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Brazilian woman seeks human rights relief in Japan after welfare application snubbed

Anjo City Hall in Aichi Prefecture is seen in this Dec. 27, 2022, photo. (Mainichi/Kenichiro Fuji)

ANJO, Aichi -- A Japanese Brazilian woman who was given a false explanation by a municipal employee here that foreigners are not eligible to receive welfare filed for human rights relief with the Aichi Bar Association on Dec. 27.

    If the bar association deems an investigation necessary in the woman's case, it will look into whether there was human rights violation by the Anjo Municipal Government.

    According to the 41-year-old woman's petition, she came to Japan about 10 years ago and has a resident visa. She visited Anjo City Hall on Nov. 1 to apply for welfare assistance as her family, with a 1-year-old and elementary school age children, struggled financially after her husband lost his job due to the COVID-19 crisis and other reasons.

    The city employee who handled her case at the counter apparently told her, "Public assistance is not offered to foreigners," and also said, "You should go back to your country." Following this, her supporters and other people went to the city hall with the woman, but the municipal government repeatedly refused to accept her welfare application.

    Anjo Mayor Gaku Kamiya holds a news conference to address the municipal government's handling of a Japanese Brazilian woman who applied for welfare assistance, at Anjo City Hall in Aichi Prefecture, on Dec. 27, 2022. (Mainichi/Kenichiro Fuji)

    After the application was accepted at the end of November, the city employee demanded that the woman use the welfare payment to pay for the delinquent rent for the prefectural government-run housing. Furthermore, the woman claims that a child care support employee told her, "If you had a child consultation center take your children, you would have fewer mouths to feed."

    The woman's attorney told the Mainichi Shimbun, "There is a possibility that this kind of treatment has become normalized at the city government, and I want the bar association to conduct a thorough investigation."

    Meanwhile, Anjo Mayor Gaku Kamiya held a news conference on Dec. 27 and apologized for the handling of the woman's case, saying, "Our intention was not fully communicated, and it caused misunderstanding. I would like to offer my deepest apology to the woman for the emotional burden this has caused." He also announced that the city would improve how it responds to foreign residents by enhancing interpretation services and other means.

    Regarding welfare payments to foreigners, the Cabinet of then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in December 2018 approved a written response saying that foreign nationals with visa statuses such as permanent or long-term residents were "subject to protection applicable under the Public Assistance Act."

    (Japanese original by Kenichiro Fuji, Nagoya News Center)

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