Summer post: Human Rights Watch calls for law against racial discrimination in Japan, in light of COVID and BLM

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Hi Blog.  It’s deep summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and as always, Debito.org is taking a more relaxed stance towards posts with deep commentary this time of year.  Better yet, when people send me items that can be copy-pasted, that makes blogging even easier.  So let me turn the keyboard over to Debito.org Reader Mark, who sends the following.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Dear Debito,

Doi Kanae, a Japanese Lawyer (specialized in Immigration, Refugees and Constitutional Law) wrote an article in Human Rights Watch calling for Japan to pass a law against racial discrimination. This can be published on Debito.org as an entire post in Japanese with English translation:

https://www.hrw.org/ja/news/2020/06/19/375529

Regards, Mark

Japanese Original:
「ブラック・ライブズ・マター」(黒人の命も大切だ)と、人種差別に抗議するデモが米国から世界に広がり、日本でも行われた。日本も批准する人種差別撤廃条約で、人種差別とは人種だけでなく皮膚の色や民族による差別も含むとされる。

日本でも在日コリアンなど、差別や偏見にさらされてきた人々がいる。二〇一七年公表の法務省調査では、外国人であることを理由に就職を断られた人が25%、入居を断られた人が約四割いた。差別を受けてどこかに相談した人は約11%。被害者が泣き寝入りしている実態が浮かび上がる。

新型コロナウイルス拡大前、日本は慢性的な人手不足にあり、政府は新たな在留資格を創設した。感染が収束すれば、外国人を積極的に迎える状況に戻るだろう。人種、民族、宗教、国籍が異なる多くの人たちと一緒に生きる社会に向けて、日本は準備ができていないと言わざるを得ない。

私は長年、多くの先進国と同様に日本も「人種差別禁止法」を制定する必要があると考えてきた。政府がルールを示す効果は、男女雇用機会均等法が成立して数十年で、採用や解雇、セクハラなどの分野で社会が大きく変わったことを考えればわかりやすい。真の男女平等には遠いとはいえ、もし法律もなかったらと考えると、空恐ろしい。

今こそ、人種差別禁止法の議論を始めるときだ。

(ヒューマン・ライツ・ウォッチ日本代表)
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Google’s Translation:

“Black Lives Matter” (black lives are also important) and a protest against racism spread from the United States to the world and were held in Japan. The Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is also ratified by Japan, is said to include not only racial discrimination but also discrimination based on skin color and ethnicity.

Even in Japan, there are people who have been exposed to discrimination and prejudice, such as Koreans living in Japan. According to a Ministry of Justice survey released in 2017, 25% of the people were refused employment because they were foreigners, and about 40% were refused. About 11% of people consulted somewhere because of discrimination. The fact that the victim is crying himself to sleep instead of getting assistance becomes apparent.

Before the spread of the new coronavirus, Japan had a chronic shortage of manpower and the government created a new status of residence. Once the infection is settled, it will return to the situation of actively accepting foreigners. It must be said that Japan is not ready for a society that lives with many people of different races, ethnicities, religions, and nationalities.

For many years, I have thought that Japan, like many developed countries, needs to enact “Racism Prevention Law.” The effect of the government’s rule is easy to understand, considering the fact that societies have changed significantly in the fields of hiring, dismissal, and sexual harassment in the decades since the Equal Employment Opportunity Law was enacted. Though far from true gender equality, it would be horrifying if there were no law.

Now is the time to start discussing anti-racism laws.

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3 comments on “Summer post: Human Rights Watch calls for law against racial discrimination in Japan, in light of COVID and BLM

  • The New York Times just joined our cause and published a great article:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/05/business/japan-entry-ban-coronavirus.html

    Japan’s Locked Borders Shake the Trust of Its Foreign Workers

    A pandemic policy that bars re-entry for many permanent and long-term residents has upended many lives and undercut Tokyo’s efforts to woo global capital and talent.

    TOKYO — When Jeff Mazziotta, a director of a nonprofit wildlife conservation organization, left Japan for South Africa in early March, he planned to spend a month training park rangers on emergency field medicine before returning to Tokyo.

    Nearly five months later, Mr. Mazziotta is still stuck abroad. He is one of nearly 100,000 foreign residents of Japan who have been prevented from re-entering the country since April under its stringent coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

    Japan’s rules, which stand out for making permanent and long-term residents ineligible for travel privileges granted to citizens, have left Mr. Mazziotta and many others in a difficult bind.

    He has been forced to rely on a friend for financial support because he has little cash and no access to his Japanese bank account. His office in Japan, where he works as an English teacher to supplement his nonprofit work, put him on unpaid leave, and he has been unable to pay the rent on his Tokyo apartment.

    “How am I going to recover from four months of lost pay and the bills that have been building up?” Mr. Mazziotta, an American citizen, said during a video chat in late July. Foreign residents who feel abandoned, he added, are “questioning the time and energy they spent building a life in Japan.”

    Japan, a country known for its hospitality but also for casting a sometimes wary eye on its foreign residents, has been promoting itself as the premier Asian destination for global capital and talent, with an eye on wooing financial firms fleeing Hong Kong. But its treatment of foreign residents during the pandemic has undercut that message and shaken the trust of the country’s international community.

    In response, Japan has said it will ease some of the re-entry rules to gradually allow those like Mr. Mazziotta who have been trapped abroad to return to the country. But the changes do not apply to everyone: As many as 17,000 long-term residents of Japan could remain stuck outside the country, according to government data.

    For many, the damage is done: The restrictions have split up families, hurt careers and caused students to miss months of school. Some of those stranded outside the country have been saddled with mountains of debt as they continue to pay taxes and rents on homes in Japan while also bearing the costs of being abroad.

    The ban has also affected the 2.5 million foreigners who remain in Japan. Many have faced agonizing decisions over whether to leave to care for a dying parent, grieve the loss of a loved one or reunite with a spouse or child, knowing that doing so may make it impossible to return.

    “If you’re thinking about setting up your business in a place that is as safe and predictable as possible, Japan certainly has that in its favor,” said Christopher LaFleur, the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

    But “the policy in terms of travel has de facto discriminated against the foreign national residents of Japan,” he said, adding that it “certainly is going to weigh on people’s calculus in the months ahead.”

    Japan is far from the only country to tighten its borders to control the spread of the virus, with many nations restricting or even stopping short-term travel for business and tourism. All told, Japan has banned entry from 146 countries, including places, like New Zealand and Taiwan, that appear to have eradicated the virus.

    Both New Zealand and Taiwan allow long-term residents to travel freely, requiring only a quarantine period upon arrival. Japan, by contrast, is the only member of the Group of 7 industrialized nations to restrict travel by foreign residents while allowing its citizens to come and go as they please.

    Japanese officials have said the restrictions on foreign residents are necessary to protect the country from the larger-scale outbreaks abroad and to avoid overwhelming the capacity of airports to test travelers for infection.

    More than six months into the crisis, Japan can test only about 33,000 people a day — far fewer than nearly all of its peer countries. Around 3,000 of those tests have been reserved for the country’s international airports — administered to both Japanese and foreign travelers — with plans to increase the number to about 10,000 in September.

    Long-term residents have generally been unable to re-enter Japan since April 3. Those who have sought to leave after that date are allowed to return only if they fall into one of a handful of special categories, including “humanitarian” exemptions allowing them to care for a sick relative or attend a parent’s funeral.

    But the guidelines are ill defined, and even for those who would seem to meet the requirements, return is not guaranteed. Before leaving the country, travelers must sign a document acknowledging that they may not be allowed to return. The final decision rests with the immigration agent who greets them at the airport.

    Julie Sergent, a consultant in the hospitality industry, made three unsuccessful attempts to leave the country to spend time with her family after her father’s death.

    She said that in late July, a month after her most recent attempt, officials told her that her situation did not qualify for re-entry, questioning why she would still need to grieve with her family when so much time had passed since her father’s funeral.

    “I promote Japan; I want the country to do well,” she said. But, she added, “if this situation drags on too long, I might take the decision to leave Japan and move to a country where I have more rights.”

    Immigration officials said they could not comment about individual cases.

    The travel rules have also made it harder for many people to do business. Mark Borer, a permanent resident of Japan, where he has lived for 25 years, owns a small plastics recycling company in Gunma Prefecture, northwest of Tokyo, that employs some 20 people, including six workers from Vietnam. He also has a real estate business in the United States.

    The restrictions have hampered both ventures, he said in a recent phone call, noting that he and his employees alike had been unable to travel for either business or personal matters since April, when Japan briefly declared a national emergency.

    “I really love the country, and I’ve been here half my life,” he said, but “it’s a punch in the gut.”

    If the restrictions are not lifted in the next few months, he said, “you’re forced to think maybe we need to end up selling or closing down the business here.”

    It’s not just foreign-owned businesses that have been affected. Japanese construction companies, said Gordon Hatton, co-chairman of the real estate committee at the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, have become increasingly reliant on foreign workers to fulfill a range of functions from manual labor to structural engineering.

    If foreign employees “have to leave for some personal reason and they can’t come back,” he said, “that’s a huge waste for the Japanese companies as well, not just these individuals, so it has an impact on the bigger economy.”

    Aware of foreign residents’ concerns, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said last month that Japan would loosen some of the rules. On Wednesday, immigration officials said at a news conference that they had begun readmitting those who left before the start of the restrictions in April.

    But even as they moved to loosen restrictions, officials added 17 countries to the re-entry ban list and instituted a rule requiring that travelers take a coronavirus test and receive a negative result no more than 72 hours before departing for Japan. That may be impossible for residents who are stuck in countries where tests are in short supply or results come slowly.

    The Asahi Shimbun, a leading newspaper, reported that Japan would initially allow an additional 500 foreigners a day to re-enter. That low figure, as well as the uncertainty over how the loosening would be carried out, has led people like Keifer Castigador, an engineer from the Philippines who left Japan in late February, to be wary of trying to return.

    Mr. Castigador went to the Philippines to help his wife recover from an emergency cesarean section. He tried to return in May, when Japan announced that it was reopening to residents who had qualified for a humanitarian exemption. He confirmed his status with Japanese officials, but when he tried to re-enter the country, he was turned away, he said.

    He was held in detention for a night at his own expense and returned to the Philippines, he said, where he had to go into quarantine. He is now waiting to see how the new rules play out before he tries to return.

    “We’re sitting it out this time because it was too much for us last time,” he said.

    For Mr. Mazziotta, the English teacher, the experience has left an indelible impression. He has applied to the Japanese Embassy in South Africa for permission to return under the new rules, but has not yet heard back. His Japanese work visa runs out in September, and with no clarity about when he will be allowed to return, he is beginning to lose hope.

    “Even if I can go back,” he said, “I wonder if the mountain that has been built is too difficult to climb.”
    ENDS

  • Teachers at international schools are exempt from this.
    This was in Japan Today on August 5th.

  • Japan Top Bureaucrats still have their same old ideas !

    – In 1986, Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone said:

    …””Japan is now a highly educated and fairly intelligent society,” Nakasone said, using English for the words “intelligent society.” “Much more so than America, on the average. In America, there are quite a few black people, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans. On the average, it is still very low.”

    – In 2020, the Deputy Prime Minister (Taro Aso) said regarding the coronavirus:

    “I often got phone calls from (people) in other countries asking, ‘Do you guys have your own special medicine or something?’”

    “I told these people, ‘Between your country and our country, mindo (the level of people) is different.’ And that made them speechless and quiet. Every time,” Aso boasted.

    Mindo is a word often used by politicians and others to invoke Japanese nationalism and ethnic superiority and can refer to things like culture and social manners.

    ——————————–
    References:
    1986: https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1986/09/24/nakasone-suggests-minorities-put-us-society-behind-japans/aa67c979-4dff-42e7-9a13-ba93f4a07c1f/

    2020: http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13432875

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