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An association of human rights groups and researchers presented a draft set of proposals Thursday aimed at addressing the problem of human trafficking, saying that a government plan to beef up punishment for the crime is not enough to combat the problem.

“I can’t see a clear program to protect and support victims” in the government plan now being worked out, said Yoko Yoshida, a lawyer and director of the Japan Network Against Trafficking in Persons.

The group’s draft, which was unveiled during a meeting attended by politicians and government officials, the group urged the government to offer at least 30 days’ protection to all victims.

The group also recommended that the government set up special counseling centers, where victims can receive medical attention, legal advice and job training, and give the victims a legal status that would allow those without visas to stay in Japan.

Japan has been criticized by the international community as a major destination of human trafficking victims.

Human rights groups have said that annually up to 200,000 people, mostly Southeast Asian women, are smuggled into the nation and forced to work in the sex industry.

Nutsiri Suwannakwl, a schoolteacher from the northern Thai village of Jun who attended the meeting, said the way of smuggling people here is becoming more sophisticated as many of the women now end up in Japan through fake marriages rather than being bought by brokers.

The Jun district is well known for supplying many of the people who are bought and sold, and Suwannakwl is in Japan to see some of her former pupils.

In June, Japan was placed on a U.S. State Department’s watch list for not sufficiently tackling its trafficking problem.

Japan has since decided to revise the Penal Code to make human trafficking a crime and tighten its controls on immigration.

Related ministries are working to compile an action plan by year’s end.

But the human rights group has accused the government of neglecting to provide help to the victims, demanding that the state allocate funds for victim aid and create more comprehensive legislation to stop the trafficking.

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