Reader Mail

Does Japan want migrants more than migrants want Japan?

Regarding the June 22 story “European business group urges Japan to relax travel restrictions,” a recent Gallup world poll found that if everyone in the world could live in their dream migration destination, Canada’s net population would increase by 147 percent. For Japan that increase would be 1 percent. With the travel ban only for foreign residents, the Japanese government is playing with a migration sentiment that is already largely negative among current residents and the future caregivers, construction workers and financiers which they so desperately want.

The question is: Does Japan want migrants more than migrants want Japan?

While Prime Minister Abe has notoriously claimed Japan does not have an immigration policy, government action points to the opposite conclusion. In the last several years: loosened permanent residency requirements, the goal of 300,000 international students, the Immigration Bureau boosted to agency status and two new visa types to bring 345,000 migrants.

The coronavirus pandemic has negated even that tepid momentum. Global migration is likely to contract severely in 2020 and beyond. There will be few new “highly skilled professionals” and international students, the Immigration Services Agency is backlogged with visa complications and fewer than 10,000 migrants have even signed up for the new visa types in 2019. Now add a ban on all foreign residents re-entering the country.

All this leaves is a solidifying realization among the international community that we are seen merely as a tax base of convenience, not deserving of the same freedom of movement as Japanese.

Imagine if the government followed through on buzzwords like multiculturalism, harmonious coexistence, inclusion and diversity. They might be able to fill their migration quotas by welcoming would-be migrants away from the U.S. (Trump’s immigration ban), the U.K. (Brexit) and Hong Kong (assertive China).

But again, does Japan want migrants more than migrants want Japan? It’s hard not to say the answer is, and will continue to be, “yes.”

Russell Miller
Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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