A Tokyo-based nonprofit organization opened a temporary telephone hotline Monday to answer questions from foreign residents on anything from visa problems and racial discrimination to finding a doctor.
Organized by the Asian People’s Friendship Society (APFS), the three-day service comes amid a weeklong government campaign to boost awareness of other people’s human rights.
The hotline is giving callers access to third-party counselors, lawyers and interpreters. Whether the problem is social, workplace-related or financial, they will try to help — and can do so in English, Chinese, Korean and Tagalog.
The hotline went live Monday morning and soon became busy. During the hour a reporter was present, eight calls came in.
In one case, a Ugandan man said he has been stopped and frisked by police officers numerous times apparently for no crime other than looking foreign. He called it an abuse of power by authorities.
A Peruvian man called in, asking for help in seeing a doctor. He had no medical insurance. In this case, the advisers passed on contact details for a medical service that could help him.
APFS was set up 27 years ago with the aim of fostering coexistence between Japanese people and the foreigners living among them. It is the first time in 15 years that the group has opened a hotline to coincide with the annual human rights campaign.
APFS representative Jotaro Kato says foreign residents have seen their rights increasingly infringed upon in recent years. The trend may be most evident in the rise of hate speech targeting ethnic Koreans and a government-backed foreign traineeship program that is widely discredited as abusive, he said.
“We fear that in the face of such rising threats to foreigners’ human rights, our society has turned increasingly hostile,” he said.
The hotline is being run from the APFS office in Itabashi Ward, Tokyo. The group will note the kind of problems submitted and may petition government ministries if needed.
The hotline can be reached at 03-3964-7755. Its operating hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday and 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.
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