The Public Management Ministry is strongly resisting a Justice Ministry demand to increase the number of immigration officers in a bid to better crack down on illegal aliens in Japan, according to government sources.

The clash between the two ministries apparently came to a head during a meeting of government vice ministers last Thursday.

Sources said Wednesday that Vice Justice Minister Jinen Nagase crossed swords with Kazuyoshi Endo — vice minister in charge of home affairs at the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry — during the session, with neither side willing to compromise.

The Justice Ministry, which oversees immigration affairs, has demanded that the government beef up the number of immigration officers to tighten control on illegal immigration, which law enforcement authorities see as a growing source of criminal activities.

According to Justice Ministry figures, as of Jan. 1, an estimated 230,000 foreigners were staying in Japan after their entry visas had expired and at least 30,000 more were in Japan after entering the country illegally.

Justice Ministry officials argue that, as a result of a staff shortage, immigration authorities can only follow up on one quarter of reports on illegal immigrants and lack the manpower to rigorously screen for foreigners traveling on forged travel documents.

At the April 12 vice minister meeting, Nagase demanded that the government increase the number of immigration officers from 2,500 at present to 5,000 over the next five years.

Endo countered by saying the problem does not lie with the number of immigration personnel and that the Justice Ministry could make up for the shortage by reshuffling personnel within the ministry.

Instead of allowing any increase in immigration personnel, officials said, the Public Management Ministry is seeking a 25 percent across-the-board cut in government personnel over 10 years in line with administrative reforms.

Government sources said the dispute between the two ministries prompted Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kosei Ueno to offer mediation between the two agencies.

The sources said Ueno plans to hear arguments from both sides and will try to find a middle ground that would allow the Justice Ministry to beef up immigration personnel without infringing on the government’s commitment to administrative reform.

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