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  • Mainichi: Collapsed international marriages raise child abduction issue

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 2nd, 2008

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

    HI Blog.  This issue is increasingly garnering attention.  Good.  Debito in haste in Tokyo, speaking at JALT in two hours.

    Collapsed international marriages raise child abduction issue

    (Mainichi Japan) October 25, 2008, Courtesy of MS

    http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20081025p2a00m0na009000c.html

    Japanese women from collapsed international marriages are increasingly bringing their children to Japan without confirming custody rights, creating diplomatic problems between Japan and other countries, it has emerged.

    In one case three years ago, a Japanese woman’s marriage to a Swedish man collapsed and she brought their child to Japan. Later when she traveled to the United States by herself she was detained, as police in Sweden had put her on an international wanted list through Interpol for child abduction. She was sent to Sweden and put on trial.

    The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction bans people from taking their children to their home country after a collapsed marriage without confirming issues such as custody and visitation rights of the country in which they are living. The convention has about 80 signatory countries, mainly in Europe and North America, but Japan is not one of them.

    Among cases known to foreign governments, there are about 50 cases between Japan and the U.S. in which foreign husbands are requesting custody of children brought to Japan by Japanese women, and about 30 such cases between Japan and Canada. Similar cases exist between Japan and countries such as Britain, Australia and Italy.

    In such cases, when foreign husbands file lawsuits in Japan seeking custody or visitation rights, their claims are rarely accepted, and the tough barriers put up by Japan in such cases have caused frustration.

    In March this year, the Canadian Embassy in Japan held a symposium on the child abduction convention that was attended by Canadian and U.S. government officials. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also commented on the issue when he came to Japan during the July G8 summit. Some diplomatic officials have criticized Japan, saying that Japan, while criticizing North Korea’s abductions, it is carrying out abductions itself.

    Among the Japanese women who have come back to Japan with their children, there are apparently some who have fled due to violence from their husbands. In other cases they have apparently concluded that they would not be able to win court custody lawsuits because they don’t know much about the other country and can’t speak the language well. There are also many who don’t realize that their actions constitute child abduction under the convention, and that they risk the same consequences as in the case in Sweden.

    Japanese Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry figures show that the number of international marriages climbed from 27,700 in 2005 to 44,700 in 2006, about 1.6 times more. At the same time, divorces increased from 7,990 to 17,100 — more than doubling.

    Considering that bringing children to Japan without confirming custody could constitute abduction, the Foreign Ministry has started to consider informing Japanese in international marriages through diplomatic establishments abroad. (By Megumi Nishikawa, Expert Senior Writer)

    (Mainichi Japan) October 25, 2008

    4 Responses to “Mainichi: Collapsed international marriages raise child abduction issue”

    1. AWK Says:

      >…Later when she traveled to the United States by herself she was detained, as police in Sweden had put her on an international wanted list through Interpol for child abduction. She was sent to Sweden and put on trial.<

      Very good example. All foreign governments should follow Sweden. In such cases J spouses would be stuck in Japan, no travel free outside their country, heaven for abductors. Wherever they go, they would be detained. Is Japan doing anything to protect their “innocent” (in Japan) citizens against detention abroad. They always cry out loud if something happens to Japanese.

    2. Ahmed Says:

      Hello Debito,

      I am sorry this is not related to this topic but I could not find your e-mail and I thought this is the best way to bring this annoying news to your attention and all your blog readers. If you think it needs a separate blog entry, please do.

      I read this in Yomiyuri and I can not believe it.

      http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20081102TDY02303.htm

      Chinese-born Japanese wrongly held for not carrying passport
      The Yomiuri Shimbun
      YOKOHAMA–A Chinese-born woman with Japanese citizenship was wrongly arrested on suspicion of violating the Immigrant Control and Refugee Recognition Law by not carrying her passport with her in Tsurumi Ward, Yokohama, the Kanagawa prefectural police said Saturday.
      The 41-year old woman, who was born in Shanghai, came to Japan and married a Japanese man in 1999. She obtained Japanese citizenship in 2000.
      But the police station in Tsurumi Ward failed to go through the necessary procedures of inquiring the immigration authorities about her status before arresting her, the Kanagawa prefectural police’s Foreign Affairs Division said.
      According to the prefectural police, the police station received a call Friday afternoon saying that the woman tried to steal a toothbrush worth 350 yen from a drugstore in the ward. The police then questioned the woman on a voluntary basis.
      The police officer who questioned her said he thought she must be a foreigner from the way she spoke and asked her to present her passport. As she told the officer that she had sent her Chinese passport back to Shanghai, the officer arrested her on suspicion of breaking the law.
      But after being arrested, she claimed she possessed a Japanese passport, so the police contacted the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau and were informed about her identity and her Japanese citizenship. She was released about five hours after the arrest.
      ——————–
      My surprises in this story are:
      1- How it comes that (she came to Japan and married a Japanese man in 1999. She obtained Japanese citizenship in 2000)?? Is that possible to obtain Japanese citizenship in one year?
      2- If the woman was already caught shoplifting then why the police questioned her on a voluntary basis?
      3- What is the way she spoke that made the officer to think that she must be a foreigner? Her accent? Her choice of words? Was not she speaking to him in Japanese?
      4- Even if the officer thought she must be a foreigner should he ask for a passport or an alien registration card?
      5- Is it believable that when he asked her about her passport; instead of telling him I am a Japanese citizen (8 years ago) so I do not need to carry a passport inside Japan, she told him: she had sent her Chinese passport back to Shanghai??? I personally would imagine (although of course I have no mean to verify this but it is more logic) that she told hem that I am a (naturalized) Japanese citizen but he did not believe her and insisted that she is a foreigner and accordingly arrested her for not carrying her align card/passport (not for shoplifting!!!).
      6- Is it believable that she kept her Japanese nationality as a secret till she was formally arrested so that the Police claim that (But after being arrested, she claimed she possessed a Japanese passport)???
      7- Why they say (Japanese PASSPORT)? Is it different from She is Japanese or Japanese national).
      8- Thanks God, They could contact the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau and confirm her Japanese citizenship within five hours so she was released but what if it was weekend or year end holiday, would she have remained in custody for several days only because the police officer judged from the way she spoke that she must be a foreigner????
      9- Still what happened to the shoplifting case? Is it not a crime (only for Japanese nationals) to steal from drug stores? Or it was just a fiction to cover up?
      10- Should not the police issue a guide for Japanese people especially naturalized ones what is the correct way to speak so that they would not be considered as foreigners and get arrested?
      11- Was any official apology issued for her from that smart officer or from his department bosses??

    3. anonymous Says:

      “Among the Japanese women who have come back to Japan with their children, there are apparently some who have fled due to violence from their husbands. In other cases they have apparently concluded that they would not be able to win court custody lawsuits because they don’t know much about the other country and can’t speak the language well.”

      Why is it that always japanese media is trying someway or another to justify japanese people actions, like in this paragraph?. Abduction is not acceptable, only on ‘cultural grounds’. I agree with AWK, every person, japanese or not japanese, who commits an international abduction should be put on the Interpol wanted list and brought to trial.

    4. PnetQ Says:

      (This comment is not to the main entry, but to Ahmed’s comment posted as #2.)

      Ahmed,

      With the past records of the cases the police botched up, I can share with you your doubt about the validity of their announcement, to some degree. However, as far as this case is concerned, judging from the information I got from the Japanese language media, I think I can help you solve some of your suspicions at least.

      The Daily Yomiuri that you showed us seems to be the only one English news source available. I have found four Japanese language articles in the internet which cover this topic: Yomiuri, Mainichi, 47 News (Kyodo), NIKKEI NET

      Among them, the content of the (Japanese) Yomiuri is almost same as that of the Daily Yomiuri, so I translated part of the other three articles.

      (1) The First Inquiry Which Went Wrong for an Unknown Reason
      What is clear to us, and the police have admitted themselves, is they breached their own procedural regulation that an inquiry be made as to the status of residence, prior to the arrest taking place. However, according to the police, they made an inquiry at least immediately after the arrest, but the inquiry went wrong for an unknown reason.

      Mainichi, Nov. 1, ’08
      ” … Immediately after the arrest, the police made an inquiry about her status of residence to the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau. The Bureau replied that her status hadn’t been renewed since the spring of 2002.
      However, around the evening, the woman revealed that she had Japanese citizenship. The prefectural police made the second inquiry to the TRIB and was informed that she had acquired Japanese citizenship in the fall of 2000. … ”

      47 News (Kyodo), Nov. 1, ’08
      “According to the prefectural police, they made an inquiry to the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau immediately after the arrest, but they were not informed of the fact that the woman had Japanese citizenship.”

      It is not clear who to blame for this mistake. The Kanagawa prefectural police may have made their inquiry in an inappropriate way. The staff at the Immigration Authority may have been careless in their reply. Or there may have been some inconsistency in the data. Anyway, if it were not for this unfortunate mistake, the length of the ordeal of the woman would have been considerably shortened.

      On the other hand, even if the police had followed their regulation, and made the inquiry prior to the arrest, the same unknown reason might have prevented the woman’s Japanese citizenship from being known to the police. The cause of this mistake must be clarified.

      (2) What Actually Went On between the Police and the Woman
      What we cannot be certain about is what conversations took place between the police staff and the woman. Since we don’t have 100 percent confidence in the validity of the police announcement, and we cannot make contact with this woman, we can only guess what happened.

      However, having read the articles in Japanese, I have in mind a picture of the incident quite different from what I suppose you have. It seems to me that it was the woman who tried to hide her Japanese citizenship.

      Mainichi, Nov. 1, ’08
      “According to the Kanagawa prefectural police’s Foreign Affairs Division, around 1:30 pm, Oct. 31, the police station in Tsurumi Ward got a phone call from a drugstore in the ward informing that they had caught a woman who shoplifted a tooth brush. (At the drugstore,) the police asked the woman to come to the police station on a voluntary basis because she said with a strong Chinese accent, that her nationality was China, and didn’t carry her passport with her. At the police station, the woman let known only her name and date of birth to the police, so they decided that she was Chinese and arrested her on suspicion of violating the Immigrant Control and Refugee Recognition Law. … ”

      47 News (Kyodo), Nov. 1, ’08
      “According to the prefectural police’s Foreign Affairs Division, … to the questioning, she only replied that she was from China, and didn’t tell other information such as her address. The police, then, decided she was Chinese and arrested her. Later, she revealed she had Japanese citizenship.”

      NIKKEI NET
      “According to the police, … when asked by the police, the woman replied in Japanese with a Chinese accent that her nationality was China and she had sent her Passport back to China.”

      According the reports above, the woman didn’t reveal her Japanese citizenship until the evening. I can only guess, but I guess that when you are in a humiliating situation like hers, the first thing you are likely to do is try not to let that known to your family. Her Japanese citizenship derives from her marriage. I think she feared that this incident might be known to her husband by revealing her Japanese citizenship. It is likely that she hoped she could get away with this because it was merely about a tooth brush. In the end, she realized what situation she was in, and revealed her Japanese citizenship.

      I think this is what happened. I don’t know if you agree with my interpretation or not, but I believe the police was not as unreasonable in their questioning her as you imagined first.

      (3) The Police Apologized to the Woman
      47 News (Kyodo), Nov. 1, ’08
      “After releasing her, the prefectural police apologized to the woman.”

      NIKKEI NET
      ” … The prefectural police apologized to the woman.”

      Yes, the police did apologize.

      (4) The Importance of the Japanese Language Information
      I think the information from the Japanese language media I cited above can be the answer to your questions 2, 3, 5-8, 10, and 11. As for the rest of your questions, that is 1, 4, and 9, I’d like to leave them to Debito and the readers of this blog because I believe they are much better prepared to answer them than I am.

      The English language media is deplorably insufficient when it comes to covering things happening in Japan on a day-to-day basis. If you don’t feel you are ready to relying on the Japanese language media yourself, it is advised that you seek for somebody’s help. Debito.org, as I did this time, would be one of the choices.

      In addition, I strongly recommend you find someone around you who can help you with the Japanese information. It shouldn’t necessarily be a native Japanese speaker, but it is desirable that the person is relying on the Japanese media for his/her daily life too. He/she shouldn’t necessarily be an expert of some kind. Just anybody. I believe there are many out there who are willing to help you.

      For those who are OK with Japanese, I put the links to the Japanese articles available in the net, part of which I translated above.
      Yomiuri, Nov. 1, ’08
      http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/national/news/20081101-OYT1T00335.htm?from=navr
      Mainichi, Nov. 1, ’08
      http://mainichi.jp/select/jiken/news/20081101k0000e040053000c.html
      NIKKEI NET
      http://www.nikkei.co.jp/news/shakai/20081101AT1G0100U01112008.html
      47 news (Kyodo)
      http://www.47news.jp/CN/200811/CN2008110101000337.html

      Kind of Disclaimer 1:
      I’m not a professional translator. I tried to make my translations as accurate as possible, but there might be some errors. I’d be glad if you could point them out.

      Kind of Disclaimer 2:
      I apologize in advance for my assuming you are not yet ready to read the Japanese language media. If you are OK with Japanese, please forget about my unnecessary advice and go to the Japanese articles to which I provided the links. I believe you agree on the importance of the Japanese language information.

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