More than 30 foreign residents of Tokyo gathered Tuesday at Shibuya Workers’ Welfare Hall for a brainstorming session on ways to improve life for the city’s foreign community.

In a public meeting held by Tokyo Foreigners’ Advisory Council to the Governor, participants put forward such ideas as holding regular meetings on specific issues or setting up a hotline. “We held this unofficial meeting to assess what kind of opinions people of the foreign community have,” said Peter Barakan, vice chairman of the council.

“We can hardly represent the whole community,” said Barakan, who pointed out that the 25-member council equates to one council member for every 10,000 foreign residents. “It’s very difficult for (foreigners) to have a say in the government, unlike in the West,” said participant Carina Morita, who came to Japan from the Philippines 10 years ago and now works as a telephone counselor. “The Japanese government takes good care of the Japanese with services such as child or welfare counseling. I’d like the same services to be more easily available for foreigners as well,” she said.

Amelia Inoue, the council’s chairwoman, said the meeting was significant because it allowed the council to hear the true feelings of different people. “We should collect their voices and begin acting to tackle each issue, such as the high unemployment rate among foreign residents,” she said.

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