2003: Migranten in Japan
Flüchtlinge und Arbeitsmigranten in Japan
Eine kurze Übersicht
The Christian Coalition For Refugees And Migrant Workers (CCRMW) was established as an interdenominational NGO in April 1989 to take up the varied problems of refugees and migrant workers living in Japan. It was hoped that it would encourage people, not only as church members but also as citizens, to become more interested in the issues of refugees and migrant workers. In addition, there was a desire to build a society in which they could develop their gifts and become bridges between Japan and their countries in the future, erasing the negative image of refugees as illegal immigrants or criminals. Moreover, we have appealed to the government since 1989 for foreigners’ human rights and better living conditions. A handbook on the human rights of migrants has been published by CCRMW.
The number of foreign workers increased rapidly during the bubble economy period of the early 1990’s. After about ten years or so, other related problems such as education of their children, social insurance and unemployment surfaced, becoming more and more serious. The migrant workers were employed for short periods of time after which they returned to the home country if the demand for workers slackened. With time however, the migrants came hoping to settle down in Japan. They did not return to their home country, but stayed to live in Japan, something the Japanese Government did not expect or want.
According to the census in fiscal 2000, there were 1,157,000 foreigners over the age of 15 in Japan. Of these, 685,000 people were employed and 42,000 unemployed. The ratio of foreigners in the Japanese labor force rose to1.1% of which 221,000 were illegal. Those who had overstayed their visas or who entered the country with false documents made up 28.9% of all the foreign workers in 2002.
The number of refugees requesting protection in Japan following the 9.11. 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. increased rapidly as well. The number of applicants granted approval for refugee status by Japan over the period of 1982-2004 was less than 10%. Those who are not recognized as refugees are considered to be illegal “overstays”, and are detained by the Ministry of Justice in the Immigration Bureau Detention Centers. The detention of refugees and foreign workers is a serious problem, with 1,435 people now being held in three detention centers: in Omura in Nagasaki Prefecture; Ibaraki in Osaka Prefecture and Ushiku in Ibaraki Prefecture.
Soon after “9.11” on October 3, 2001, many Afghan refugees were arrested in Tokyo, Chiba, and Saitama and detained in the Ushiku Detention center by the Ministry of Justice Immigration Bureau. Among them was a young man who had escaped from Afghanistan. He was arrested at New Tokyo International Airport, and sent to Ushiku. As his stay lengthened, he despaired, attempting suicide many times in the detention center. Very few knew about the detainees outside of the detention center. An Iranian detained at that time later spoke of his misery to an NGO group. At the end of 2001, lawyers and support NGOs established a “Support Network for Afghan refugees in Japan”. CCRMW became the secretariat of the network and started a visiting support service for refugees in detention centers.
The CCRMW also asked the WCC and ACC to talk to the Afghan refugees in Japan. After their interviews, a conference was held in the hall of the House of Councillors. After that, all detained Afghan refugees were given temporary release and freed in April 2002 due to aroused public concern. The handling of the Afghan refugee cases brought to light the inhumane treatment of long-term detainees at the Ministry of Justice Immigration Bureau Detention Center as well as the inadequate medical treatment provided them. Since the interview, support activities have been initiated.
In April 2004, the CCRMW set up and formally established the “East Japan Ministry of Justice Immigration Bureau Center Christian Support Network (called the “Ushiku Menkai Net)” together with the Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty, the National Christian Council in Japan (NCC), the Catholic Tokyo International Center, the Catholic Saitama parish and other NGO groups.
On October 17, 2003, the Ministry of Justice Immigration Bureau in Tokyo, the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department released a “Joint declaration on strengthening measures to reduce illegal residence of foreigners in Tokyo” aimed at a 50% reduction of illegal stays within five years. Many foreign workers who made up the labor base of the Japanese economy were kept under strict surveillance. (The Ministry of Justice Immigration Bureau requested the cooperation of one embassy in issuing a passport without confirming the inmate refugee’s intention. He was then deported to his homeland where it was feared he would be killed.) In addition, the deportation of sick persons cannot be overlooked. We have visited many inmates since the end of 2000 and found serious problems in the detention center, for example, poor medical treatment, separated detention of family members, including mothers who are separated from their children and extremely long-term detention (more than two years).
In April 2004, the Ushiku Menkai Net made an appeal to the head of the East Japan Immigration Bureau Detention Center for improvement of inmate treatment. Since then, the Ushiku Menkai Net has made repeated proposals to the head of the Center for improvements in how inmates are treated. There have been some small gradual improvements but they come slowly, little by little.
Refugees on trial and migrant workers married to Japanese can apply for “Permission for Temporary Release” but even if application is permitted, they need guarantors as well as deposit money as security. This can cost anywhere from 0 to 3,000,000 yen, depending on the decision of the Immigration Bureau. Most are charged a fee of 300,000 to 600,000 yen. Even if they are released, they are not permitted to work, nor do they receive any official support. Therefore friends, acquaintances, former employers and support NGOs must provide them with living support. The CCRMW and other NGOs in the Ushiku Menkai Net must search for housing and try to provide funding for guarantee fees, etc. Providing living support is an important task of the CCRMW. Some of the refugees decide to migrate to a third country because they become so disappointed and discouraged by Japan’s attitude towards them. So we also try to investigate possibilities for emigration to third countries. When we consider the future of Japan and the falling birthrate, we Japanese are losing valuable human assets who are keen to speak Japanese and have good job skills. On the other hand, CCRMW welcomes young people who are interested in issues concerning refugees and foreign migrant workers. We support their writing reports in university, visiting inmates at the detention center, and so on.
A multiracial, multicultural symbiotic society is the dream of many intellectuals and activists in NGOs. CCRMW continues to offer visiting support so that inmates’ human rights can be better defended and supports refugees during their “temporary release” to help them have a more stable life. To share the problems of refugee and migrant workers, seminars and forums have been held by CCRMW, and a newsletter has also been issued and sent to the churches in Japan. CCRMW aims to build a peaceful multiracial, multicultural symbiotic society and to walk with refugees in Japan.
Japan Christian Activity News Nr. 741 Fall/Winter 2006-2007
vom EMS herausgegeben: Infobrief 2/2003
Illegal und ausgebeutet. Zur Situation von ArbeitsmigrantInnen.