KOFU, Yamanashi Pref. – Foreigners residing in Yamanashi Prefecture who have had their visa renewal applications rejected and are in bureaucratic limbo while awaiting deportation or reapplying to stay, are being kept from joining the state-run health insurance system, it was learned Tuesday.
Support groups for foreigners in this situation said they suspect similar cases can be found throughout the country.
According to officials at Oasis, a support group based in the prefectural capital of Kofu, the situation causes humanitarian problems and violates international rules on human rights.
Oasis will lobby the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the prefectural government to ease regulations regarding health insurance, they said.
Oasis representative Shunji Yamazaki said the current circumstances violate the National Health Insurance Law, which stipulates that insurance will cover “residents of Japan.” The government “is treating foreigners as an adjustment valve, accepting them as labor when the economy is good and rejecting them in times of economic downturn,” he said.
In 2000, according to support groups, authorities refused to renew the visa of a 40-year-old Pakistani man who lives in the town of Ryuo. The man, his wife and their two sons were released provisionally last December.
The Justice Ministry provisionally releases foreigners whose visa renewal applications have been rejected after considering such factors as their living conditions, character and assets.
Those granted provisional release must get their affairs in order and prepare to leave Japan.
They may also apply for special permission to stay in Japan during their provisional release period. Some 2,600 people were provisionally released in 2002, according to the ministry.
The family had enrolled in the health insurance system, but the health ministry notified local municipalities in 1992 that foreign residents in Japan would not be eligible for the system unless they had a proper visa.
Ryuo struck the family from the system in April this year. The father, however, is currently undergoing treatment for gallstones.
In another case, a Peruvian women in Kofu had a baby in April by Caesarean section but has been unable to pay the medical bill, nearly 1 million yen, the group said.
Health ministry officials meanwhile said that under ministry guidelines, only foreigners who have visas that are valid for at least one year are eligible for health insurance. All foreigners under provisional release remain ineligible.