JAPAN NEEDS STRICTER IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE LAWS
Japan, already a major immigrant nation, is set on solving its worsening labor shortage by revising its Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act as soon as possible.
The coalition government asserts the revision is not aimed at encouraging an unlimited flow of foreign workers to Japan but rather at better managing foreign workers in Japan, who to date have largely been unregulated.
The government plans to divide foreign workers into Category 1 (unskilled workers) and Category 2 (skilled workers). Category 1 workers will have a chance to be upgraded to Category 2 at the end of a five-year tenure, when they will take an examination to determine if they have acquired sufficient Japanese language skills and professional expertise.
Category 1 workers will not be allowed to bring their spouses or children to Japan. When upgraded to Category 2, however, they will be free to live with their families in Japan virtually permanently.
Some members of the opposition camp oppose this arrangement on the grounds that Category 2 workers will “in effect be immigrants under a different name.” That will not be the case, maintain the coalition parties and the minority Japan Restoration Party, explaining that the examination will be so strict that only about 5% of Category 1 workers are expected to be upgraded to Category 2.
They also note that the government will create a new Immigration and Residence Control Agency with enough manpower to facilitate an efficient control of immigration-related matters. Due largely to poor government supervision, a surprising number of foreign workers—between 6,000 and 7,000—are known to go missing each year.
The missing are among the vast number of foreigners who originally came to Japan as technical interns or students. Presumably, they still live somewhere in Japan, but the Justice Ministry has been unable to trace them. This “lawless” state cannot be good for them, or for Japan for that matter. One major purpose of launching the projected agency is to enable the authorities to track down missing foreign workers going forward.
I have at hand a copy of Japan’s New Immigration Era (Akashi Shoten; 2017) based on a serialized documentary by The Nishi Nihon Shimbun. The 255-page softcover book vividly depicts the harsh reality of the lives of foreign students and technical interns in Japan.
Over 750,000 De Facto Immigrants in Japan Today
The book portrays foreign students with virtually no knowledge of Japanese who manage to enter Japan, where jobs are more readily available than in other advanced nations by acquiring forged documents, including Japanese proficiency certificates. Although permitted to work up to 28 hours a week, many of these students are actually working much longer hours, as they must pay back loans while also remitting money regularly to their families back home. In point of fact, not a few of them come to Japan on student visas primarily to work.
These students have started to apply for refugee status as a convenient means of working longer hours legally. In the six months to a full year before they get the screening results, the applicants are entitled to resident status for special activities, which permits them to work full-time. If their applications are rejected, they are entitled to reapply any number of times, continuing to work under the “special activities” status. If they land a permanent job while waiting, they will be able to obtain a formal work visa, becoming a new de facto immigrant in Japan, as they are allowed to live here permanently thereafter.
Of course, there are foreign students who earnestly concentrate on their studies in Japan, reflecting the stated purpose of their visits. But the current situation with overseas students and interns depicted in the book points to how vulnerable Japan is to an influx of foreigners.
Japan is already bogged down with a more serious problem involving some 750,000 immigrants, as pointed out in the urgent policy proposal made on December 3 by the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals (JINF), a privately-financed think tank that I head. These are foreigners discreetly granted “regular” immigrant status by the Justice Ministry, with no deliberations at the Diet and no coverage by the media. Their number has increased sharply over the past 20 years.
Immigrants in Japan are broken down into two statuses—regular immigrant and special immigrant. The latter refers to prewar Korean and Taiwanese given residence qualification under the special circumstances in which imperial Japan had ruled Korea and Taiwan. Although lacking voting rights, these Korean and Taiwanese immigrants have otherwise been guaranteed exactly the same rights as Japanese.
With their third and fourth generation offspring having generally sought naturalization or won Japanese citizenship through marriage, their number has been on a steady decline, now estimated at around 330,000.
The problem lies with the “regular immigrants.” Over the past 20 years their number, which stood at 90,000 in 1998, has increased eightfold to 750,000. According to research by JINF senior fellow Tsutomu Nishioka, the four main ethnic groups are Chinese (250,000), Filipinos (130,000), Brazilians (110,000), and South Koreans (70,000).
Unlike their Korean and Taiwanese counterparts, the regular immigrants have no special historical ties with Japan. And yet, they are granted the same rights as the Japanese, except for voting rights, as is the case with the special immigrants. Permitted to stay in Japan indefinitely, they are given the right to work or live on welfare and also free to engage in political activities.
North Korea maintains the General Association of Korean Residents (Chongryon) in Japan which pledges loyalty to dictator Kim Jong-un. Although guaranteed ample rights and freedoms in Japan, its members are frequently subject to search by the police for breaking the law. They laud the communist dictatorship responsible for the abduction of a significant number of Japanese citizens and support the forces that condemn Japan by fabricating history. Existing laws make it quite possible for Chinese immigrants in Japan to form a hostile organization similar to “Chongryon.”
Throngs of Chinese Students
The increase in regular immigrants started with a relaxation in immigration restrictions under Prime Minister Ryotaro Hashimoto (1996-97). In 1998, the Justice Ministry changed the interpretation of Article 22 of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (initially revised in 1982). Before then, an applicant for regular immigrant status was required to produce proof that he or she had lived in Japan as a good citizen at least 20 years. This duration was suddenly shortened to 10 years that year, and later to just five years for applicants with special technical skills.
This change was not deliberated in the Diet. Nor was it picked up by the media widely. It was simply left to the discretion of the Justice Ministry. As a result, the number of de facto immigrants in Japan has since ballooned to 750,000 without anyone noticing. Let me reiterate that one third of them are Chinese.
In 2010, the Chinese government enacted the National Defense Mobilization Law—a very dangerous law when it comes to our domestic security, to say the least. The law stipulates that all Chinese nationals overseas must follow the orders of the Chinese government in case of national emergencies. Having said this much, I suppose many of my readers will recall the incident that occurred in April 2007 as the Olympic torch was passing through Nagano Prefecture.
A group of Tibetans in Japan, backed by Japanese sympathizers, congregated in Nagano to appeal to the world against the ferocious oppression of Tibet by the Chinese Communist Party (CPC). In response, some 4,000 Chinese students in Japan quickly gathered there, hoisting the five-star red flags of the People’s Republic of China. They then closed in on the Tibetans and their Japanese supporters, roughing them up. Such a mass mobilization of Chinese nationals could have been possible only if the Chinese Embassy had formed a stunningly efficient network across Japan.
The CPC is committed to gathering Chinese nationals overseas in a flash, driving them to rampant acts of violence. The Chinese government now has the National Defense Mobilization Law at their disposal. It is a cold fact of life that there are permanent Chinese residents in Japan bound by this law whose number far exceeds that of the personnel of the Japan Self Defense Forces. We Japanese must come to grips with the serious implications this fact has for our own internal security.
I believe strongly that a supplementary resolution should be attached to the proposed revision currently under deliberation, which is expected to become law as early as December 10. A strict implementation of Article 22 of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act must be written into the revision, while reverting to 20 years for the required length of stay in Japan before the Justice Ministry grants foreign workers and students permanent residence rights. (The End)
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 831 in the December 13, 2018 issue of The Weekly Shincho)