A group of foreign residents who have overstayed their visas rallied in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district Sunday to call on the government to grant them special residency permits to remain in Japan and avoid disrupting the lives of their long-settled family members.

Rally organizer Asian People’s Friendship Society said it wants to make more Japanese aware of the nation’s 67,000 visa overstayers and their place in society.

“We have lived diligently, and we will continue to do so. Please don’t forget that we are here,” said Abbasi Majid, 44, an Iranian who has lived in Japan for 21 years and has an 11-year-old daughter with his Filipino wife.

Majid was among some 100 people who participated in Sunday’s rally, which included 34 foreigners who want the government to review their deportation orders. All but two of the 34 have families, and most of their children were born in Japan and are attending Japanese schools.

A 43-year-old Filipino from Saitama Prefecture who has lived in Japan since 1994 said that she and her 38-year-old husband have had trouble finding steady work without the special residency permits, and are relying heavily on donations from nonprofit and church groups.

Her two sons, aged 15 and 6, were born in the country and communicate with their parents mainly in Japanese.

“Immigration told us that our older son can stay in Japan because it was the parents’ fault that he doesn’t have a visa — not his. Of course we want to stay together here as a family,” said the woman, who declined to be named. “We can’t have health insurance for our sons. It’s really painful.”

Lal Dharamasiri, 49, a Sri Lankan from Ibaraki Prefecture, said unless he is granted a special residency permit he will be forced to separate from his 48-year-old Peruvian wife, Natalia Munos Tito, who has a permit to stay.

“It’s true that I overstayed my visa, but I haven’t done anything wrong otherwise. I have to support my wife, who is ill, but I can’t even work now,” Dharamasiri, who has lived in Japan for more than five years, said.

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