The government plans to impose stricter work-visa requirements on foreign entertainers to fight human trafficking, according to the outline of a draft action plan.
The stepped-up measures on the entry of foreign dancers, singers and other performing artists would put particular focus on Filipino women, who constitute the bulk of entrants to Japan using such visas.
According to Justice Ministry figures, about 130,000 foreign nationals enter Japan each year with entertainment visas. About 80,000 come from the Philippines, compared with 6,000 to 7,000 each from the United States, China and Russia.
The government intends to lower the number of Filipinos on such visas to about 8,000, government sources said.
According to the action plan outline, obtained Tuesday, the government plans to abolish a Justice Ministry provision that allows entertainers officially certified in their home countries as musicians, singers or dancers to receive an automatic entertainment visa here.
The ministry currently gives a six-month residency status to certified foreign entertainers.
Two other categories of foreign entertainers are eligible for the visas — those who majored in singing, dancing or art for more than two years at an educational institution and those with more than two years of “relevant” experience overseas.
Human rights activists say that many Asian women with entertainment visas are forced to work in Japan’s sex industry because their passports are taken away from them by their handlers.
The document said that in such cases, the government will protect them as victims of human trafficking and not as criminals because they have overstayed their visas.
In cases where the victims are taken into custody, the government will give them special permission to stay in Japan for a short period to testify in criminal proceedings against those who have victimized them, according to the plan.
The government will also give assistance to the victims should they wish to return to their home countries by paying their airfare, it said, adding the victims will be sent to women’s counseling centers rather than immigration detention centers.
The plan calls for stronger measures against perpetrators of human trafficking through such means as revising the Penal Code and creating a law that directly bans human trafficking.
The moves come after the U.S. State Department in June downgraded its assessment of Japan’s efforts to prevent human trafficking. The government subsequently expedited measures, deciding on compiling an action plan by December.
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