MAEBASHI -- With a bill to revise the Japanese immigration law being deliberated in the Diet, a growing number of people in Gunma Prefecture who would be affected by the possible change are calling for it to be stopped.
"If I go back, I'll be killed. I'm scared," said a Myanmar man in his 40s, who has participated in many demonstrations against the military regime in his home country. He fears that the military "has a list of protesters" and claims that his life would be in danger if he returns home.
He came to Japan in 1999 on a tourist visa, relying on relatives. After his visa expired, he worked in the manufacturing industry, where there was a serious shortage of Japanese workers, but a few years later he was caught for overstaying his visa and detained by the immigration bureau.
Now he is on "temporary release," which allows asylum seekers to provisionally live outside detention facilities. In light of the situation in his home country, he has repeatedly applied for refugee status. If the bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act is passed, he could potentially be deported.
Another man from Asia who came to Japan more than 20 years ago and is on temporary release also feels threatened by the revision. He has a child in high school with a woman he married while remaining in Japan illegally. His child only speaks Japanese, and hopes to continue education and employment in Japan. "I am worried about my child's future," he said.
Lawyer Akio Otsuka, chairperson of the committee on foreigners' rights issues at the Gunma Bar Association, said, "Foreigners who cannot return to their home countries have their own individual circumstances, and uniformly imposing strict penalties is problematic from the perspective of their human rights."
Masataka Nagasawa, secretary-general of the nonprofit north Kanto medical consultation association, which supports foreigners in Japan, said, "I think that ignoring Japan's low refugee status recognition rate, which is an international problem, and trying to force people to return to their home countries is a misrepresentation of the argument."
(Japanese original by Atsuko Suzuki, Maebashi Bureau)