2015 to study restaurant management. His mother got cancer the following year and he became unable to receive financial assistance from his parents.

He worked part time at a convenience store and a restaurant, working nearly double the maximum of 28 hours a week set for people on a student visa under the ordinance for the enforcement of the immigration control law.

“I needed to make a living by myself,” he said.

He has a dream of managing a restaurant in his home country and wants to work in the restaurant sector in Japan with the new visa to acquire know-how. But after passing the exam, he was told by a staffing agency that having worked excessive hours as a student might be a problem.

Now he works fewer hours and covers living expenses on ¥25,000 a month.

Jin Yokoyama, 49, of Jtown, a Nagoya-based company that supports workers with skills covered by the visa, said he has interviewed some 20 students who passed the qualifying exam, but most have not applied for the visa for fear of being rejected due to working illegally long hours.

A 29-year-old Nepalese man, who consulted another support firm in Nagoya, said his student visa renewal application was rejected because of excessive work hours. He has given up working in Japan with the new working visa and plans to go back to his home country.

“I want to work more in Japan, but it can’t be helped,” the man said.

An Immigration Services Agency official said that generally speaking, a person would not qualify for a visa if he or she violated the ordinance. “We are not sure how many applications were rejected because of overwork,” the official said.

The new residence status was created in April under the revised immigration control law. The government was expecting to accept a maximum of 47,000 workers in the current fiscal year across 14 business sectors, including nursing care and food services, but as of Oct. 25, only 732 people were granted the visa.

The number of people coming to Japan to study, especially from Asia, has increased sharply since the government announced a plan in 2008 to raise the number of foreign students to 300,000 by 2020.

According to the Japan Student Services Organization, the number of foreign students totaled some 299,000 as of 2018, 2.4 times higher than a decade ago.

Yuriko Sato, an associate professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology specializing in foreign student policy, said the number of students from China and South Korea declined after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, and instead more students started to come from Vietnam and Nepal.

This is because many Japanese-language schools and vocational institutions recruited students from those countries, telling them they can study while working, she said.

However, if they follow the rule of working up to 28 hours a week, they can earn only about ¥100,000 a month.

Several foreign students said there are cases of students working more than permitted — despite knowing that it is illegal — for various reasons, such as being unable to gain assistance from parents or being in debt.

“There is not one foreign student around me who is working only 28 hours,” said a 26-year-old Nepalese student in Nagoya.

Many of them have part-time jobs in two or more places, and some employers pay them using cash so that their work records won’t be kept.

“In busy times, I can’t run the place without them working long hours,” a restaurant owner said.

Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Sato said: “Instead of placing responsibility only on foreign students, we should focus more on structural problems.”

Japan’s new working visa sees only 219 holders in first 6 months 

(Extract from Mainichi Japan – November 14th, 2019)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — A new skilled worker visa introduced by Japan in April to bring in more foreign labor has only been acquired by 219 foreigners as of the end of September, the country’s immigration agency said Wednesday, falling far short of the target for the program’s first year.

While the numbers represent a more than 10-fold increase from the 20 visa holders recorded by June, they fall short of the maximum 47,550 foreigners expected to acquire the visa by March 2020.

The subdued response has been attributed to the limited test sites outside of Japan, and the narrow range of sectors for tests conducted thus far, both of which the Justice Ministry is working on expanding.

As of the end of October, tests have only been held in six countries outside of Japan, such as the Philippines and Indonesia, for six sectors, including nursing care and food service.

In order to qualify for the Specified Skilled Worker visa, an applicant must pass a skills exams and Japanese language test or have gone through Japan’s technical intern program for at least three years.

According to the Immigration Services Agency, 176 of the 219 foreigners with the new resident status used the latter method to acquire the new visa, which was introduced as part of Japan’s efforts to cope with a chronic labor shortage due to its rapidly graying population and declining birthrate.

By country, Vietnam accounted for the most foreigners holding the visa at 93. They were followed by Indonesia at 33, the Philippines at 27, and Thailand at 23.

Out of the 14 sectors eligible for working rights under the visa, food and beverage manufacturing had the most visa holders at 49, followed by industrial machinery production at 43, molding at 42, and farming at 31.

The Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 resident status allows foreigners to work in 14 sectors for up to five years in total.

Proficient workers in the construction and shipbuilding fields can further extend their stay by earning the No. 2 status, which allows holders to bring in family members and has no limit on the number of times they can renew their visas.

Only 895 granted blue-collar visas since April, immigration agency admits

(Extract from Japan Times – November 13th, 2019)

The immigration service had issued just 895 working permits as of early November under the new visa system for skilled blue-collar foreign workers, a far lower number than had originally been forecast for this time, agency officials said Wednesday.

The program, which was introduced in April, was intended to attract up to 345,000 blue-collar workers over five years for jobs in 14 sectors, including the hotel industry, to ease the nation’s labor shortage.

Those who received the new permits would be allowed to work for five years in the country, longer than the three-year period allowed under the government-sponsored Technical Intern Training Program.

As of the end of June, a record 2.83 million foreign nationals resided in Japan, including 783,513 permanent residents and 367,709 technical interns.

According to the Immigration Services Agency (ISA), the process of introducing industrial skills tests mandatory for those who apply for the new visas has not been smoothly implemented, which has slowed down an anticipated influx of workers.

As of the end of October, the tests had been conducted only in Japan and six other countries — and for only six of the 14 industrial sectors — leaving companies struggling to fill vacant jobs and pinning their hopes on the results of skills tests scheduled in coming months.

Of the 895 foreign nationals granted permits under the new visa statuses, 440 passed the exams while the remaining 455 changed the status of their visas to the new type.

Foreign nationals who wish to participate in the program can obtain the working permits if they pass tests in industrial skills and Japanese-language ability, while former technical interns can qualify if officials recognize their skills and experience from prior technical training.

Aiko Omi, director of the Office of the Specified Skilled Worker Planning at the immigration agency, explained that the blue-collar visa program has been attracting candidates from similar demographics as the government-sponsored Technical Intern Training Program.

Of the 895 workers granted permits so far, 219 were in Japan as of the end of September — up from 20 at the end of June. Of those, 80 percent, or 176, had come to Japan previously under the Technical Intern Training Program and had completed a three-year training program.

But by Nov. 8., 3,299 foreign workers had applied for the new visas and were in the process of trying to qualify for the program. Of those, 1,566 had never worked in Japan, Omi said.

Of the 219 workers in Japan as of the end of September, the largest proportion hailed from Vietnam, at 42 percent, followed by those from Indonesia and the Philippines.

Among the cohort, 22 percent were working for food and beverage manufacturers, again with Vietnamese nationals representing the largest group at 32. Other sectors where the workers were placed were industrial manufacturing, machine parts and tooling industries as well as agriculture.

By prefecture, Gifu has so far accepted the highest number of such blue-collar foreign workers, followed by Aichi and Osaka. In the individual industries, the food sector, which did not participate in the technical trainee program, saw 1,546 out of 2,194 applicants for the new visas pass skills tests held in April, June and September.

In the hotel sector, of 391 applicants who took tests in Myanmar and Japan, 280 qualified for the new working permits.

Although Japan opened up its nursing care sector, which has long faced a severe labor shortage, to foreign nationals wishing to work as technical trainees from November 2017, none of the trainees taking part in the program so far have completed the training. Of the 16 caregivers accepted into the program as of late September, those from the Philippines who were former caregivers under bilateral economic partnership agreements comprised the majority. The skills tests were only introduced in Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal and Japan in October.

Skills tests for job categories such as building cleaning and airport ground handling are scheduled to be held in Japan and overseas for the first time in November and December.

Japan’s immigration agency to adopt stricter measures to curb disappearances of foreign trainees

(Extract from Japan Times – November 12th, 2019)

The Immigration Services Agency (ISA) announced Tuesday it will strengthen measures aimed at curbing disappearances of foreign nationals working under the government-sponsored Technical Intern Training Program.

The agency will ban companies and organizations that participate in the program from taking in new trainees if they are found to have violated its conditions and their trainees have gone missing, immigration officials said.

The agency will also share information with overseas organizations and brokers to prevent rogue brokers from imposing conditions that violate trainees’ rights.

To protect trainees participating in the program and to stop them from fleeing, the agency is considering disclosing the names of companies whose trainees have gone missing and who thus have contributed to them illegally seeking employment elsewhere, the officials said.

Based on the set of new measures, the agency will compile specific provisions by March, they said.

At a regular news conference Tuesday, Justice Minister Masako Mori said that despite numerous preventive measures being put in place, the problem of foreign trainees fleeing their workplaces is rampant.

The ISA, which oversees the technical training program, said that 4,499 interns went missing in the first half of this year, up from 4,243 during the same period a year before. For the whole of 2018, a total of 9,052 foreign interns disappeared, nearly 2,000 more than in 2017, when the number stood at 7,089.

“We will do all we can to reduce the number of those who go missing by steadily enforcing these measures,” Mori said after approving the new measures proposed by immigration officials.

“Some efforts specified in the revised immigration law, which is also aimed at protecting the rights of foreign trainees that went into effect in November 2017, have been proving successful, but we haven’t succeeded yet in reducing the number of interns’ disappearances,” she said.

Mori took over the post of justice minister on Oct. 31 after her predecessor, Katsuyuki Kawai, resigned over alleged election law violations by his wife, who was elected to the Upper House from a Hiroshima district in July.

With the 2017 law revision, immigration authorities improved supervision of companies employing foreign trainees through on-site inspections to protect their working environment. The law also required authorization of training programs offered by organizations and companies planning to accept technical interns. The government also improved language support for foreign trainees.

But such measures turned out to be insufficient in curbing the number of trainees who disappeared, officials said.

The agency has concluded that abuse of trainees’ rights by failing to pay agreed salaries, demanding deposits or imposing other inappropriate conditions are the main reasons behind interns’ disappearances.

The agency believes that many companies that started employing foreign workers under the new blue-collar visa system, which was introduced in April, still rely on technical interns or employ their former trainees under the new visa program. The agency will conduct interviews with trainees from the same workplace as staff employed under the blue-collar visa system to verify their working conditions, officials said.

“If we discover any forms of mistreatment, which might push them to flee, we’ll be able to implement preventive measures at an early stage and thus solve the problem before it arises, before they disappear,” said Isao Negishi, a manager at the agency that supervises the program.

He added that the agency will also intensify efforts to crack down on trainees who have fled from their workplaces by working more closely with the labor ministry on revoking the escapees’ residence cards to curb their unauthorized employment.

Death of a Dream: Vietnamese Workers in Japan

Death of a Dream: Vietnamese Workers in Japan
NHK Documentary (49m 00s)
Broadcast on September 1, 2019 Available until December 1, 2019

Extract from NHK Document:
The Japanese government’s Technical Intern Training Program, a solution to the country’s severe labor shortage, is making it easier for people from other Asian countries to work in Japan. Some 1.46 million people from abroad are now working in Japan, many dreaming of a better life. But harsh working conditions, long hours, and even wage theft lead many to quit their jobs or even commit suicide. And they are often exploited by schools that charge high tuition but fail to provide an education. We explore the reasons behind this harsh trend and meet the Vietnamese monk who’s trying to reverse it.

Vietnamese site:
Giấc mơ Nhật Bản Phóng sự: Thời kỳ 1,5 triệu lao động nước ngoài
Chương trình NHK Đặc biệt NHK Documentary (49phút 00giây)
Ngày phát sóng: Ngày 1 tháng 9 năm 2019 Có thể xem đến: Ngày 1 tháng 12 năm 2019

Looking overseas to solve Japan’s labor shortage

(Extract from Japan Times – November 8th, 2019)

Entrepreneur Misa Matsuzaki likes a good business challenge. The youngest female entrepreneur to publicly list a company on the Tokyo Stock Exchange aims to solve Japan’s labor shortfall through increased migration.

Firms struggle to fill vacant jobs due to a chronic labor shortage caused by the nation’s shrinking working-age population. There are 1.5 vacancies for every job applicant. The labor pinch will only intensify as the working population plummets in future years.

By 2030, 6.4 million workers in mainly blue-collar sectors, equal to nearly 10 percent of the working population, will exit the workforce. The government hopes to fill the gap with women and the elderly. But are they ready to do blue-collar jobs?

“If we lose 6.4 million blue-collar workers by 2030, then the only choice for employers is to hire foreigners — even if they must pay them a high wage,” Matsuzaki says. “Otherwise, we will have to accept many small companies disappearing.”

In 2014, Matsuzaki started People Worldwide Co., a cross-border recruiting company that helps Japanese employers recruit overseas trainees under the government’s Technical Intern Training Program. The program was launched in 1993 with intentions to improve the skills of people from developing nations.

In practice, trainees provide employers with a cheap source of labor. By law, interns can come to Japan to work for up to five years. But they cannot bring their families or change jobs. When their training ends, they must return to their home country.

Once in Japan, trainees are captive to employers, some of whom force them to work illegal overtime. Employers can deduct inappropriate expenses from pay, causing interns to accrue debts. When the abuse became public, Matzusaki ceased taking new orders.

She discussed her concerns with her friend Kanae Doi, the Japan representative of Human Rights Watch, a global organization that investigates and reports human rights violations. Together, they asked then-Foreign Minister Taro Kono what they could do to stop the trainee program abuse. Kono was moved by the humanitarian crisis occurring in his own country. He formed a six-person public-sector advisory team in which Matsuzaki and Doi now serve.

Re-energized, Matsuzaki launched a new company, Work Japan Co., in July 2017. The firm makes a match-making app that connects migrants and employers (neither are involved with the trainee program).

In April, an amendment to the immigration control law took effect to introduce a new visa program. Under the legislation, visas are issued to non-Japanese seeking work across 14 sectors suffering from manpower shortages. The government created a new visa category, available only to those passing an advanced skills test, allowing migrants to switch jobs, bring their families to Japan and eventually become permanent residents.

Alas, the trainee program remains unchanged.

The government expects the new visa policy to attract up to 345,150 workers to Japan by 2024. Since April, however, only 616 people have obtained the advanced skilled status. Such anemic numbers will not solve Japan’s long-term labor shortfall. By one expert’s estimate, Japan’s workforce will decline 40 percent from 75 million to 45 million by 2050.

Mitsuhiro Fukao, an economist at Musashino University, thinks Japan needs 200,000 to 400,000 new immigrants each year to stabilize its population. The country needs 10 million foreign workers by 2050, according to Haruo Shimada, president of Shimada Research Institute and a former Cabinet Office adviser. There were 1.46 million foreign workers in Japan as of October last year. “We have to fill up,” says Shimada. “We have to adjust.”

Over 100,000 registered foreign users have downloaded Matzusaki’s Work Japan app. Yet few employers have so far used her platform to hire non-Japanese.

The problem is not a lack of migrants wishing to work in Japan. Blue-collar workers migrate, even temporarily, to wherever wages are highest. They are drawn by this country’s comparatively high minimum wage.

Employers are put off by the high cost of hiring non-Japanese. Legally, companies must pay them the same wages they give Japanese workers. After paying insurance, pension, training, overseas flights, dormitory and recruitment expenses, it is often cheaper to hire a nonregular Japanese worker than a foreign citizen, Matzusaki notes. This is especially true if non-Japanese switch jobs within one year.

Firms also prefer to hire Japanese workers over non-Japanese who look and act differently. “In Japan, there is no employer who thinks of hiring foreigners when they need to hire someone,” she laments.

This should change over time. “Employers know there’s a demographic-led labor shortage,” says Matsuzaki. “It’s like the proverbial frog in boiling water. It’s getting harder and harder to find new Japanese hires, but they feel that next month the situation will improve.”

Japan is running out of time. In 10 years the working population of other Asian nations will start to shrink. Where will migrants come from when competition for Asian workers heats up?

Matsuzaki may have an answer. The entrepreneur spent her childhood in South Africa when her father worked there for a Japanese trading company during the 1970s. South Africa opened her mind to the idea of working with culturally diverse people.

In 1997, when she was 26, Matsuzaki started exporting Japanese second-hand cars to the developing world. Then, the used car business had a poor reputation. Only the yakuza bought and sold second-hand cars, people thought. Yet she managed to grow and list her firm, Agasta Co., on the TSE Mothers market in 2004.

Now through Work Japan she’s looking farther afield to solve Japan’s labor shortfall. “I’m a business person who clicks with businesses which people think are untouchable,” she admits.

“Maybe it’s OK to hire people who have different color skin? I think it’s the only way for businesses to survive long term,” she suggests.

10 detainees go on hunger strike at Japanese immigration center

(Extract from Mainichi Japan – November 7th, 2019)

OSAKA (Kyodo) — Around 10 foreigners detained at an immigration facility in Osaka have staged a hunger strike to protest their protracted detention, their supporters said Wednesday.

Almost all of the detainees taking part in the hunger strike, which began Tuesday morning at the Osaka Regional Immigration Bureau, have been held at the facility for over two years, according to the supporters.

The immigration bureau has refused to comment on the reported hunger strike, saying that “there are no situations that need to be made public.”

The detainees are demanding that more goods be available for purchase within the facility and medical services improved, in addition to urging Japan to stop long detention periods and provide specific reasons when provisional release requests are denied.

A Ugandan man in his 40s, who has been detained for more than two years, spoke to a Kyodo News reporter on Wednesday, saying, “We are not criminals but are simply seeking freedom.”

“Since Tuesday, we have only been drinking water. It’s tough, but we have to hang in,” he said during an interview at the facility.

This is not the first case of a hunger strike at a Japanese immigration center.

In April last year, more than 40 detainees at the East Japan Immigration Center in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, staged a hunger strike days after an Indian man committed suicide at the facility.

The incident was one in a string of deaths at Japanese immigration facilities that have been long criticized for their poor medical services and lengthy detention periods.
Foreigners without legal residency status who receive deportation orders can be detained at 17 immigration facilities across Japan, including in Tokyo, Osaka, Ibaraki and Nagasaki.

The Justice Ministry points to detention as being a way to keep tabs on foreigners who are in Japan without legal status, but supporters, including lawyers, argue it should be limited to short periods before deportation.

The U.N. Committee Against Torture has also criticized Japan’s long, and in some cases, indefinite detention periods. There is no legal time limit for detention in the country.

Filipino worker says Yokohama legal firm won’t return her passport after she quit

(Extract from Japan Times – November 5th, 2019)

An immigration law firm in Yokohama is refusing to give a passport back to a Filipino woman under an employment contract they signed earlier this year, preventing her from seeking a new job or returning home, she said Monday.

It is illegal for employers to keep passports of foreign nationals who live in Japan as technical trainees. But the country has no penal regulations concerning those of other foreign nationals, with only the labor ministry’s guidelines advising employers not to keep them.The case of the Filipino woman suggests this legal pitfall could potentially put foreign workers in a precarious position, even at a time when Japan is opening its doors wider to them, experts say.

“I can hardly speak Japanese. What will I do if something happens? I want to have my passport returned as soon as possible,” said the woman in her 30s, who had been working as an interpreter at the firm, Advanceconsul Immigration Lawyer Office.

She also claimed that the legal office has paid only part of her salary.

The woman graduated from a university in the Philippines in 2009 and arrived in Japan in April 2017. She started working in May for Advanceconsul, which she visited to renew her visa. Under the contract, the firm would keep her passport and the woman would need permission to retrieve it after making a written request. The office would also determine the manner and period of withholding her passport, she said.

She stopped working at Advanceconsul in early July but it refuses to recognize that she has quit. It has not responded to requests to give back her passport.

One of her supporters, who has been trying to get her passport back, described the firm’s action as an “act of oppression toward foreign workers.”

Some other foreign workers have also asked Advanceconsul to return their passports, but the firm has not done so. Kanagawa Prefecture’s labor committee recognized in September that the firm’s refusal to negotiate with the workers over their passports was an unfair practice.

The firm has declined to respond to inquiries from Kyodo News.

“Foreign workers are in an unstable position as their employment contracts and their residency status are linked,” said Yoshihisa Saito, an associate professor at Kobe University, who specializes in labor regulations in Asia.
“The firm took advantage by taking away their passports and restricting their freedom to find new employment. It is an unfair contract,” he said.

The number of foreign workers in Japan has tripled over almost 10 years to 1.46 million in October last year. The government aims to accept up to around 345,000 foreign workers over the next five years, under a visa reform enacted in April.

There is no movement so far by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to prohibit employers from keeping their foreign workers’ passports.

“More foreign workers will come to Japan, but its policies for protecting them are weak,” Saito said. “The government should come up with new measures, including banning the practice of employers keeping employees’ passports.”

When it comes to foreign hires, restaurant chains in Japan’s Chubu region are taking a long view

(Extract from Japan Times – August 30th, 2019)

Amid a continuing labor shortage in the food service industry, major restaurant chains in the Chubu region are hiring an increasing number of foreign workers who have just graduated from universities in Japan.

The firms are hiring them not as short-term, part-time workers but as permanent employees so that they will stay for a long time and make contributions such as attending to foreign customers and doing business abroad.

This spring, Sagami Holdings Corp., a Nagoya-based noodle restaurant chain operator, hired five people from China, Vietnam and Nepal who graduated from universities in Japan. It is the first time the firm hired non-Japanese new graduates as regular employees.

They all obtained a working visa and were assigned to work at the firm’s restaurants. “With the number of foreign tourists visiting our restaurants on the rise, they are working actively as floor staff,” said a Sagami Holdings spokesperson.

Since Sagami Holdings operates restaurants abroad, mainly in Southeast Asia, the firm hopes to assign them to handle business overseas in the future.

Expectations are high in the restaurant industry that a revised immigration control law, which took effect in April, will help resolve the manpower shortage. The industry is one of the 14 industries allowed to accept such people under the law.

The law allows visas for foreign nationals under a newly created status called Specified Skilled Worker No. 1, which grants a stay of up to five years, and some restaurant operators are encouraging foreign students who work for them as part-timers to take an exam to qualify for the visa.

But Sagami Holdings is looking for foreign workers who can be employed for a longer period.

“We are focusing on hiring (foreign people) as permanent staff to secure personnel who can work for us for a long time, rather than hiring people who can stay only for five years,” a Sagami Holdings employee said.

Companies have recently been struggling to secure regular workers. According to a survey conducted by credit research agency Teikoku Databank Ltd. in July on firms nationwide, 48.5 percent of the 10,091 firms that responded said they are short of permanent staff. As for restaurants and eateries, the figure was 60 percent, up 1.5 percentage points from the same month last year.

Meanwhile, Justice Ministry statistics show that in 2017, a record 22,419 foreign students obtained a residence status allowing them to work for companies in Japan after graduation, up 15.4 percent from the previous year.

Bronco Billy Co., a Nagoya-based firm that operates a steak restaurant chain, has been hiring foreign workers who have just graduated from Japanese universities as full-time staff since 2007.
Xia Gang, 38, manager of the chain’s restaurant in Nagoya’s Moriyama Ward, is one of those employees and joined the firm eight years ago after graduating from a university in Aichi Prefecture.
Xia, from China’s Jiangsu province, oversees the kitchen and customer service, as well as placing orders for food items and training part-timers. “I try to always respond cheerfully,” he said.
As of May, 54 of some 600 employees of Bronco Billy, or 9 percent, were foreign nationals, including Chinese and Nepalese.

“The labor shortage has been an issue and we have been hiring people who try hard regardless of nationality,” says Mitsuhiro Furuta, the firm’s director of business planning. “We hope (foreign staff) will play an active part when we start doing business abroad in the future.”

Kisoji Co., another Nagoya-based restaurant chain, has also been hiring foreign students who newly graduated from Japanese universities, and eight such people from places including China, South Korea and Taiwan currently work at the firm.

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Aug. 23.

3,000 people to work in Japan under expanded visa system

(Extract from Japan Times – August 25th, 2019)

Over 3,000 foreign laborers are set to work under new visas introduced in April, the leader of the Immigration Services Agency said.

The agency envisions starting a public certification system for dedicated supporters of foreign people, Commissioner Shoko Sasaki, 57, said in a recent interview.

The Immigration Services Agency has been required to play the additional role of supporting foreign residents since a new status for foreign workers with designated skills was introduced, Sasaki said.
Many have been allowed to work under a provisional measure while waiting to receive the status, a process that has been delayed by slow procedures, she said.

In addition, many applications have been filed for change of visa and for residency status certifications by people living overseas, she continued.

If all of these cases are added up, the number exceeds 1,300, she said, citing data as of Aug. 16.
Furthermore, more than 2,000 people have passed industry-specific tests for the new status, according to the commissioner.

“Foreigners with the designated skills are expected to increase steadily,” Sasaki said.
Sasaki denied foreign workers are over concentrated in urban areas, saying applications are accepted and technical intern training provided nationwide.

Under the expanded visa system, business and other entities as well as individuals have registered as support organizations for foreign people hoping to work in Japan under the new visa status, including workers with relatively low skills.

The registered organizations are obliged to secure proper employment and give adequate support to their customers, she said.

This is the first time for the immigration authority to make such support an obligation, according to Sasaki.

“We took care to create a system in which foreign workers have someone to turn to,” she said.

“I think it would be great if there is a dedicated profession to support foreigners as infrastructure of a society where foreigners will continue to increase,” Sasaki said.

If the system of publicly certifying the profession “works well, it may become a key feature of Japan’s foreign worker admission policy,” she added.

Immigration agency officials have talked about the possibility of creating such a system, according to Sasaki.

But for now, the priority is to foster support organizations registered under the current system, she said.

Record 5,160 firms employing foreign trainees in Japan violated labor laws in 2018, ministry says

(Extract from Japan Times – August 9th, 2019)

A record 5,160 business facilities employing foreign technical intern trainees were told in 2018 to correct practices that violated labor-related laws, the labor ministry has said.

The number shot up from 4,226 in 2017, in line with an increase in foreigners working under the country’s Technical Intern Training Program and companies accepting them, according to the ministry’s announcement Thursday.
Of the total, 23.3 percent were told to correct their practices over illegal overtime work, followed by 22.8 percent that infringed safety standards and 14.8 percent that failed to pay additional wages for overtime and work outside regular daytime hours.

A total of 19 serious cases were reported, for which papers were sent to public prosecutors. In some of the cases, workers were not paid for over six months, and in others the interns worked 180 hours of overtime per month.
Law violations were found at 1,937 business facilities in the machinery and metal industry, the largest number by industry.

The number stood at 936 in the food industry, 502 in the textile and clothing industry, and 474 in the construction industry.

Many foreign trainees are now employed in these industries.

Minimum wage hikes for fiscal 2019 see Tokyo top 1,000 yen

(An excerpt from The Asahi Shimbun – July 25th, 2019)

The minimum hourly wage is expected to rise above 1,000 yen ($9.22) for the first time in Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture this fiscal year under nationwide increases recommended by a labor ministry panel.

A Central Minimum Wages Council subcommittee concluded July 31 that the weighted average minimum wage across Japan should be increased to 901 yen, up 27 yen from the previous fiscal year, as a rough standard for fiscal 2019.

If the increase takes effect, it will be from as early as this autumn. Tokyo will have the highest minimum wage of 1,013 yen, followed by neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture at 1,011 yen.

The rate of increase, 3.09 percent, is almost the same as hikes implemented during the past three fiscal years.

At a meeting of the panel, labor and management representatives as well as academics discussed the minimum wage levels, grouping all 47 prefectures into regions A to D based on the cost of commodities, income and other factors.

The minimum wage will be increased by 28 yen in region A, consisting of Tokyo, Kanagawa Prefecture and other major urban areas, by 27 yen in region B, and by 26 yen in regions C and D, according to the proposed standards.

The increase for each prefecture will be determined using the proposed standards as the reference and be revised in autumn or later.

In response to calls from the ruling parties, the economic and financial policy guidelines said “consideration should be given to disparities (in minimum wages) among regions.”

Still, if minimum wages are raised according to the panel’s standards, the gap between Tokyo and Kagoshima Prefecture, whose minimum wage is the lowest in Japan, will become 226 yen, compared with 224 yen in fiscal 2018, widening the regional gap.

Japan to conduct tests for prospective caregivers in four Asian nations this fall

(An excerpt from The Japan Times – July 25th, 2019)

Japan will conduct tests in Cambodia, Nepal, Myanmar and Mongolia this fall for prospective caregivers who want to work in Japan under a new visa program, according to government officials.

The labor ministry said last week that the exams, aimed at securing more workers in the short-staffed sector, will be held between October and November.

Since introducing the new visa system on April 1, Japan has carried out tests for potential caregivers in the Philippines and will conduct more from August through November. So far, 166 people have passed the exams.

Preparations are also underway to conduct tests in China, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, according to an official at the ministry.

The visa system was introduced as part of Japan’s efforts to cope with a chronic labor shortage due to its rapidly graying population and low birthrate.

Foreign nationals with Japanese-language and certain job skills can apply for the Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 resident status, which allows them to work in 14 sectors such as nursing care, construction and farming, for up to five years.

Applicants seeking to become certified caregivers can obtain the status if they pass a Japanese proficiency exam, which is required for all 14 sectors, as well as two other tests to evaluate their nursing care skills and familiarity with certain, technical Japanese vocabulary.

The exams are scheduled for Oct. 27 to 30 in Phnom Penh, Oct. 27 and 28 and Nov. 5 and 6 in Kathmandu, Oct. 30 to Nov. 1 and Nov. 4 to 7 in Yangon and Nov. 14 to 17 in Ulaanbaatar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multilingual translation tools spread in Japan with new visa system

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demand for the app is also high at schools.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Extract from JapanToday – June 12th, 2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Japan to encourage foreign workers to maintain employment outside major cities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More residence card forging rings shifting operations to Japan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Japanese original by Shintaro Iguchi, Nagoya News Center)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does not Japan want to accept refugees?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Extract 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.

Living in Japan-Foreign Children ― 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day Three. Groups presentation and discussion.

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

The United Nations Global Compact for Migration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pope’s Message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees (2019)


[29 September 2019]

“It is not just about migrants”

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Faith assures us that in a mysterious way the Kingdom of God is already present here on earth (cf. Gaudium et spes, 39). Yet in our own time, we are saddened to see the obstacles and opposition it encounters. Violent conflicts and all-out wars continue to tear humanity apart; injustices and discrimination follow one upon the other; economic and social imbalances on a local or global scale prove difficult to overcome. And above all it is the poorest of the poor and the most disadvantaged who pay the price.

The most economically advanced societies are witnessing a growing trend towards extreme individualism which, combined with a utilitarian mentality and reinforced by the media, is producing a “globalization of indifference”. In this scenario, migrants, refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking have become emblems of exclusion. In addition to the hardships that their condition entails, they are often looked down upon and considered the source of all society’s ills. That attitude is an alarm bell warning of the moral decline we will face if we continue to give ground to the throw-away culture. In fact, if it continues, anyone who does not fall within the accepted norms of physical, mental and social well-being is at risk of marginalization and exclusion.

For this reason, the presence of migrants and refugees – and of vulnerable people in general – is an invitation to recover some of those essential dimensions of our Christian existence and our humanity that risk being overlooked in a prosperous society. That is why it is not just about migrants. When we show concern for them, we also show concern for ourselves, for everyone; in taking care of them, we all grow; in listening to them, we also give voice to a part of ourselves that we may keep hidden because it is not well regarded nowadays.

“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” (Mt 14:27). It is not just about migrants: it is also about our fears. The signs of meanness we see around us heighten “our fear of ‘the other’, the unknown, the marginalized, the foreigner… We see this today in particular, faced with the arrival of migrants and refugees knocking on our door in search of protection, security and a better future. To some extent, the fear is legitimate, also because the preparation for this encounter is lacking” (Homily in Sacrofano, 15 February 2019). But the problem is not that we have doubts and fears. The problem is when they condition our way of thinking and acting to the point of making us intolerant, closed and perhaps even – without realizing it – racist. In this way, fear deprives us of the desire and the ability to encounter the other, the person different from myself; it deprives me of an opportunity to encounter the Lord (cf. Homily at Mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 14 January 2018).

“For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same?” (Mt 5:46). It is not just about migrants: it is about charity. Through works of charity, we demonstrate our faith (cf. Jas 2:18). And the highest form of charity is that shown to those unable to reciprocate and perhaps even to thank us in return. “It is also about the face we want to give to our society and about the value of each human life… The progress of our peoples… depends above all on our openness to being touched and moved by those who knock at our door. Their faces shatter and debunk all those false idols that can take over and enslave our lives; idols that promise an illusory and momentary happiness blind to the lives and sufferings of others” (Address at the Diocesan Caritas of Rabat, 30 March 2019).

“But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight” (Lk 10:33). It is not just about migrants: it is about our humanity. Compassion motivated that Samaritan – for the Jews, a foreigner – not to pass by. Compassion is a feeling that cannot be explained on a purely rational level. Compassion strikes the most sensitive chords of our humanity, releasing a vibrant urge to “be a neighbour” to all those whom we see in difficulty. As Jesus himself teaches us (cf. Mt 9:35-36; 14:13-14; 15:32-37), being compassionate means recognizing the suffering of the other and taking immediate action to soothe, heal and save. To be compassionate means to make room for that tenderness which today’s society so often asks us to repress. “Opening ourselves to others does not lead to impoverishment, but rather enrichment, because it enables us to be more human: to recognize ourselves as participants in a greater collectivity and to understand our life as a gift for others; to see as the goal, not our own interests, but rather the good of humanity” (Address at the Heydar Aliyev Mosque in Baku, 2 October 2016).

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father” (Mt 18:10). It is not just about migrants: it is a question of seeing that no one is excluded. Today’s world is increasingly becoming more elitist and cruel towards the excluded. Developing countries continue to be drained of their best natural and human resources for the benefit of a few privileged markets. Wars only affect some regions of the world, yet weapons of war are produced and sold in other regions which are then unwilling to take in the refugees produced by these conflicts. Those who pay the price are always the little ones, the poor, the most vulnerable, who are prevented from sitting at the table and are left with the “crumbs” of the banquet (cf. Lk 16:19-21). “The Church which ‘goes forth’… can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast” (Evangelii Gaudium, 24). A development that excludes makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. A real development, on the other hand, seeks to include all the world’s men and women, to promote their integral growth, and to show concern for coming generations.

“Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all” (Mk 10:43-44). It is not just about migrants: it is about putting the last in first place. Jesus Christ asks us not to yield to the logic of the world, which justifies injustice to others for my own gain or that of my group. “Me first, and then the others!” Instead, the true motto of the Christian is, “The last shall be first!” “An individualistic spirit is fertile soil for the growth of that kind of indifference towards our neighbours which leads to viewing them in purely economic terms, to a lack of concern for their humanity, and ultimately to feelings of fear and cynicism. Are these not the attitudes we often adopt towards the poor, the marginalized and the ‘least’ of society? And how many of these ‘least’ do we have in our societies! Among them I think primarily of migrants, with their burden of hardship and suffering, as they seek daily, often in desperation, a place to live in peace and dignity” (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 11 January 2016). In the logic of the Gospel, the last come first, and we must put ourselves at their service.

“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). It is not just about migrants: it is about the whole person, about all people. In Jesus’ words, we encounter the very heart of his mission: to see that all receive the gift of life in its fullness, according to the will of the Father. In every political activity, in every programme, in every pastoral action we must always put the person at the centre, in his or her many aspects, including the spiritual dimension. And this applies to all people, whose fundamental equality must be recognized. Consequently, “development cannot be restricted to economic growth alone. To be authentic, it must be well-rounded; it must foster the development of each man and of the whole man” (SAINT PAUL VI, Populorum Progressio, 14).

“So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God” (Eph 2:19). It is not just about migrants: it is about building the city of God and man. In our time, which can also be called the era of migration, many innocent people fall victim to the “great deception” of limitless technological and consumerist development (cf. Laudato Si’, 34). As a result, they undertake a journey towards a “paradise” that inevitably betrays their expectations. Their presence, at times uncomfortable, helps to debunk the myth of a progress that benefits a few while built on the exploitation of many. “We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved. They are an occasion that Providence gives us to help build a more just society, a more perfect democracy, a more united country, a more fraternal world and a more open and evangelical Christian community” (Message for the 2014 World Day of Migrants and Refugees).

Dear brothers and sisters, our response to the challenges posed by contemporary migration can be summed up in four verbs: welcome, protect, promote and integrate. Yet these verbs do not apply only to migrants and refugees. They describe the Church’s mission to all those living in the existential peripheries, who need to be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated. If we put those four verbs into practice, we will help build the city of God and man. We will promote the integral human development of all people. We will also help the world community to come closer to the goals of sustainable development that it has set for itself and that, lacking such an approach, will prove difficult to achieve.

In a word, it is not only the cause of migrants that is at stake; it is not just about them, but about all of us, and about the present and future of the human family. Migrants, especially those who are most vulnerable, help us to read the “signs of the times”. Through them, the Lord is calling us to conversion, to be set free from exclusivity, indifference and the throw-away culture. Through them, the Lord invites us to embrace fully our Christian life and to contribute, each according to his or her proper vocation, to the building up of a world that is more and more in accord with God’s plan.

In expressing this prayerful hope, and through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Way, I invoke God’s abundant blessings upon all the world’s migrants and refugees and upon all those who accompany them on their journey.

From the Vatican, 30 April 2019

Half of foreign nationals in Tokyo experience discrimination, survey shows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Praising Immigration Bureau” to promote discrimination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

423 foreign prisoners repatriated

(Extraction from Kyodo – April 10th, 2019) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exams for care workers in consideration of foreign applicants

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Death of 174 Trainees working long hours with debts

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

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

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

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

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

Regarding the Revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foreign Workers a Challenge to Japanese Society and the Catholic Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Cardinal Tagle: Editorial on Global Compact for Migration

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

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

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

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

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

Cardinal Tagle’s Editorial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Japan a land of contradictions or opportunities for immigration?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sharing the Experiences of Migrant Workers in Asian Countries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In fact, their situation seemed to be beyond hope.

Signs of Living Solidarity

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

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

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

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

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

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

 A number of such violations emerged under the earlier system.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Japan has also added nursing care to the program.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planning for the Future of Jesuit Migration Works

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Japan launches entity to oversee foreign trainee working conditions

Excerpt from JAPAN TIMES January 26th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesuits in Korea and Japan confront ethnic reconciliation

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Jesuit Network for Migrant Workers in East Asia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seoul 2011

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

HCMC 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Fr Andō Isamu, SJ, Japan delegate

Migrant Workers in Japan (Part 2 of 2)

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

Foreign workers in Japan hit record 717,504

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

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


Japan may boost immigrant numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Migrant Desk
Email address:

Migrant Workers in Japan (Part 1 of 2)

Ando Isamu SJ (Jesuit Social Center staff)

As long as there are nations there will be migrants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oversea residents in Japan2013

Foreign working population in Japan 2013

Being actors, not just observers, on migrant worker rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Ando Isamu, SJ

Sri Lankan man dies at Shinagawa detention center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fernando died two days later.

The Immigration Bureau rejects allegations of negligence.

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Chairman,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geneva, October 13, 2014 (Source: ZENIT)

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

Accompanying People on the Move (Part 1 of 2)

Accompanying People on the Move

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accompanying People on the Move (Part 2 of 2)

Temporariness and Brokerage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Migrants’ Desk in the Jesuit Social Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Migration In East Asia

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

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

Top Emigration Countries in Asia Year 2000

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

Emigrations from Asian in receiving countries Year 2000

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesuits and Migration in the JCAP Region

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

KIbe Hall Buillding

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

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

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

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

Ignatian Advocacy Network August 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JCAP meeting in Seoul 2011

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

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

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

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

A Case Study: Domestic Workers in Asia Pacific

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesuit Network for Migrant Workers in East Asia and the Pacific

Ando Isamu SJ (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hate Speech is Unacceptable it is Illegal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WORK for migrants and refugees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WORLD PASSPORT / Hope for the Stateless?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.)

Report from JRS Asia Pasific in Thailand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ando Isamu, SJ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strengthening the migrant ministry network

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JRS publishes guide for advocates in Southeast Asia

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Immigration Detention Japan

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

October 14th 2011, a special Workshop took place in Tokyo concerning the issue of immigration  detention centers in Japan. The organizers were the Forum for Refugees Japan (FRJ).

The Jesuit social center Migrant Desk also collaborated with FRJ and provided the facilities to hold the 1-day workshop. About 35 people, representing 14 groups linked to the network of FRJ, participated. During the morning inputs, Mr. Daniel A. UNHCR representative in Japan and 3 key members of International Detention Coalition (IDC) provided important information on the issue of immigration detention. The director of International Detention Coalition, Mr. Grant Mitchel drawing on a number of international examples outlined a new approach to alternatives to detention named as ‘Community Assessment and Placement (CAP) model. The idea is how to enforce immigration law by using mechanisms that do not rely heavily on detention. That is meant to give response to irregular migrants and asylum seekers. The experiences of Australia and Hong Kong, where UNHCR, NGOs and government act at unison and a controversial plan of the South Korean government to build new facilities for asylum seekers in an isolated island, criticized by NGOs, were also presented.

The whole afternoon of the workshop was a live exercise in 4 different working groups with regard to the realities of asylum seekers in Japan. The sessions were short and a number of themes were gradually provided by the facilitator, Mr. Grant Mitchel of IDC.

At the end, there was little time left to discuss the action programs, and hopefully FRJ will continue the follow up work at their normal meetings.

This workshop was the first one to take place in Japan (?) and the atmosphere was very good and the content was fruitful. One of the main messages was the need for collaboration not only among NGOs, but also with officials and UNHCR. No matter different approaches, to prevent unnecessary immigration detention is, certainly, a common issue. With regard to the participating NGOs it was not clear whether they referred only to asylum seekers (refugees) or they also included irregular migrants.

Those interested could visit IDC URL

Human Trafficking: Why the World cannot stop it?

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

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

 The Realities of Children and Adult Victims of Human Trafficking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesuit Social Center in Tokyo [Bulletin No:150]

Ando Isamu S.J. (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 150 / July 15th, 2009

This is the 150th issue of this Bulletin. The first issue was published 25 years ago as a bimonthly newsletter, A-4 size, 8 to 10 pages in length. Since the essence of the social center’s 28-year history can be found there, we want to present here a general overview of the Center’s present activities.

Social and Pastoral Bulletin number 150

The Jesuit Social Center was inaugurated in April 1981 at Kawadacho (Shinjuku-ku). In July 2006 we celebrated the 25th anniversary with a special celebration in the St Joseph Hall of St Ignatius Church in Yotsuya (Tokyo). The following year, on June 15, 2007, we published a Booklet to commemorate the Center’s 25 years of existence from 1981 to 2006. Here I would like to reflect on what we have done and are now doing.

 Social Apostolic Letter (SAL)

One of the main tasks of the newly founded Center was to establish a system of direct communication with all members of the Japan Province of the Society of Jesus. Thus, upon the initiative of Fr. Weghaus, on December 6, 1980, the Social Apostolic Letter (SAL) began publication in order to keep members of the Province informed about the activities of the Center. Father Provincial formed a special committee of 7 Jesuits (Frs. Weghaus, Ando, H. Hayashi, Kuga, Linthorst, Susukida and Yamada). The committee discussed matters regarding the social apostolate and the content of the new SAL, assisting Fr. Weghaus to solicit advice on how to conduct the social apostolate in the Province.

SAL aimed at including the following content: (1) An editorial on some contemporary social problem. (2) Fr Provincial’s answers to questions submitted by Jesuits of the Province. (3) Short reports on “What we are doing.” (4) Opinions regarding “What we should and could do.” (5) Opinions on “What we are doing but should discontinue.” (6) New problems, vital statistics of Japan, activities of the Center. SAL was discontinued with the 29th issue in March 1983. A year later, May 1984, the publication of the Social and Pastoral Bulletin began (see Booklet p. 11).

Fr Weghaus returned to Germany before the Bulletin was published. Fr. Ando became the new director of the Center, and when Mr Shibata Yukinori started working at the center, he became part of the editorial staff of the Bulletin. Let me quote from the above Booklet.

The Social and Pastoral Bulletin (May 1984) replaced SAL and beginning in September 1992 was issued bimonthly and bilingually (Japanese-English) in A-4 format with 8 to 12 pages. While SAL had concentrated on Catholic social teaching and theological reflection, the new Bulletin, especially after the 1990s, stressed information from the field concerning social movements from inside and outside the Catholic communities (Booklet, p.16).

The Bulletin has continued publication uninterruptedly for the past 25 years. As a general rule, the Bulletin is sent gratis to each Jesuit of the Japan Province, as well as to Jesuits abroad working in the social apostolate and those cooperating with the Center. There are also subscribers who pay the yearly subscription (\1200 for the six numbers a year). The number of readers of the Bulletin as of June 2009 was 475 (338 for the Japanese edition and 137 for the English). About 98 of these are ordinary subscribers.

The Bulletin has accomplished the role of an “information operations room” to transmit to our readers in Japan and in other parts of the world not only the activities of the Center and the way of thinking that inspires them, but also the social problems Japan and the world are presently facing. The Center’s web page has a file of all back numbers of the Bulletin since 1998.

Objectives of the Center and Networking

The Center tries to show the many facets of our Jesuit social apostolate in Japan. We are selective in our activities kin order to maintain a Jesuit identity. The social apostolate is deeply involved in the building of healthy human structures, where people can enjoy respect as images of God and the freedom to live together in harmony and without discrimination, to develop themselves as human beings and to contribute to healthy changes so as to improve our societies. For its part, the Society of Jesus has taken as its priority the specific mission of working for the promotion of faith and justice. It stresses a preference for the poor in this world.

In general, one the main focuses of this Center is NETWORKING. We stress cooperation with the Jesuit Social Secretariat in Rome and the Jesuit Networking in East Asia. The Tokyo Center played an important role in the Jesuit social apostolate in Asia while the SELA organization was in existence, as well as with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Asia. It is always open to other networks of NGOs in Japan and other Asian countries working for refugees and migrant workers, against poverty and violations of human rights, against capital punishment, against landmines, etc.

In cooperation with Jesuit companions and other groups we watch and analyze the situations confronting us and look for ways to act accordingly, aware of our limitations.

Adachi International Academy (AIA)

Let me offer here the example of a concrete program, a small school for migrant workers in the suburbs of Tokyo, which was the result of a long process of continuous contact with the situation of foreign workers living in Japan. The support of the Center was one of the key elements in making a successful start for AIA a year ago. The Jesuit Social Center had from its very beginning a priority involvement with refugees from the Indochina region (Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia) in former camps of Thailand as well as with those that reached Japan looking for asylum. During these last years foreign workers in Japan have attracted our attention. Japanese NGOs and church groups have gradually come forward to take care of refugees and foreign workers in a variety of fields from pastoral and legal issues to offering shelter and advice on health issues and family problems.

Meanwhile, it became clear that a lack of communication due to the difficulties of mastering the Japanese language was like a “chronic disease” that needed special attention. Most people thought that this was a basic issue common to all foreign workers, no matter what their nationalities, but the volunteer programs for learning Japanese that are available in quite a few churches as well as in public places are by no means adequate to provide a suitable solution. In the past I personally had been offering volunteer services on Sundays after helping out in the Umeda parish (Adachi-ku) and participated in programs of all kinds of assistance, going so far as to rent an apartment that functioned as a secretariat for such volunteer activities.

One Sunday two young Filipino workers came looking for advice. Their Japanese employer had told them to stop coming to work the next Monday. They had been fired, but they could not understand the reasons behind their dismissal. I asked them whether they had been given anything in writing. They showed me a piece of paper with their signatures. They could not read what was written in Japanese. The employer had written: “I, the undersigned, will stop working here next Monday.” They had signed the paper trusting their employer, but they had been clearly cheated in an underhanded way.

This is just one instance proving the need for full involvement in the language education of tens of thousands of foreign people working in Japan. Most cannot afford the expense of Japanese language schools and the casual volunteer services offered in many churches and public halls are of limited value.

On July 6, 2008, the Adachi International Academy (AIA) opened officially with a special ceremony of blessing and started operations in an old rented Japanese-style house in Umeda. The location was selected with regard for the big number of foreign workers living and working in Adachi Ward.

Four Catholic religious congregations agreed to share responsibility for this new pilot educational project in cooperation with lay people. In fact, the small school, rather like a Christian “Terakoya,” started functioning with the registering of 13 children in September. AIA is always open for anyone to come, from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. It offers private lessons in the Japanese language to children up to the high school level, and to foreign adults, as well as lessons in English conversation, mathematics and computer. The educational method is a person-to-person approach. The needs of the student concerning time and subject matter are given special priority. Thus, a large number of teachers is often needed. Financial limitations make it compulsory to depend on volunteers. On the other hand, the organizations cooperating together have agreed to look for educators and young volunteers to come to AIA to offer free services. One of the main jobs of the AIA office is to check daily on each student and volunteer so that the education proceeds smoothly. We ask for a low monthly fee to help pay the transportation expense of the volunteers.

The number of AIA users during the past 11 months was over 2,203. Some 50 volunteers have registered: half of these are university students, 14 religious and 10 lay. But, in fact, the actual number of volunteers comes to 35 persons, of whom 17 are university students, 10 religious and 8 lay people.

JAPA VIETNAM (The Japanese Group of Private Assistance to Vietnam)

JAPA VIETNAM was established in 1990 as a citizens’ group. The representative is Fr. Ando, from the Jesuit Social Center, where JAPA VIETNAM’s desk is located. The Secretary General is Mr. Shibata and a 6-member volunteer staff normally participates in the running of the group. There are 300 members helping financially to fund projects operated by Vietnamese groups in Vietnam. In rural areas the programs consist of building small bridges and vital roads, digging wells, as well as forming cow banks and sow raising farms, building classrooms for literacy education and clinics. In urban areas, assistance is provided to programs for street children and slum dwellers and programs for HIV/AIDS patients and their rehabilitation toward become independent. The total amount of funds each year is about 250 million yen, or an average of US$3000 per project.

A JAPA VIETNAM team visits Vietnam once a year. Every 6 months an informative Newsletter is published and once a year a general assembly is held with live reports from the visits to Vietnam. A charity concert and two bazaars are organized every year. During the first two weeks of August this year Fr Ando and Mr Shibata will be part of the team visiting Vietnam. There are plans to hold the general assembly together with a charity concert and a report on the August Vietnam tour around October of this year.

Stop the Death Penalty: Network of Religions

 Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists and Shintoists, together with other non-affiliated groups and individuals, have established the “Stop the Death Penalty” Network. The establishment of the Network was the result of a seminar against capital punishment organized in Tokyo in the year 2003 under the initiative of an Italian Catholic organization, the St. Egidio Community. At the time, the secretariat of the Network was located at the office of Amnesty International, but in 2008 it was transferred to the Jesuit Social Center under the care of Mr Shibata.

Actually, 6 years ago, in 1997, the Jesuit Social Center conducted a national campaign against landmines in collaboration with citizens’ groups, Catholic, Protestant and Buddhist organizations. After that, in 2001, the center organized a “Life Painting Exhibition” of paintings from prisoners on death row. These experiences have helped us cooperate as the secretariat for the “Stop the Death Penalty” Network.

The Network consists of 5 or 6 religious bodies: Catholics, Protestants (NCC), Shinshu Otani, Tendaishu, Seimeizan Schweitzer Temple, Oomoto, etc. and organizes seminars twice a year. An important event is a common prayer meeting once a year of these religious bodies to demand the abolition of all executions, along with public appeals and a signature campaign demanding the abolition of executions.

Based on the experiences and personalities of those participating in this religious Network, Mr Shibata has been actively involved in the recent formation of a task force of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission for the abolition of capital punishment and in a campaign of citizens’ groups protesting executions.

Task Team on “Mental Illnesses”

Back in October 2004 the Province Committee on Social-Pastoral Ministry conducted an enquiry among all the Jesuits in the Province with regard to the main social issues in Japan. In the order of priority given them the results were as follows: First were the problems of foreign workers, then globalization and marginalization, and finally inner mental disorders. In order to address these issues various task forces were established.

The task team on mental illnesses was composed of 3 Jesuits, Frs. Hanafusa and Matsui and Br. Yoshiba, 3 lay people and a Sister issued a complementary enquiry to Jesuits on the matter and gathered several times to analyze the data and decide on the basic directions to follow.

 Theory and reflection are not enough. There is need for field work and private commitment.

Besides pointing out the issues involved there is a need to present successful live instances.

 The main causes of psychological problems cannot be reduced to personal temperament. There is need to clarify the social distortions which surround and disturb people’s lives.

The team members divided up their tasks and published a booklet, Taking a Positive Stand on Psychological Problems. The booklet was issued 3 times with a circulation of 1,700 copies. Since it takes a Christian stand on psychological situations, the booklet was well accepted by Catholic readers.

The task team remained inactive for a while after publication of the booklet, but last May three of the members, Fr. Hanafusa, Br. Yoshiba and Mr. Shibata resumed activities. The team plans to continue preparations for an initiation seminar on psychological issues with practical activities in view.

Association for Solidarity with Friends in Cambodia (Cambo-Ren)

Cambo-Ren was born from the wishes of all members that attended the Cambodia Study Tour of 2003. Fr. Bonet is the representative of the group, which is comprised of some 300 members. Cambo-Ren’s main office is located in the Jesuit Social Center. The local counterpart is the Jesuit Service Cambodia, particularly in Sisophon, near the Thai border.

The group gives importance to the following:

Giving assistance to programs orientated to “human development,” like rural development, education and health

  By reducing consumption the members of the group produce some income that is used to support programs

  By sharing their free time every year the members organize study tours to Cambodia.

Thanks to the assistance provided by members of the group, offering some of their savings and occasional free time, a number of projects in Cambodia have been implemented. Here is a list of them: houses built for victims of landmines, water reservoirs for villages, mobile libraries in 15 different locations, building of schools and study centers, benches and tables for schools, school toilets, wheelchairs, cow banks, wells, teaching materials and assistance to teachers’ salaries. The group visits the sites, discusses the projects directly with the persons involved and the JSC staff and then decides on possibilities of assistance. A year later, a Cambo-Ren group pays a new visit to the site of the project and reports to all Cambo-Ren members. A Newsletter is sent twice a year to all members.

Study tours of 9 days are organized every February during the dry season when the roads leading to the project sites are in good condition. The tour schedule is tightly planned to observe not only the educational programs of JSC for disabled people and children’s home receiving assistance, but also the torture facilities of Pol Pot’s times in Phnom Pen and visits to refugees’ homes. In Siem Reap the visits include a number of projects run by JSC and informative talks of NGO people clearing landmines. The last day is left for a visit to Angkor Wat. The groups are composed of 10 members and we hire a van to move around Cambodia.

Seminar: Let’s Discuss Development with Fr. Anzorena


Back in 1994 we began this seminar of monthly lectures from April to July each year. We used Kibe Hall this year and the theme of the seminar was “30 Years of a Housing Movement with the Cooperation of the Poor and their Supporters.” The lectures introduced the history of the housing movement and its development with future prospects in the Philippines, Africa, the Indochina region and Pakistan.

Fr. Anzorena has long been visiting third world countries, building a network of skilled personnel. He makes efforts to help the poor to become fully independent and deals with government officials to assist NGOs and squatters’ organizations working for the improvement of housing conditions. Fr. Anzorena usually spends half a year visiting countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Thanks to his rich experience the reports on the situation of the countries offer always fresh insights.

Seminar “The voice of the Church for Modern Society: Catholic Social Teaching”

This is a series of seminars that started in 2007. Beginning last year the seminars have been held in one of the meeting halls of Kojimachi Church under the auspices of the Social Center and St. Ignatius Church. The coordinator, Fr. Bonet, and the speakers are Jesuits. The seminars deal with actual social issues concerning people.

First of all, there is a presentation of concrete situations, so that the following session explains the thinking of the Catholic Church and its public declarations. The main themes this year are: 1- Poverty and War. Japan’s actual poverty gap. The Catholic Church denounces modern realities and makes appeals for solutions. 2- History of Human Rights: Lights and Shadows. Human Rights and the Catholic Church; Catholic social teaching and Peace. 3- The Labor situation in Japan; Society seen from the eyes of foreign workers and temporal workers; John Paul II’s encyclical letter on Work and a Christian vision of human work. 4- Three kinds of assassinations: Criminals, War and Executions; Voice of the Church: Culture of death and Culture of life.

The participants are not only Catholics and as much as possible all share their questions and comments.

Detention-Deportation in Japan

(By Ando Isamu  – Jesuit Social Center Migrant Desk, June 15th 2011)

While I am writing this a young mother accompanying her 3 little children is in her way for the Philippines. They are not tourists and leave Japan not because of their own will, they are “deported”.  The mother is, in fact, a single mother abandoned by her Filipino husband who had brought her to Japan.

On early March this year, I received a phone from an immigration detention center. The person I had never met before wanted me to visit her because she was very much in trouble and wanted to consult her situation with me. When I finally agreed and was able to visit her, my findings were painfully sad and I became really angry. It was true that the mother was living in Japan for several years undocumented. She had 3 small children, all of them born in Japan. From last October up to today (15 June, 2011) she was forcefully separated from her little ones and interned in an immigration jail. The oldest child at that time was 3 years & 10 months old and the smallest only 1 year & 5 months old. The children were placed in a welfare institution hours away. The mother in jail was never allowed to see them for over 8 months. She was very poor and wanted to remain in Japan and to educate her children here. She didn’t have any money, but immigration was pressing her day after day to get money for their tickets back to the Philippines, in spite that she did not have any possibility to buy them. Finally some of us decided to bring to an end such dramatic situation and gathered the needed cost of the tickets.

This way the case was closed, but the real issue remains unresolved. The legal system is kept untouched: undocumented persons are put in jail and deported. But, how can people keeping that system become so chilly and psychologically “frozen” to separate for more than 8 months a mother from her little ones? Is a detention center the only answer? Where are humanitarian ways? I have heard that there is a kind of a quota of so many thousand cases of undocumented persons to be detained and deported every year. The content of the cases doesn’t matter. To meet the quota is the most important.

Report: New Changes in the Japanese Immigration Law

Ando Isamu, SJ (Jesuit Social Center) 
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue:  No. 149 / May 20th, 2009

A controversial bill to revise the immigration laws has been presented to the Japanese national Diet to be approved before the current Diet session ends at the beginning of June.
One of the most basic changes in the legislation is a total control to be given to the central government, the Justice Ministry. The bill, open to public discussions by the lawmakers, has already drawn criticism from citizens’ groups and from some legislators of the opposition parties, as well as from the Japanese Bar Association. Nevertheless, the problem remains with the politicians, and since their constituencies do not give much weight to issues concerning foreign residents, these issues will not influence their election.

Foreign Residents Remain out of the Public Discussions

Foreign residents have been badly hit by the prolonged economic crisis. Many have lost their unstable jobs and their daily lives are in danger of total collapse. Many are seriously thinking of going home but they cannot afford the expense involved, especially those that came years ago from far away regions like Latin America. The present crisis has opened up various hidden social taboos, like the friction between the Japanese and foreign communities. This was true – is it still true – regarding Koreans living in Japan. I experienced it clearly when the first Vietnamese Boat People reached Japan, already in the late ’70s. They were officially told to look for other countries to settle down. Japan was not a choice.

In order to build ethnic reconciliation bridges like exchanges and positive dialogue between Japanese and foreign residents, the public role of government is very important regarding this issue. So is education at home and in the schools. Of course, religions can always serve as good social catalysts. At present (2007), since there are over 2 million foreigners living in Japan, this can be considered an important national issue.

Japan wants to increase the number of tourists, foreign students, and young technicians from abroad and must accept the risk of having undocumented people. It cannot prevent that. To cut the flux of foreigners into Japan would be to act against the interest of the country. According to rather modest population predictions for the future, the population of Japan by the year 2050 will decrease by between 30 and 40 million. On top of that, a high percentage of the population will be senior citizens. In a global situation where more than 200 million people are moving out of their own countries annually, Asian neighbors, like Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia, with increasing youth populations, look for opportunities to work in Japan.  Actual Controversial Immigration Bill

In 1989 Japan revised the immigration law when Japanese politics were in great turmoil during the bubble economy years, but the revision was not fully discussed in the Diet. The results were an influx of Japanese-Brazilians and Peruvians, who numbered over 400,000 by the year 2007.

Today, 20 years later, in a different economic situation but in a similar political crisis, a revision of government-sponsored immigration laws is up for discussion in the Diet with the aim of getting the new bill passed at the beginning of June, when the Diet is expected to go into recess.

The main target is full control of foreign residents by the Justice Ministry, tightening immigration regulations on them. The alien registration cards will be replaced by new ones called “zairyu” containing IC chips. Foreigners are required to carry them at all times and failure to do so could occasion a fine of 200,000 yen. At the same time, not reporting promptly change of address, place of employment, marital status, etc are also subject to fines. The new bill seems to imply that the residency status of foreigners will be lost for failing to report new addresses to the officials.

In fact, the present dual administrative structure, with the central government granting residency permits and the local municipalities issuing alien registration cards and other services, will cease to exist and everything will be concentrated in Immigration alone, so that resident registrations, for instance, would be handled by the Justice Ministry, not by the local municipalities where foreigners live. There are, nevertheless, some positive points, like the concession of 5-year residency permits (at present, these are only for 3 years) and the acquisition of social insurances.

The undue official surveillance and centralization included in the new immigration bill have raised the opposition of many groups. Besides that, foreigners now are able to approach over 1,787 local municipalities which are in contact with their daily lives but, if the new bill is enacted, they will only have the choice of looking for 76 immigration offices, all over Japan. Moreover, and this is the big difference from municipalities, such offices are not in contact with foreign residents’ daily lives. Given the increasing number of divorced spouses – especially foreign wives – due to domestic violence, the change will create serious issues. As a result, the number of their children unable to attend school will increase.

Those who are interested should take a look at the statement (19 February 2009) of the Japanese Bar Association in their web site []