Deportation rule troubles U.N. official

by Masami Ito

A recent government decision to deport only the parents of families without residency status, thus separating children from their mothers and fathers, flies in the face of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Jorge Bustamante, the United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said Saturday in Tokyo.

Bustamante, who is on his first official fact-finding mission to Japan, is meeting with government officials, nongovernmental organizations, legal experts and foreign residents, and is expected to submit a report on Japan to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

On Saturday, he met with residents caught in the deportation dilemma — among them Noriko Calderon, a 14-year-old girl who was born in Japan to an undocumented Filipino couple. Calderon’s case drew media attention when her parents were deported last spring.

“It is very difficult to live separated from my parents, and I miss them very much,” Calderon said. “But I hope that one day, all three of us can live in Japan together and I plan to do my best” to realize that goal.

Bustamante expressed concern over the separation of families and said he would cite the situation in his report.

“It’s going to be made public,” Bustamante told the gathering. “And this, of course, might result in an embarrassment for the government of Japan and therefore certain pressure (will be) put on the government of Japan.”

Five families, including the Calderons, have faced this ultimatum, according to lawyers supporting their cause.

“My role is not to make a judgment — my role is to report,” Bustamante said. “But what I hear is something that could be described as actions of the government that imply not a clear abiding by the international rules of law.”

Another to meet with the U.N. special rapporteur was a Peruvian-born 16-year-old girl who has lived in Japan most of her life. The girl, whose name was withheld, told Bustamante that while she realizes that they do not have legal status in Japan, neither she nor her brothers and sisters speak Spanish and have no knowledge of Peru.

“If we go back to Peru, no future awaits us,” the girl said. “We are reaching our limits mentally as well as financially . . . (but) I will never give up hope and do my best till the end to keep living in Japan.”