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Upper house begins debating immigration law revisions

The House of Councillors' plenary session chamber is seen in this recent file photo. (Mainichi/Taro Fujii)

TOKYO -- The House of Councillors began debating changes to Japan's immigration law to accept more foreign workers on Nov. 28 after the chamber's Rules and Administration Committee decided that morning to send the bill to the floor.

The decision was made by committee members belonging to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)-Komeito coalition.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and related Cabinet ministers, including Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita, are in attendance to explain the proposed revisions to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act and take questions. Opposition parties including the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) voiced opposition to the bill moving forward.

The ruling bloc plans to pass the bill into law before the end of the extraordinary session of the Diet due to end on Dec. 10, but it is clear that opposition party resistance has only increased since the bill was pushed through the House of Representatives on Nov. 27.

Before the meeting of top committee members from each party, LDP House of Councillors Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Masakazu Sekiguchi met with Hirokazu Shiba, his counterpart in a CDP-led parliamentary alliance, in the National Diet building. In addition to kicking off debate on the floor of the upper house, Sekiguchi also proposed beginning official debate in the chamber's Judicial Affairs Committee on Nov. 29. Shiba countered with a request for the release of questionnaire sheets used in a Ministry of Justice survey of technical intern trainees who fled their jobs. He also sought a joint examination of the revisions bill with other related standing committees, among other conditions.

The secretary-generals and Diet affairs committee chairs of the ruling coalition held a meeting at a Tokyo hotel on the morning of Nov. 28. There, based on Speaker of the House of Representatives Tadamori Oshima's request, it was decided to have the government relay relevant ministry orders concerning the new immigration policy to the lower house judicial committee as soon as such rules are compiled.

"Having the citizens of Japan get behind the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act changes is important," LDP Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Hiroshi Moriyama told reporters. LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai was absent from the meeting due to lower back pain.

The bill to revise the immigration law was passed by the lower house on the night of Nov. 27 by a majority vote of the ruling bloc plus the Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party). Prior to the revisions going to the floor of the chamber, the ruling parties pushed the proposal through the lower house Judicial Affairs Committee despite intense protests from opposition parties.

The administration aims to introduce the new immigration system in April 2019 to alleviate labor shortages in specific sectors. It is expected that many foreign technical intern trainees will shift to the new resident statuses.


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