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Editorial: Japan's draft revision to immigration law must be overhauled

What the Japanese government thinks of the human rights of foreign nationals is being brought into question.

    A draft revision to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, which would ensure that foreign nationals who are in Japan in an unauthorized capacity -- because they have lost their residency status or for other reasons -- are repatriated, is set to be put to a vote in the House of Representatives' Committee on Judicial Affairs within the week, if the ruling parties have their way.

    The government explains that the purpose for the legal amendment is to eliminate long-term detentions in immigration facilities of people who have been ordered deported but have resisted repatriation.

    However, there are many among those people whose lives could be put in danger if they were to return to their home countries, or who have family members here in Japan. The draft revision does not take these matters into consideration.

    A provision stating that those who are applying for refugee status in Japan for the third time or more can be subjected to forcible deportation has been incorporated into the draft revision, on the grounds that the refugee application system is being abused to avoid repatriation

    But it is said that the criteria that one must fulfill to be granted refugee status in Japan are too stringent compared to other countries around the world. The new provision will make it even harder to obtain refugee status in Japan.

    Meanwhile, it is possible to detain people in immigration facilities at the discretion of immigration authorities alone, without the permission of the courts, and there are no limits to the length of time that people can be detained. These facts have been criticized internationally, but the draft revision does not rectify these issues.

    Opposition parties sought that the draft revision be reworked to include changes to these problems, but talks with the ruling coalition broke down.

    In Diet deliberations, the response of immigration authorities has come under fire over the death of a 33-year-old Sri Lankan woman who was detained in an immigration facility in Nagoya, the capital of the central Japan prefecture of Aichi, for over six months.

    There are suspicions that despite deteriorating health during her time in detention, the woman was not given the medical care she needed. An outside physician who saw her suggested that she be temporarily released, but that was not granted to her.

    The woman had the papers to be in the country to study. However, she became unable to continue her studies when she ran out of money to pay for school, and ended up being in the country illegally. She sought help from the police trying to escape from the violence she suffered at the hands of the man with whom she lived, but was instead arrested and detained in an immigration facility.

    At the foundations of the draft revision to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act is the absolute resistance to foreigners who are here on unauthorized status.

    The government takes in foreign nationals as labor to make up for the lack of manpower in Japan, but has neglected to improve how they are treated and compensated, and the environments in which they work. Unauthorized immigration status occurs against the backdrop of this policy that the Japanese government has taken toward foreign nationals.

    The draft revision to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, which lacks consideration for human rights, should be overhauled from scratch. And for that, Japan must fundamentally change its policy toward accepting foreign nationals.

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