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A group of foreign nationals who have remained in Japan past the expiration of their visas submitted a petition to the Justice Ministry on Monday, urging the ministry to issue special permission for them to stay in Japan.

The petition is part of the first organized action taken by workers overstaying their visas and their relatives to demand an amnesty, according to the Asian People’s Friendship Society, a citizens’ group supporting them.

A total of 21 people from Bangladesh, Iran and Myanmar who have lived here about 10 years and their supporters submitted the petition, bearing the signatures of members of 110 citizens’ groups nationwide that support their actions.

The group consists of an Iranian man and four Iranian families, a Myanmarese family and a Bangladeshi family. Of the group, eight are minors.

After receiving the petition, Katsumasa Yamada, chief of the Adjudication Division of the ministry’s Immigration Bureau, said the ministry would decide whether to grant special permission after taking into account fairness and adequacy, while also referring to precedent, according to Katsuo Yoshinari, president of APFS. Special permission has rarely been granted to foreigners with no Japanese relatives.

Most of the people involved came to Japan in the early 1990s to find work and eventually brought their families or went on to marry non-Japanese here.

Their children, either born or raised in Japan, are attending regular Japanese schools and are used to life here. Most of the children said they know almost nothing about their native languages and cultures.

Some members of the group could even face persecution if they return to their own countries, Yoshinari claimed.

The workers have supported the Japanese economy at the lowest level by taking work in the so-called “3K” sector (“kitanai,” “kiken” and “kitsui” — dirty, dangerous and tough) while they were needed, but they were dismissed when the economy slowed down, said Gheibi Adel, the group’s Iranian leader.

At the moment, they are not eligible to receive social benefits and rights, such as medical and work insurance, because of their status.

Maong Myintswe, a Myanmarese national, said he had to pay 480,000 yen to cover medical costs when his 2-year-old daughter was hospitalized for two weeks with influenza.

On Sept. 1, the group visited the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau as part of its amnesty appeal, despite the risk that they could be deported by immigration authorities.

The bureau questioned 13 of the adults separately at their homes, the APFS official said. None were taken into custody.

According to Satoshi Murata, a lawyer representing APFS, Japan’s immigration policy is not based on any principle and the cases of most illegal immigrants are considered separately on a case-by-case basis.

“Such organized action can challenge the nation’s inconsistent immigration policy and push the government to establish policy principles that emphasize more human rights,” Murata said.

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