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  • DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCT 20, 2007

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on October 20th, 2007

    This Newsletter is also available as a podcast.  See here:

    DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 20, 2007
    This week’s contents:

    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
    1) NEW MHLW DIRECTIVE: ALL COMPANIES MUST CHECK & REGISTER THEIR NJ WORKERS
    2) GLOBE & MAIL ON GOJ’S NASTY IMMIG AND REFUGEE POLICIES
    3) ASAHI: UNHYGIENIC FOOD IN IMMIGRATION GAIJIN TANK TRIGGERS HUNGER STRIKE
    4) ASAHI: NJ DIES DURING POLICE “SNITCH SITE” HOME ID CHECK
    5) IDUBOR CASE UPDATE: DENIED RELEASE, NEXT HEARING IN TWO MONTHS!
    6) WHAT TO DO IF… YOU ARE THREATENED WITH EVICTION
    7) TEMPLATE PROTEST LETTERS RE UPCOMING FINGERPRINT LAWS

    …and finally…
    8) FORTHCOMING ARTICLES IN JAPAN TIMES AND METROPOLIS
    ON REINSTATING FINGERPRINTING AND GOJ CABINET HUMAN RIGHTS SURVEY
    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    By Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org, http://www.debito.org)
    Freely forwardable

    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    1) NEW MHLW DIRECTIVE: ALL COMPANIES MUST CHECK & REGISTER THEIR NJ WORKERS

    I’ve been getting a lot of questions recently from people being approached by their employers and asked for copies of their Gaijin Cards. The MHLW says, in its link below:

    ==================================
    “2) From October 1, 2007, all employers are now legally bound to formally submit (by todoke) to the Minister of Health, Labor, and Welfare (Hello Work) a report on all their pertinent foreign laborers (confirming their name, status of residence, and duration of visa) when they are hired or leave work. Exceptions to this rule are Special Permanent Residents [the Zainichis], or people here on Government Business or Diplomatic Visas. Those who do not do so promptly and properly will face fines of no more than 300,000 yen.” (Translation Arudou Debito)
    ==================================
    http://www.mhlw.go.jp/bunya/koyou/gaikokujin-koyou/index.html

    Note that it does not require your employer to make or submit photocopies etc. of your Gaijin Card and/or passport. Employers just have to check to make sure your visa is legit, then report it to the authorities. Suggest that if you don’t want things photocopied, say so.

    COMMENT: I knew that the GOJ had long proposed taking measures against visa overstayers, and I too agreed that employers who employ illegals should take responsibility (as opposed to the standard practice of punishing the employee by merely deporting them at a moment’s notice). But I wish there was a less intrusive way of doing this. And I wish more care had been made to inform NJ workers in advance and explain to them the reasons why. (In comparison, the recent Fingerprint Law amendments were enlightened in their PR. Though that’s not saying a lot.)

    Here’s an article from the vernacular press on the possible effects:

    ==================================
    RE THE NEW REQUIREMENTS TO REPORT NJ WORKERS TO THE GOVT
    KNOWLEDGE NOT MADE WIDESPREAD, AND DANGERS OF DISCRIMINATION

    Kobe Shinbun Oct 1, 2007 (excerpt) Translated by Colin Parrott
    http://www.debito.org/?p=632

    …Until now, once a year in June, firms employing foreign workers have reported such details as residency status, nationality and number of foreign workers to the public employment security office, Hello Work, at their own discretion. According to the Labour Department, some 5000 employees at 910 firms (with 30 employees or more) in the prefecture have been targeted…

    Around 500 Vietnamese live in Kobe’s Nagata ward, where most of them work at a local chemical factory. When The Japan Chemical Shoes Industrial Association reported the revisions of the law to its member companies by newsletter they were met with criticism. “Without an investigation into how many people are working where, I really don’t see what difference it will make,” said a 42-year old chemical factory manager. “Sure it’s good for decreasing illegal employment, but if we don’t first acknowledge the fact that illegal unskilled foreign labourers exist, we’re going to be left with a labour shortage.”

    The manager realizes illegal Vietnamese labourers in the area will be exposed but worries, “foreigners who lose their jobs will unnecessarily turn to crime.”…

    Furthermore, data gathered by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry plans to be shared with the Ministry of Justice. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations and others criticize this scheme because it “violates foreigner’s rights to privacy.” They point out, “there is a possibility that discriminatory treatment based on race, skin colour or ethnic origin might arise.”

    The Employment Promotion Law was established with the goal of advancing blue-collar job stability and to increase the economic and social status in society of women, the elderly and the disabled. From October onwards, it will be prohibited to use age limit restrictions in the the recruitment and hiring process….
    ==================================
    Feedback from cyberspace and referential articles on the subject at
    http://www.debito.org/?p=632

    COMMENT: The good news above is the age restriction is being abolished, and that’s good for Japanese academia, where age caps of 35 for NJ academics are not unusual. At least one job info site now refuses to post ads with age restrictions. More later.

    But note the underlying assumption that foreigners not employed legally will turn to crime; technically that’s true–but it’s not quite the same kind of crime as Japanese commit. Because Japanese don’t need visas to work. The incomparable crime being committed here is the NJ finding any work at all in order to survive. For example:

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    2) GLOBE & MAIL ON GOJ’S NASTY IMMIG AND REFUGEE POLICIES

    I sometimes blog pretty mediocre articles on Debito.org by journalists just going through the motions to file stories, without much attempt at bringing new information or angles to the surface. For example, http://www.debito.org/?p=635

    In contrast, here is an excellent one that could probably after a bit of beefing up be reprinted in an academic journal. I even think the reporter followed quite a few of our leads. Excerpt follows:

    ==================================
    IMMIGRATION: JAPAN’S UNFRIENDLY SHORES
    “One culture, one race:” Foreigners need not apply

    Despite a shrinking population and a shortage of labour, Japan is not eager to accept immigrants or refugees
    By GEOFFREY YORK, Globe and Mail (Canada) October 9, 2007
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20071009.JAPAN09/TPStory/TPInternational/Africa/
    Courtesy of Satoko Norimatsu

    TOKYO In the Turkish village of his birth, Deniz Dogan endured years of discrimination and harassment by police who jailed him twice for his political activities on behalf of the Alevi religious minority. So he decided to escape to a country that seemed peaceful and tolerant: Japan.

    Seven years later, he says he has found less freedom in Japan than in the country he fled. For a time, he had to work illegally to put food on his table. Police stop him to check his documents almost every day. He has suffered deportation threats, interrogations and almost 20 months in detention. In despair, he even considered suicide.

    His brother and his family, who fought even longer for the right to live in Japan, finally gave up and applied for refugee status in Canada, where they were quickly accepted.

    “We had an image of Japan as a very peaceful and democratic country,” Mr. Dogan said. “It was very shocking to realize that we had less freedom in Japan than in Turkey. We did nothing wrong, except to try to get into this country, yet we were treated as criminals. We felt like insects.”

    Despite its wealth and democracy, Japan has one of the world’s most intolerant regimes for refugees and immigrants. And despite its labour shortages and declining population, the government still shows little interest in allowing more foreigners in.

    From 1982 to 2004, Japan accepted only 313 refugees, less than 10 per cent of those who applied. Even after its rules were slightly liberalized in 2004, it allowed only 46 refugees in the following year. Last year it accepted only 34 of the 954 applicants…

    These attitudes have shaped a system of tight restrictions against foreigners who try to enter Japan. One of the latest laws, for example, requires all foreigners to be fingerprinted when they enter the country. Japan’s rules on refugee claims are so demanding that it can take more than 10 years for a refugee to win a case, and even then the government sometimes refuses to obey the court rulings. Hundreds of applicants give up in frustration after years of fruitless effort…

    [Sadako Ogata:] “From the perspective of Japanese officials, the fewer that come the better.”

    While they struggle to prove their cases, asylum seekers are often interrogated by police and confined to detention centres, which are prisons in all but name. When not in detention, asylum seekers cannot legally work and are required to live on meagre allowances, barely enough for subsistence.

    In one notorious case in 2005, Japan deported two Kurdish men after the UN refugee agency had recognized them as refugees. The UN agency protested the deportations, calling them a violation of Japan’s international obligations….

    “Work permits are not given to them, but they have to work to survive, so they work illegally.”..
    ========================================
    Rest at http://www.debito.org/?p=640
    Lots more good information, have a read.

    Meanwhile, let’s look at what happens to some of those refugees:

    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    3) ASAHI: UNHYGIENIC FOOD IN IMMIG GAIJIN TANK CAUSES HUNGER STRIKE

    One more reason you don’t want to be apprehended by the Japanese authorities–in this case Immigration. Bad food. No, I don’t mean humdrum food. Read on:

    ========================================
    CATERPILLARS AND COCKROACHES:
    FOREIGNERS LEAD HUNGER STRIKE IN IMMIGRATION DETENTION CENTER
    Asahi Shinbun Oct 18, 2007

    http://www.asahi.com/national/update/1018/OSK200710170103.html
    Translated by Arudou Debito
    Japanese original at http://www.debito.org/?p=657

    OSAKA-FU IBARAKI CITY–Forty foreigners being detained in the Ministry of Justice West Immigration Detention Center are claiming, “There have been instances of stuff being mixed in with the meals provided by the Center, such as caterpillars (kemushi). We cannot safely eat it”. The Asahi learned on October 17 that they carried out a hunger strike on both October 9 and 10. The Immigration Center has confirmed that there have been 30 instances from April of inedibles mixed in the food. It has formally demanded their cooks improve the cooking.

    According to the Center, as of October 17, there are 240 foreigners being detained. They receive three meals a day, cooked on site by professionals and provided in detainees’ cells. However, the company contracted to provide these meals have since April have had materiel mixed in the food, such as hair, cockroaches, and mold.

    Consequently, the Center has taken measures from September to sure there is no extraneous stuff in the food, but one detainee claims it happened again on October 8. The Center said that they had already cleared the food and refused to exchange it for more, so the next day from breakfast the detainees went on hunger strike. By breakfast October 10, an additional 30 people had joined the movement. After the Center told them it would thoroughly check the sanitation procedures of the meal preparers, the detainees called off their strike.

    The Center said, “We have demanded the meal preparers clean up their act, and will keep a sharp eye on them from now on.”
    ENDS
    ========================================
    http://www.debito.org/?p=658

    COMMENT: You know things have gotta be pretty antipathetic when even inmates have bad food (and food in Japanese prison, from what I’ve read, is apparently sparse but not all that unhealthy). But then again, this is not a prison. It’s an Immigration Gaijin Tank–where NJ are held indefinitely and not subject to the same standards (such as exercise, baths, time outside their cells, and–most importantly–a definite time limit to their incarceration) that people who have been formally sentenced to a Japanese prison will have.

    Back to the food. Remember where we are: This being Japan, a land of foodies, it’s famous for being a place where it’s hard to get a truly bad meal, let alone an unhygenic one. People are really fussy, and it shows in the marketplace. No professional in their right mind in the Japanese meal services lets quality slip.

    It might be the effect of a captive market, literally, meaning no competition and no incentive for quality control.

    Or it might be antipathy. Either this Detention Center’s meal preparers are completely shameless people, or they just don’t like foreigners and feel no compunction to serve them properly.

    Pretty stunning. Stop faffing about and fire the cooks already, Immigration.

    Anyway, it’s pretty clear that some people will do anything to avoid getting incarcerated in places like these. Sometimes with tragic results:

    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    4) ASAHI: NJ DIES DURING POLICE “SNITCH SITE” HOME ID CHECK

    ========================================
    WOMAN FALLS 9 STORIES FROM MANSION, DIES: OSAKA NISHI-KU
    Asahi Shinbun October 16, 2007, 13:22
    Courtesy http://www.asahi.com/national/update/1016/OSK200710160021.html
    Translated by Arudou Debito, courtesy of Foo Bar

    OSAKA NISHI-KU On October 16, 2007, around 9:55 AM, a woman resident on the 9th floor of an apartment complex thought to be a foreigner was asked by Nishi Prefectural Police for identification (shokumu shitsumon), in order to ascertain her Status of Residence.

    The woman received the police in her genkan, but returned to her room, and minutes later fell from her veranda. She died of severe injuries to her entire body. The Nishi Police are ascertaining her identity.

    According to sources, she was apparently an Asian foreigner in her forties or fifties. At the end of September, Nishi Police received an anonymous tip-off that “An illegal foreign woman lives there”, so this morning four police officers visited the premises. When they demanded her passport at the genkan, the woman was said to have replied, “please wait”, and went back into the apartment. There was no answer after that.

    Nishi Vice Police Chief Akai Yasohachi said, “We don’t think there was any problem with the way the demands for identification were carried out.”
    ENDS
    ========================================
    http://www.debito.org/?p=655

    COMMENT: Now it’s not even a matter of police stopping you on the street anymore for ID checks. They’re making house calls.
    http://www.debito.org/whattodoif.html#checkpoint
    This is not an isolated incident. Over the past few months, I have heard many reports from individuals regarding police investigating whole apartment complexes, door-to-door, especially those renting specifically to NJ. It’s all part of the dragnet against foreigners in Japan.

    In this case in Osaka, I doubt there was foul play involved, and the consensus in the comments section of my blog is that she somehow tried to escape. But here we have the fruits of the anonymous anti-foreigner GOJ “snitch sites”–people unwilling to be taken into custody by Japanese police for whatever reason. Given how the Japanese police treat people in their care, it’s not difficult to see why.
    http://www.debito.org/whattodoif.html#arrested

    More news if there is any later. But will this develop into a clear case of, “somebody’s gotta die before bad policy gets changed”?

    I wish they’d create snitch sites so we can anonymously rat on suspected members of organized crime. Those are the type of people I’d like to see falling from neighborhood balconies.

    Meanwhile, another case of incarceration which warrants an update:

    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    5) IDUBOR CASE UPDATE: DENIED RELEASE, NEXT HEARING IN TWO MONTHS!

    Quick update on the Idubor Case. (Background at http://www.debito.org/?p=646 )

    Just heard from Osayuwamen Idubor’s wife that the outcome of his latest court hearing (Oct 18), which had the hope of releasing him, did not.

    Next hearing on December 10 at 1:30PM, Yokohama District Court. That’s almost a year since he was incarcerated without a speedy trial.

    How nice. No material evidence of any crime committed, yet the defendant has to languish in jail (with deteriorating health) for another two months!  The prosecution want to give him five years.  At this rate, he’ll do it before even being declared guilty or innocent.

    Suggest people drop by Mr Idubor’s bar in Yokohama. Support his wife and business by having a drink.

    Details on how to get there at http://www.debito.org/?p=646

    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    6) WHAT TO DO IF… YOU ARE THREATENED WITH EVICTION

    With the NOVA Inc. Eikaiwa Debacle, I’ve been getting quite a few questions from people who are finding out their employer isn’t paying their rent for corporate housing, much less their salary. It’s getting tough to answer each person individually (I get dozens of general questions every week), so let me add to the WHAT TO DO IF… artery site for one-stop shopping:

    =========================================
    WHAT TO IF… you are being threatened with eviction from your apartment.
    http://www.debito.org/whattodoif.html#eviction

    Tenants have extremely strong rights in this society, which means that if you signed a contract, you are entitled to stay, even if you haven’t paid your rent for a stretch of time. You can even sue (and win) if your landlord changes his or her mind after a contract is signed and money paid. Stand your ground. You cannot be evicted without a court order.

    Advice from those in the know, courtesy of the Japan Times:

    1) [With NOVA Inc.] deducting rent from your paycheck, but not forwarding it on to your landlord, Nova broke the law. They are in the wrong, not you. Your landlord can complain, but his contract is with Nova. Keep your pay stubs and any receipts you have. Legally, you’ve been paying rent. If the landlord changes your locks, removes anything from your apartment, or harasses you without going to court and getting a court order for your eviction, he is in the wrong. He can give you all the letters he wants, but he needs a judge to evict you. Grounds for eviction are normally illegal activity in the apartment or non-payment of agreed rent obligations. This is why you should hang on to your pay stubs – just in case things get ugly and you have to fight your eviction.

    2) Accommodation: “Even if the owner/the landlord/the agency is screaming at you to get out, you don’t have to leave–just keep paying your rent. If the company was supposed to be paying the rent and they haven’t, sue the company for fraud or tell the agency: ‘Look, the company’s supposed to be paying, and I’ve already paid the company.’ You have a right of residency, and anyone who wanted to get you out is going to have to get a court order to do it.” (Bob Tench, Nova union vice president)

    REFERENTIAL ARTICLES:

    IS IT ALL OVER FOR NOVA?
    As ‘eikaiwa’ giant plans school closures amid credit crunch, some fear the worst
    The Japan Times, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2007
    (Referential information at the bottom of the article)
    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20070925a1.html
    http://www.debito.org/?p=593

    Korean Woman Wins Discrimination Damages in Japan
    Chosun Ilbo, South Korea, October 5, 2007

    http://english.chosun.com/w21data/html/news/200710/200710050017.html
    http://www.debito.org/?p=634
    =========================================

    Plus, various extraneous bits of advice regarding union support, unpaid wages, Immigration/Visas and employment, redundancies, and unemployment insurance.
    http://www.debito.org/whattodoif.html#misc

    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    7) TEMPLATE PROTEST LETTERS RE UPCOMING FINGERPRINT LAWS

    F-Day, November 20, is just around the corner. Are you ready to stand in the Gaijin Line, every time, regardless of how long you’ve been here, and for what’s forecasted to take hours at a time, and have to face finger inkpads and whatnot at every port of entry that’s not Narita?

    Scott Wallace writes the following:
    =========================================
    “I know many have written comments about the new fingerprinting laws for all non-Japanese reentering Japan’s borders. So I had a Japanese friend draw up a letter of protest. Here it is in English and Japanese. For the cost of stamp and an envelope i think its well worth sending it. Even if nothing is done, it’s great for our health just to let them know and get it off our chests. Nothing ventured nothing gained, right?

    “I have kept it to one A4 size so that it is read, points out politely why I think it the law should be removed or amended, and specifically makes a request. Feel free to amend it as you like.”
    =========================================
    Downloadable from http://www.debito.org/?p=652

    Suggestions on what to do with it: Hand it over at the border as you clear Passport Control. Send it by snail or email to Japan National Tourist Organization and the Japan Hotel Association. CC Justice/Immigration and Naikakufu. Try also Hato Bus Co, JAL, ANA, Tokyo and Osaka governments, Ginza and Akihabara Merchants’ Associations, even JR, Keisei Dentetsu, Limousine bus companies, etc., all of which will be affected. Tell anyone you please that the fingerprinting/biometric system is going to repel both business and leisure travelers, and will ultimately cost Japan foreign exchange and jobs.

    Another friend writes that the single best potential for protests will be international couples traveling together where one spouse is Japanese. They won’t be able stand in line and enter together any more, and that will also require the Japanese partner to cool his or her heels while waiting (with no place to go to do it except the baggage claim area).
    http://www.debito.org/?p=627#comment

    And of course there is civil disobedience. Another friend of a friend writes:
    =========================================
    “It’s not really common knowledge but electronic fingerprint readers don’t work on about 10% of the population. Something about the grooves being too shallow or something. So they have to have some sort of contingency plan in place, like taking ink prints and then scanning them. This costs them money. Lots of money; as in if everyone had to have manual prints done the project would go way over budget. I recommend applying superglue to your fingertips just before getting off the plane. EVERYONE. Or cover your fingers in a thick layer of vaseline or chewing gum to really mess up their readers. Apologize profusely when they find out, but just let them mess around trying to find out why nobody’s prints register on any machines before just saying “screw it” and letting everyone through. Let’s mess with the system, I say. Make it so cost inefficient and so time consuming that they have to stop.”
    =========================================

    Of course, I would never advocate messing up their machines like that. Never ever.

    But one of the reasons, I believe, that Special Permanent Residents (the Zainichi) have been made exempt from this requirement is because there would have been hell to pay (like there was in the past) if they had. The GOJ just didn’t expect the disorganized gaijin to protest. I suggest you prove them wrong.

    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    and finally…

    8) FORTHCOMING ESSAYS IN JAPAN TIMES AND METROPOLIS ON REINSTATING FINGERPRINTING AND GOJ CABINET HUMAN RIGHTS SURVEY

    It’s been a busy time, with five speeches next week, and also two essays coming out.

    On Tuesday, October 23, Japan Times Community page will publish my 40th article, this time on the awful ‘Human Rights Survey”, put out every four years by the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office, as some indication of popular sentiment towards granting human rights to fellow humans (tentatively including non-Japanese). They fortunately report that more people this time believe that “foreigners deserve the same rights as Japanese”, after more than a decade of steady decline. But if anyone actually took a closer look at the survey, with its leading questions, biased sampling, and even discriminatory language towards non-Japanese residents, you would wonder a) why anyone would take it at all seriously, and b) why our government Cabinet is so unprofessional and unscientific. Especially when the United Nations has long criticized Japan for ever making human rights a matter of popularity polls. Pick up a copy next Tuesday. I even did the cartoon for it.

    On Friday, October 26, Metropolis’s Last Word column will have my 20th article with them, this time on the Fingerprint Reinstitution I’ve been talking so much about recently. 850 words on the issue, the history, and more on what you can do about it. Get your copy next Friday.

    And if you want me to start writing a column for the Japan Times and/or Metropolis on a regular basis, say, once a month, let them know.
    community@japantimes.co.jp, editor@metropolis.co.jp

    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    All for today. Thanks for reading and/or listening.
    Arudou Debito
    Sapporo, Japan
    debito@debito.org, http://www.debito.org
    DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 20, 2007 ENDS

    One Response to “DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCT 20, 2007”

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