People living in Japan on expired visas kicked off a five-day sit-in Monday in front of the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau to protest plans to deport overstaying immigrants en masse on chartered planes this fiscal year.
Reportedly as part of ways to reduce the budget for dealing with overstayers, the Justice Ministry plan would give the boot to about 350 people annually, compared with an annual average of around 150 in preceding years.
Of 62,009 visa overstayers, 3,030 had received deportation orders as of Jan. 1, a ministry report said.
Spearheading the sit-in is the Asian People’s Friendship Society, a nongovernmental group established in 1987 to encourage cross-cultural communications between Japanese and foreign residents. About 50 people attended the protest at the bureau in Minato Ward, some with family members.
Chief organizer Jotaro Kato said at a press conference that many overstayers face enormous uncertainty over their futures because pleas made long ago for special permission to reside in Japan have gone unanswered.
Their financial plight has worsened with Japan’s prolonged economic slump, prompting APFS to stand up and raise public awareness of the overstayers’ plight and show how “desperate they are to get visas.”
Iranian Majid Abbasi, 45, said he hopes their voices will be heard and strike a chord with top government officials.
“We have encountered numerous problems in our life. . . . But above all, the harshest reality is that we have no idea what’s going to happen to us tomorrow,” Abbasi said, expressing grave concern over the well-being of his daughter, 12, who was born in Japan and doesn’t understand her father’s native language. She was deemed a visa violator at birth. Her Filipino mother is also an overstayer.
“I have lived in Japan for about 20 years now. So please stop to lend your ears to what we have to say,” Abbasi said.
Schoolgirl Jezreelann Balbliend, 10, said every Christmas she has asked Santa Claus to give her family a legitimate visa.
A 23-year-old Japanese university student, who only identified himself by his family name of Fukuda, said learning about AFPS awoke his social conscience, prompting him to try to communicate firsthand with and help the visa overstayers.
“In the eyes of the majority of the Japanese public, I think overstayers are viewed with certain skepticism (because of their illegal status),” Fukuda said. “But before jumping down their throat, I think we should listen to what they have to say. . . . After all, given the shrinking population, Japanese society won’t be able to survive on its own without (the) help of foreigners.”
A Justice Ministry panel of experts Monday proposed introducing a system of “trusted travelers” to simplify immigration checks on foreign visitors deemed unlikely to be a terrorist or criminal, ministry officials said.
The panel submitted the proposal as a way to lure tourists and businesspeople to Japan and help vitalize the economy.