TOKYO -- A protest rally against a bill to revise Japan's immigration law was held in front of the Diet building in the capital on the night of April 15, as some 450 people gathered in chilly weather while holding signs with messages such as, "Give them visas, not punishments."
The bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, submitted to the ongoing Diet session by the Japanese government, is promoted as a revision aimed at solving issues of long-term detentions of foreign nationals served with deportation orders at immigration facilities.
While the bill would set up a "supervisory measure" system in which people would be permitted to live outside of detention centers under certain conditions, penalties would be established for those who do not obey expulsion orders, and people who apply for refugee status three times or more would be subject to forcible deportation. As the bill does not incorporate a cap on the length of detention or judicial review of cases, it has been criticized by human rights experts at the United Nations.
The April 15 rally was organized by the "emergency action against revising the immigration law for the worse," a group formed by human rights activists, lawyers and journalists, among other members. Supporters of the movement who joined the rally spoke to voice their opposition.
"We need to change our society in which those who should be protected are treated like criminals," Ippei Torii, representative director of the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, addressed the participants. "The essence of democracy lies in our action to raise our voices for those who can't. I want to create a society where no one is left behind, where it's not just all talk."
Journalist Koichi Yasuda said, "What we're facing now is how we view the weight of life. Can we, as a country and as a society, keep our dignity?" He continued, "The immigration law revision is challenging us on what we should do and what we shouldn't. To approve the changes to the immigration law for the worse means that Japanese society only cares about Japanese nationals. I want to achieve a society where we all live in harmony."
According to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan, 3,936 people applied for refugee status in 2020, and just 47 people were granted it. The number of foreign nationals detained at immigration centers for at least six months has continued to grow, and as of the end of June 2019, 679 out of 1,253 overall detainees had been kept at such facilities for six months or longer. There are 76 people who have been in detention facilities for over three years.
(Japanese original by Asako Kamihigashi, Digital News Center)