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Four business associations Monday were asked by a government council to refrain from hiring foreigners who have entered Japan illegally or overstayed their visas.

The council comprising the National Police Agency, the Justice Ministry and the Labor Ministry is tasked with dealing with illegal foreigner workers and met with representatives from business groups including the Japan Federation of Employers’ Associations and the National Federation of Small Business Associations.

The meeting was held to coincide with the government’s June campaign to crack down on illegal workers. The business groups pledged to cooperate by spreading the message in their meetings and industry newspapers, according to Immigration Bureau officials.

The number of foreigners who have overstayed their visas totaled 276,000 as of Jan. 1, and most of them are believed to be working illegally, bureau officials said. Combined with the number of foreigners who have smuggled themselves into Japan, the total number is estimated at more than 300,000.

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