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The Immigration Bureau announced Wednesday that 383 acts of fraud were committed against foreign trainees in 2016, a record high since the current Technical Intern Training Program was launched in 2010.

Major fraudulent acts included 121 cases where trainees went unpaid, with 94 of those involving the forging of paperwork that was submitted to the government to hide such acts. Fifty-one cases involved the use of a fake name so as the trainee could work in nonregistered workplaces.

Of 239 businesses and other organizations reported to have defrauded foreign trainees, 67 were in the agriculture and fisheries sector, 61 in the textiles and clothing sector and 38 in the construction sector. Some 33 business associations were also named.

Organizations that are found to have abused foreign trainees face a suspension from the program of up to five years.

The latest findings show the Technical Intern Training Program is being used by some for purposes other than what it was intended for, which is to “provide training in technical skills, technology (and) knowledge” to workers from developing countries, as stated by the Japan International Training Cooperation Organization.

In addition, numerous human-rights violations have been reported over the years, including cases of overwork and sexual harassment. Passport confiscations have also been reported.

The findings come as the demand for foreign trainees surges nationwide due to growing labor shortages. In 2015, 192,000 non-Japanese were employed under the program.

To prevent rights abuses, a law was enacted in November to improve supervision of organizations that employ foreign nationals taking part in the program.

In accordance with the new law, the government set up an oversight body in January called the Organization for Technical Intern Training, which is authorized to conduct on-site inspections at facilities that employ the trainees.

The headquarters of the new body is located in Tokyo, with plans to set up 13 regional branches throughout the country in early fiscal 2017.

Tomohiko Takao, a labor ministry official, said the main branch is now accepting consultations if requested but is waiting for the law to come into effect next November before becoming fully operational.

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