“Proposed tightening of Foreigner residency control draws negative reactions”
Asahi Shinbun, April 30, 2009, page 3.
Scan of article at very bottom.
The review of the proposed new section of the laws controlling residency of foreigners in Japan under exit and entry laws for foreigners is currently taking place in the Legal Subcommittee of the Lower House. Although on one hand it is expected that the law will have the effect of reducing illegal residency in Japan, on the other hand criticism is being heard that this law “Can be seen as nothing more than making foreigners (residing in Japan) an object of surveillance”.
Under the current system of foreigner registration, which the government leaves up to local governments, there is no attempt to determine whether foreigners are residing legally in Japan or not.Even Illegal residents can apply for foreigner registration at any local government office because this is used as an identity card to open a bank account or look for work.
Because information on immigration status is under the management of the Ministry of Justice, there is no obligation for foreigners to report change of address so it is difficult to discover their exact residency status.To end this problem, the Ministry of Justice has proposed a system whereby all different status reports are brought under one roof.
The central tenet of this (proposed) system is a “Residency Card”. It will use an IC Chip to be hard to counterfeit, and will carry the name, address and immigration status of the holder.It will also carry information on work permissions, enabling speedy discovery of illegal workers. All foreigners above the age of 16 who have resided in Japan for more than three months will be required to carry it and be subject to criminal penalties if discovered without it. The present Gaikokujin Torokusho will be abolished.
The Ministry of Justice further contends that the number of items actually reported on will be reduced as compared to the present Gaikokujin Torokusho: Residency will be increased from the current limit of three years to five years and application, changes and renewal will be simplified along with other changes that the Ministry of Justice insists will make it more convenient for foreigners.
However, negative reactions, mainly from human rights NPO groups that support foreigners are very strong. Numerous faults with the law, have been pointed out one after the other–The requirement that foreigners carry the residency card with them at all times is excessive, criminal penalties for not carrying it are too heavy, canceling residency privileges because of errors in reporting address or because of getting married without reporting it are too severe, the human rights of foreigners who are attempting to flee from domestic violence are not protected, refugees, whose necessarily must undergo a lengthy administrative process are not covered by this law and their status is left vague (and other problems).
Hatate Akira, head of the group “Freedom and human rights coalition” has attacked the very philosophical basis of the law saying that “This new level of surveillance (of foreigners) will lead to increased discrimination” In response to this, the Japan Democratic Party has proposed dropping from the law the requirement to carry this identity card and the imposition of criminal penalties for not doing so, as well as other modifications.
Once a new law on foreigner residency is approved, it will be put into operation within three years of passage.At present, the question of how to treat the (estimated) 110,000 illegal resident of Japan remains. (….here the article goes on to discuss illegal resident and the special problems of Korean and Chinese permanent residents of Japan)