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US human trafficking report honors Japanese lawyer for protecting foreign workers

Lawyer Shoichi Ibusuki, who was chosen by the U.S. Department of State as one of its 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report Heroes, is seen speaking about the honor on July 2, 2021, in Naka Ward, Nagoya. (Mainichi/Shinichiro Kawase)

The U.S. Department of State has honored Japanese lawyer Shoichi Ibusuki as one of its Trafficking in Persons Report Heroes for battling human rights abuse in Japan.

    The report praised Ibusuki, a member of the Daini Tokyo Bar Association, for his work supporting foreign technical interns suffering abuse and forced to work at the hands of their employers in Japan.

    The annual U.S. State Department report on human trafficking in each country selects and commends people who have made contributions to halting exploitation.

    The 2021 report issued July 1 said that "Ibusuki's advocacy, along with his unwavering and admirable dedication to helping foreign nationals enduring labor exploitation and protecting their human rights, have brought these issues to the forefront and raised their profile within Japan and around the world."

    Nearly every year, the report calls on Japan to improve its treatment of foreigners on its Technical Intern Training Program. This year, too, it highlighted malicious use of the system by foreign and domestic businesses, saying that they "continued to abuse the government-operated Technical Intern Training Program (TITP) to exploit foreign workers."

    On July 2, Ibusuki commented on the honor to a group of reporters, saying, "This is absolutely not an award for me individually; I feel I've received this as a representative of all the people fighting against human rights violations involving technical intern trainees and for the abolition of this system. I am thankful for this honor."

    He then emphasized, "I want the Japanese government to squarely face the fact that the system has become a hotbed for human trafficking, fully acknowledge this shame, and work for the soonest possible end to this system."

    (Japanese original by Issei Suzuki, Washington Bureau, and Shinichiro Kawase, Nagoya News Center)

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