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Vietnamese trainees, students stuck in Japan due to coronavirus driven to the brink

Vietnamese technical intern trainees who cannot go home due to the novel coronavirus crisis are seen in Osaka's Ikuno Ward, on June 1, 2020. (Mainichi/Fusajiro Takada)

OSAKA -- Foreign technical intern trainees stuck in Japan with no international flights to take them home due to the novel coronavirus pandemic are in dire straits.

One 25-year-old technical intern, who came to Japan three years ago from Vietnam, had been making electronic parts and doing other tasks at a factory in the western Japan prefecture of Shiga, until early April. He had planned to return home as soon as he finished his stint at the factory, but then regular flights to Vietnam were canceled amid the coronavirus crisis.

Fourteen other Vietnamese nationals who, like the 25-year-old, are stuck in Japan, are sharing three apartments of a condominium in Osaka's Ikuno Ward. The flat is provided by a body in the western Japan prefecture of Osaka that accepts technical intern trainees. It has been nearly two months since they began living there.

The organization pays the rent, but the residents have to cover their own living expenses, so everyone pitches in to buy food. They make their own meals in each apartment.

Another 32-year-old Vietnamese man, who says he worked five years at an auto parts plant in neighboring Hyogo Prefecture, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "I've sent my savings to my family back home, and have barely any money left." With a disconcerted look he added, "I hope we can receive the 100,000-yen cash handouts soon."

Toshiaki Torimoto, head of "Nichietsu Koryu Center Hyogo" (Japan-Vietnam exchange center Hyogo) -- a Kobe-based support group aiding mainly Vietnamese students in Japan -- stated, "Foreign students and technical intern trainees are in serious distress because of the novel coronavirus, and they can't keep handling the situation for another two, three months. We must come up with a system to quickly provide the cash handouts."

The 25-year-old, who says his older brother is working as an engineer in central Japan's Tokai region, revealed that he too dreams of coming back to Japan one day to become an engineer. "Japan is a livable country, and eventually I want to come back here. But for now, I want to go back to Vietnam as soon as possible. I want to reassure my family, who are worrying about me."

(Japanese original by Fusajiro Takada, Osaka Bureau)

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