National

Japan asks five embassies to urge voluntary return of illegal residents

Kyodo

Immigration authorities have asked the embassies of four Asian countries and Taiwan’s representative office to promote voluntary repatriation of their nationals staying in Japan illegally, Justice Ministry sources said Wednesday.

Faced with an increasing number of foreign nationals illegally staying in Japan, the ministry’s Immigration Bureau made the request to the embassies of China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, as well as the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Japan, which functions as Taiwan’s de facto embassy, the sources said.

The number of such illegal residents came to about 63,000 as of Jan. 1, with the biggest number coming from South Korea, with around 13,000, followed by China, according to the bureau.

The Immigration Bureau asked the embassies to use their websites or distribute translated brochures to let their nationals know about the “departure order system,” under which foreign nationals can return to their home countries without detention if they fulfill certain conditions such as reporting voluntarily to an immigration office.

The departure order system, aimed at drastically reducing the number of illegal foreign residents in Japan, was introduced with the amendment in 2004 to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law.

While those deported from Japan cannot re-enter the country for at least five years, those leaving Japan under the departure order system can do so after spending one year abroad.

After peaking at about 298,600 in 1993, the number of foreign nationals illegally staying in the country was on the decrease until two years ago when the trend changed.

The reversal of the trend is believed to reflect the relaxation of visa requirements for some Asian nationals and the rising number of missing non-Japanese who came to Japan through the nation’s foreign technical intern training program, according to experts.

The Immigration Bureau is tightening its control and calling on companies that hire foreigners to abide by limitations of employment indicated on resident cards.

On Monday, police arrested a Filipino woman in Aichi Prefecture for illegally staying in Japan for over two decades.

The woman, who works at a local pub, came to Japan in June 1995 on an entertainment visa and overstayed even though the visa expired in December of that year.