Staff writer

The government should review its immigration policy and give more consideration to human rights, claims a family of Iranians living in Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward whose visas expired in 1991 and whose fate is now in the hands of the authorities.

Taghibeigloo Shahroklt, 40, his wife, Padidar Nahid, 30, their 12-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son were among 21 illegal residents who visited the Tokyo Regional Immigration Office on Sept. 1. They have filed a request with the justice minister that they be granted special permission to live permanently in Japan.

“Immigration policy requires a long-term vision and consideration of human rights, because it affects people’s lives. But Japan’s immigration policy, which has been marked by its exclusiveness and inconsistency, lacks such elements,” Shahroklt said in a interview with The Japan Times earlier this week.

The Sept. 1 appeal to the Immigration Bureau is the first collective request for amnesty undertaken by people who have overstayed their visas and have no Japanese relatives.

Asked why they took part in the action, which inevitably puts them at risk of deportation, Shahroklt said it was a “necessary move to draw a future picture” for their children.

“Although my children are raised no different from Japanese children, they are denied social welfare, a college education and probably employment opportunities they will want,” Shahroklt said.

Nahid said her children have grown up in Japan, are accustomed to the lifestyle here and, with a minimal knowledge of their native language and culture, would have great difficulty living in Iran.

Shahroklt also claimed that their lives might be endangered if they are deported to Iran.

In 1991, the family came to Japan on three-month tourist visas, but have remained in Japan illegally since then. Their daughter was 4 when the family came and now attends a public elementary school. Their son was born here.

As a result of the prolonged recession, Shahroklt now has work only once a week, and his income as a plumber has plummeted to one-third of the 350,000 yen per month he used to make. Nahid has worked part-time at a restaurant to make ends meet.

“When the economy slowed down, I was among the first to be deprived of working opportunities and my employment insecurity, because I don’t have a visa, has made our family extremely vulnerable both financially and psychologically,” he said.

Although they have paid taxes, the family is ineligible for health care and other social benefits, forcing them to set aside a substantial part of their income as savings to cover possible accidents, sickness or long-term unemployment, Nahid said.

Shahroklt said he and his wife may deserve their current situation, when the fact that they have been staying in Japan illegally is taken into account, but it is unfair that his children, for whom Japan is home, have to live without fundamental rights and future prospects.

Although questioning of individuals who request amnesty usually takes 18 to 24 months, the Immigration Bureau finished questioning all 21 applicants in the six weeks after they filed their request with the bureau on Sept. 1.

Katsuo Yoshinari, a lawyer and president of the Asian People’s Friendship Society, which supports the group, says the unusual swiftness of the bureau indicates that it has cut short the procedures for compiling full reports on each case.

Whether these people are granted visas depends on the justice minister’s judgment of their cases.

Yoshinari criticized the bureau for apparently trying to conclude these cases before their human rights activities attract the public’s attention.

“This must be a bad sign for amnesty efforts, because it means the arbitrary and inhuman immigration policy of the Japanese government has yet to be altered,” he said.

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