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This week’s featured article

TOMOHIRO OSAKI, THE JAPAN TIMES

Visa overstayers facing deportation orders marched through Tokyo’s Ginza district on Wednesday afternoon, pleading for permission to remain in a country that many have called home for decades.

Organized by the Asian People’s Friendship Society (APFS) nonprofit organization, the parade featured about 70 visa overstayers from countries such as the Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Iran, as well as their families and supporters.

“We’re deeply sorry that we broke Japan’s rules,” said a Filipino mother of two boys. “But for the future of our children, we beg the Japanese government to let us stay in Japan.”

After losing lawsuits against the government, she and her Filipino husband were told by immigration authorities this year that only their elder son, now aged 18, can remain in Japan. She, her husband and their other son were told to leave.

Like her, many visa overstayers today came to work in Japan in the late 1980s and early ’90s to meet a labor shortage in the bubble economy, said APFS representative Jotaro Kato. Hungry for labor, the country welcomed them in and turned a blind eye to their presence after their initial tourist visas expired, he added. Once demand for their labor subsided, however, authorities began to crack down on overstayers, Kato said.

“Their situation was often caused by some forces beyond their control, such as labor policies by the government,” Kato said.

It’s unjust that the foreigners should be repatriated — not to mention separated from their own children — Kato said.

Article 9 of the U.N.-designated Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Japan has ratified, states that “a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will.”

First published in The Japan Times on April 30.

Warm up

One-minute chat about “If I live abroad.”

Game

Collect words related to foreign countries; e.g., “visa,” “airport,” “travel,” etc.

New words

1) deportation: removal from a country; e.g., “The family got a deportation order.”

2) plead: to beg; e.g., “He pleaded for his life.”

3) expire: to come to an end; e.g., “The ticket has already expired.”

4) subside: to become less active; e.g., “The argument started to subside.”

Guess the headline

Visa o_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _s ma_ _ _ for right to re_ _ _ _ in Japan

Questions

1) What did the people in the parade want?

2) Why did the overstayers originally come to Japan?

3) What happened to change the attitude of the Japanese government to foreign workers?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Do you think Japan is welcoming to immigrants who have eligible visas?

2) Do you think visa overstayers should be sent home even when their children remain in Japan?

3) How do you think should this situation should be resolved?

Reference

異国の地で長く働き、生きていくという事は生半可なことではありません。

頼れる人もなく、文化も違う中で心細い思いをする中、それでも何年何十年と住み続けていれば、その地に愛着を感じ自分のいるべき国だという思いも強まっていくでしょう。 しかし、国家経済の変化などを理由に愛着を感じていた場所に牙を向けられたと感じる人々がいます。

むろん法は守るべきものですが、人の人生も尊重されるべきものであり、自国民でないからと言うだけで経済の都合などにあわせて振り回して良いわけはありません。

日本の介護福祉業界などでの活躍を期待しアジアとの人材パートナーシップが深まりつつあります。彼らの労働力を甘受するだけでなく、各個人、そしてその家族の人生に対して責任も負うことを意識していかなければいけないでしょう。

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