MINISTRY OF JUSTICE'S
IMMIGRATION "SNITCH SITE"
SUMMARY BY ARUDOU DEBITO: On February 16, 2004, the Ministry of Justice's
Department of Immigration unveiled a website (http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/zyouhou/index.html)
for the public to notify authorities of the whereabouts of foreign "illegal
overstayers". While at first glance this measure may seem sensible, further
inspection of the site reveals three flaws: 1) There are no clear criteria delineated
for what constitutes an "illegal" foreigner, 2) Preset reasons for informing
on foreigners include "hatred", "fear", and "no reason at
all", and 3) Informants need not give any verifiable details about themselves,
alleviating them of the burden of responsibility for their comments.
More than a dozen domestic human rights groups, including Amnesty International,
decried this site as "racist", "xenophobic", and "discriminatory".
After over a thousand complaints, the site was amended at the end of March to remove
the preset reasons and tone down the rhetoric. Given that the National Police Agency
and related organs of law enforcement are surprisingly unaccountable to public opinion
and press scrutiny, and have been shamelessly
discriminatory when dealing with issues of internationalization and foreign residents,
this backpedaling is quite remarkable. The site, however, as of this writing, remains
Looking forward to a similar site where you can rat on people for more serious crimes,
such as drug dealing, domestic violence, child abuse, motorcycle ganging, etc, not
just for being here and causing "public anxiety" by looking foreign. Articles
substantiating these events follow, starting with a cartoon drawn by the author which
appeared in a Japan Times article dated March 30, 2004 (text of article
(click on a link to page down to article text)
1) Downloadable discrimination:
The Immigration Bureau's new snitching Web site is both short-sighted and wide
open to all manner of abuses
By Arudou Debito, The Japan Times: March 30, 2004
2) Groups demand end to cyber-informing on foreigners via email
Kyodo News, March 18, 2004
3) Human Rights Groups protest Immigration site as "cyber
Reuters, March 19, 2004
4) Suspicious minds: Japan is hoping to boost foreign
investment and tourism by promoting the country as a land of hospitality. However,
institutional racism and the media's tendency to blame foreigners for rising crime
means many visitors find themselves less than welcome
THE GUARDIAN, March 10, 2004
5) Labor-Japan: Rights activists rap tougher immigration
Inter Press Service, 10 March 2004
6) PROGRESS: Ministry of Justice plugs gaps in 'racist'
Mainichi Shimbun, April 1, 2004
7) PROGRESS AGAIN: KOBE MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT FORMALLY PROTESTS
Kobe protests e-snitching on immigrants
Yomiuri Shimbun, April 15, 2004
Amnesty International also renews calls for site's abolition
Japan Today, April 14, 2004
8) Hyogo Governor calls for Snitch Site's Abolition
Japan Times, April 18, 2004
9) Voice of America on the Snitch Site, May 5, 2004
THE ZEIT GIST
The Immigration Bureau's new snitching Web site is both short-sighted and wide open
to all manner of abuses
By Debito Arudou
The Japan Times: March 30, 2004
There has been a lot of press recently not just on foreign crime (again), but on
unethical methods of collecting data on foreigners.
First was a plan by a branch of the National Police Agency to establish a crime database
of "foreignness" (Zeit Gist: Jan. 13,
2004) by collecting organic samples from crime scenes.
Now the Immigration Bureau has set up a Web site for the public to inform on "illegal"
The new site has raised a stink with several human rights groups, such as Amnesty
International and Solidarity Network for Migrants, Japan, who have decried this "cyber
xenophobia" and demanded the site be removed from servers.
Surprisingly, officials have promised a "review, " but have refused to
abolish the service.
Of course, many other countries have ways for the public to report visa overstayers
and the like.
However, Japan's criteria for nominating "violators" are astonishingly
From the end of last month, the site has offered informants the following pre-set
reasons for reporting on someone:
- Can't let violators escape justice ("ihansha ga yurusenai")
- Neighborhood disturbances ("kinjo meiwaku")
- Repugnance/anxiety ("ken'o fuan")
- Personal stake in the matter ("rigai kankei")
- Police haven't dealt with it ("keisatsu futaiou")
- Have suffered damages ("higai o uketa")
- Sympathy or compassion ("doujou")
- Can't let the employer or business escape justice ("koyou
- kigyou ga yurusenai)
- Can't let a job broker escape justice ("buro-ka- ga yurusenai")
- Was fired due to violator ("ihansha no tame ni kaikou
- Couldn't get work due to violator ("ihansha no tame ni
- Something else ("sono ta")
- Unclear ("fumei")
Not all options involve illegality, and there are avenues for abuse.
For instance, you can snitch on someone because you are bothered by -- or even just
outright hate -- foreigners (item 3); or because they should be sent home for some
"compassionate" leave (item 7); or the unemployment lines were too long
today (item 11); or even if the foreigner has a zit on his nose (item 12).
Actually, you don't even need a reason (item 13).
But the worst thing about the site is the anonymity. Snitches are not required to
give any verifiable contact details about themselves.
Why, in more enlightened law enforcement systems, does the accused have the right
to know the accuser? Because it keeps the accuser accountable for what he claims.
But thanks to this site, anyone can squeal on anyone for any reason -- and get away
So what's to stop any "legal" foreigner walking into an Internet cafe,
accessing the site, using a false name and e-mail address and ratting on themselves?
Filling Immigration's inbox with bogus data? Nothing, actually.
Indeed it might help police realize that they should think before enacting these
Although I would never, ever suggest that any "legal" foreigner actually
do such a thing.
But why are these policies, which are as full of holes as the police force's own
solved crimes files, even seeing the light of day in the first place?
It's because the newest Koizumi Cabinet wants to restore Japan to being "the
world's safest country." But somehow, "safety" and "foreigner"
have become antonymous, with a government putsch to halve the number of visa overstayers
within five years being linked to the restoration of public order.
Alas, foreigners are easy targets. Japanese laws governing extranationals in this
country exist not to protect their rights in any way, but simply to police them.
This column has previously talked about police
tendencies to spot-check foreigners for suspicious activities, for instance cycling
We all know (or should know) that only foreigners can be arrested -- yes, arrested
-- for not carrying ID at all times. Japanese citizens are protected -- by law --
against this kind of harassment.
When a section of the population is targeted in this way, crime statistics become
The National Police Agency announced on March 11 that, sure enough, foreign crime
rose again in 2003.
Up several times compared to ten years ago! (Caveat: That is, in the outlying regions,
where percentage rises of small numbers look bigger)
A record catch of 40,615 foreign criminals! (Caveat: Including visa violation, which
inflate the total. By a third.)
The data has many more caveats, but let's have a look at one of the oddest.
If you stop everyone on the street, chances are you'll find more
crooks. Likewise, if you stop more foreigners, you'll find more foreign crooks. And
the more foreign crooks you find, the more justification you'll have for cracking
down and finding some more.
Repeat indefinitely -- the perfect way to justify the NPA's appropriately-titled
"Policymaking Committee Against Internationalization" ("Kokusaika
Now, thanks to the snitch site -- which deputizes even anonymous Internet xenophobes
-- the police should see healthy rises in both statistics and budgets every year.
Furthermore, the emphasis on a rampant foreign crime wave which doesn't even exist,
also helps to deflect attention away from the fact that crime clearance rates by
the police are at record lows.
It seems the only way foreign crime will fall is when the foreign population stops
rising, or when foreigners simply stop coming here. This is unlikely, however, since
the Koizumi government wants to double foreign tourism to Japan by 2010.
Hopefully, none of these visitors will commit any crimes, or foreign-looking residents
will have to endure even more police targeting.
In the meantime, the tax-paying public can presumably look forward to other official
Web sites for ratting on your neighbors, dedicated to the likes of spousal and child
abuse and motorcycle ganging.
After all, they would appear to be more of a concern than a zit on your neighbor's
nose -- even if your neighbor is a foreigner.
(NB: This wasn't the ending I originally wrote... Ah well.)
Rat on your friends
Does your housemate wander around in his underwear? Or steal your milk? Does your
colleague chat up your girlfriend during get-togethers? Or copy your lesson plans?
Help us help the Immigration Bureau by telling us what they left off their list.
E-mail 3 items that you think should be included on the list to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ten respondents will each receive a 2,000 yen Tower Records voucher.
The Japan Times: March 30, 2004
(C) All rights reserved
Groups demand end to cyber-informing
on foreigners via email
Kyodo News, Thursday, March 18, 2004 at 06:21 JST
TOKYO -- A network of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and religious and labor
union groups supporting foreign citizens in Japan sought Wednesday immediate abolition
of the Justice Ministry's online service to receive email tips on illegal aliens.
The network, called "Stop Cyber Xenophobia," asked the Japan Federation
of Bar Associations (JFBA) to urge the ministry's Immigration Bureau to terminate
the service, which began Feb 16 to receive email tips on the identity, address or
workplace of suspected illegal aliens.
The network says the bureau's decision to start the service out of "convenience"
constitutes racial discrimination and that it violates the International Convention
on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Japan acceded to the convention
Among the more than 230 groups participating in the network are the Solidarity Network
with Migrants Japan (SMJ), Zentoitsu Workers Union, Japan Civil Liberties Union (JCLU),
human rights watchdog Amnesty International Japan and Catholic Tokyo International
JCLU member Akira Hatate said the issue will not be resolved simply with the shutdown
of the service because similar cases may well arise, prompting them to file the complaint
seeking human rights redress from the JFBA in an effort to "put a brake"
on such cases in the future.
The network, represented by a lawyer and 18 members, also called on the JFBA to propose
the need to create a domestic law to regulate acts of racial discrimination and invasion
of privacy that may result from the government's use of computer technology, to prevent
Japanese society from turning into a "society of surveillance."
They asked the JFBA to also propose the creation of an independent local human rights
redress body that will tackle cases of human rights violation by such law enforcement
authorities as immigration and police.
Immigration officials have said the service for informants is "simply part of
measures to computerize" such information. They said receiving tips does not
mean authorities will immediately move to apprehend suspected illegal residents and
the effectiveness of the service "remains to be seen."
As for the number of tips received, a bureau official put the figure at about 780
from Feb 16 to March 11.
Following the feedback by the network, the bureau said it will "study"
One of the points of contention over the service is a section which asks informants
to indicate why they are reporting someone and offers preset options such as "causing
anxiety" or "causing a nuisance to the neighborhood." Another point
is the choice of anonymity accorded to informants.
Once a report is submitted to the web site, it is automatically sent to regional
immigration bureaus which have jurisdiction over workplaces in Japan where foreigners
may be employed.
The system was introduced in the wake of Japanese law enforcement authorities' crackdown
on foreigners who overstay their visas, with
the Tokyo metropolitan government aiming to halve the number of illegal aliens in
the next five years in its jurisdiction.
But Hatate disputed a view held by law enforcement authorities of linking a rise
in crimes in Japan to an increase in the number of foreigners, saying most of the
crimes are immigration-related cases and only a small percentage actually constitute
Japan "is not a country that has low discrimination against foreigners, rather
it is just not conscious of it," Hatate told reporters. (Kyodo News)
TOKYO, March 19, 2004 (Reuters) - A Japanese government website
enabling people to give anonymous tip-offs about suspected illegal aliens has sparked
protests from human rights groups, but a Justice Ministry official said on Friday
the site would stay.
ﾊHuman rights activists said the site was fostering xenophobia at a time when the
Japanese public's concern about crimes involving foreigners was already growing out
ﾊ"The very existence of the website is discriminatory and xenophobic,"
said Manami Yano, director of the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, one of
16 groups which have joined together as the "Stop Cyber Xenophobia" network
to protest the site.
ﾊ"We want them to remove it completely," she said.
ﾊﾊThe site, launched by the Justice Ministry's Immigration Control Bureau last month,
allows individuals to enter the name, address and workplace of any foreigner who
they suspect may be staying in Japan illegally.
ﾊ"They live in the same apartment block but although they have student visas,
they speak broken Japanese and leave home every day wearing work clothes," says
a sample entry on the website, which goes on to describe two hypothetical foreigners.
ﾊThe website, which includes a statement acknowledging that most foreigners in Japan
are law-abiding, asks informants to submit their names and other data, but doing
so is not mandatory.
ﾊ"It's possible to submit an irresponsible report," Yano said.
ﾊ"The background is concern about rising crimes by foreigners. Foreigners are
becoming scapegoats for deteriorating public security," she said.
ﾊA Justice Ministry official said the controversial website was being reviewed but
that there were no plans to withdraw it.
ﾊ"We are considering what to do following complaints that this violates human
rights and is discriminatory," said Mamoru Fukuzaki of the ministry's Immigration
ﾊ"This is simply a new method for such reports. If it gives an impression that
it is discriminatory, we want to study how to improve it," he said. "But
it will not be halted."
ﾊJapan, like many other countries in the industrialised world, is deeply ambivalent
when it comes to foreigners.
ﾊIt needs immigrants to make up for a worker shortage as the population ages and
is courting foreign tourists and investment for its long-stagnant economy. But many
fear an influx would dilute cultural homogeneity and threaten stability.
ﾊ"We cannot dismiss the worries of Japan as totally groundless," said Andrew
Horvat, the Japan representative of the Asia Foundation, a U.S.-based non-profit
organization, noting that there are gangsters who cross borders to commit crimes.
ﾊBut solving Japan's illegal immigrant problem is not merely a matter of cracking
down, given that many illegal foreigners are satisfying a domestic demand for cheap
labor, he added.
ﾊ"The answer is not another website, it's revamping the immigration laws to
allow foreign workers to come in in a more orderly and legal fashion," Horvat
ﾊA National Police Agency report last week said that criminal cases involving foreigners
hit a record high in 2003 even as the total number of criminal cases dipped slightly.
ﾊThat prompted Japan's top government spokesman, Yasuo Fukuda, to remind the public
that most foreign residents were model citizens, even as he pledged to crack down
on illegal aliens.
Japan is hoping to boost foreign investment and tourism by promoting the country
as a land of hospitality. However, institutional racism and the media's tendency
to blame foreigners for rising crime means many visitors find themselves less than
Wednesday March 10, 2004
Satellite TV viewers in Europe and the US were yesterday extended a special invitation
by no less a figure than the Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi.
The popular, telegenic premier is the star of a 60-second advertisement being broadcast
on BBC World and CNN International over the next fortnight to help Japan achieve
its goal of doubling foreign inward investment to 13.2trn yen by 2006.
"We have all you need for success, and welcome your business. Why don't you
join us?" Koizumi says in perfectly good English.
Koizumi is fast becoming the acceptable face of Japan overseas. He also appears in
a short publicity film spearheading Visit Japan, the country's ambitious campaign
to double the number of foreign tourists to 10 million by 2010.
But good intentions and puff pieces on the wonders of Mount Fuji, hot springs and
sushi have to compete with creeping institutional racism and a domestic media addicted
to overplaying a supposedly foreigner-inspired crime sweeping Japan.
The Visit Japan website understandably plays up the aspects of life in Japan that
should put it high on any tourist's list of must-see places: its low crime rates,
superb public transport, cultural heritage and, yes, its unfailingly polite shop
No one who has spent even a short time here would argue with that. The message goes
on: "The hospitable Japanese know how to make foreigners feel at home."
The tourists themselves appear to disagree. The Japanese are famously well-travelled,
with 16 million of them venturing overseas in 2002. But Japan is still struggling
in the minor leagues in terms of inward tourism.
Government figures show it was the destination of choice for more than 5 million
people in 2002. Japan ranks 33rd in the world in terms of visitor numbers and is
the only G8 country outside the top 10.
Koizumi is right to identify tourism as an area in need of more attention.
Despite the short-term damage done to Asia's reputation by last year's Sars outbreak,
and a wider fear of air travel in the wake of 9/11 and the Iraq war, the outlook
for Asia Pacific is good.
The World Tourist Organisation estimates tourism to the region will grow by more
than 6% between 1995 and 2020, far higher than the global average of 4%.
The public response to the Visit Japan campaign suggests that in Japan, as in Britain,
the warmest welcomes are reserved for certain types of foreigners, such as Koizumi's
American and European business executives.
Others, notably fellow Asians, are rather less welcome.
A recent opinion poll found that just under 50% of Japanese people were happy with
the idea of a sizeable increase in foreign tourists.
Not bad, but hardly a ringing endorsement of an initiative their prime minister has
made a personal crusade.
More disturbing was the number of people - more than a third - who said they did
not want more foreigners coming to Japan, even as short-term visitors.
There was almost unanimous agreement on the reason: a fear of crime.
Reports of heinous acts committed by foreigners from the Asian mainland, who take
advantage of Japan's "good nature", have become a staple of the Japanese
press, the broadsheets included.
There is no question such stories make horrifying reading: prostitution, credit-card
fraud, debt collection, vehicle theft, drug peddling and even murder, all at the
hands of well-organised foreign gangs so vicious that even local mafia figures are
Admittedly, the zero-tolerance approach to foreigners has been helped by a slew of
Chinese students have been implicated in the murder of a family of four in Fukuoka
and 17 Turkish nationals are accused, along with three Japanese, of stealing 190m
yen from thousands of cigarette and drinks vending machines.
Earlier this week two men, believed to be eastern Europeans, robbed a jewellery shop
in Tokyo of a diamond necklace and other items worth 3.5bn yen.
Politicians are falling over themselves to exploit the
atmosphere of fear.
Shintaro Ishihara, the nationalist governor of Tokyo, is well known for his frequent
outbursts directed at illegal immigrants and over-stayers from China, whom he accuses
of turning parts of Tokyo into no-go areas.
At the end of last year Shigefumi Matsuzawa, the governor of Kanagawa, said all foreigners
were sneaky thieves, although he later protested he had meant only some foreigners.
And the Liberal Democratic Party, which Koizumi leads, went into last November's
general election promising to halve the estimated number of 250,000 foreigners staying
illegally in Japan over the next five years.
The government has resorted to some questionable tactics to ensure the target is
On its website, the immigration bureau, part of the justice ministry, invites people
to email the authorities information about "suspicious" foreigners.
Although the snitches are not required to provide their name, address or telephone
numbers, they are at liberty to mail off the names and other details of foreigners
who, among other misdemeanours, "are a nuisance to the community" or whose
presence alone "creates anxiety" among their Japanese neighbours.
The bureau has dismissed demands by Amnesty International and other human rights
groups to remove the service, which drew more than 200 responses in its first five
In any case, officials said, members of the public had for years provided thousands
of tip-offs about foreign undesirables by phone and letter.
There is no doubt that foreigners in Japan are committing more crimes than ever.
In its 2003 white paper, the national police agency reported that the number of crimes
involving foreigners had jumped from 19,671 in 1993 to 34,746 in 2002.
But a different story emerges when the figures are put
into context. To begin with, the figures include visa violations, which, by their
very nature, cannot be committed by Japanese citizens.
The 1,851,758 registered foreigners in Japan make up 1.45% of the overall population
yet are behind only 1.3% of all crimes.
The number of crimes committed by foreigners may have risen but so has the foreign
population. The crime rate is, in fact, slowing.
The victims of this get-tough mentality are usually other east Asians, the same people
on whom Japan will depend to meet its tourism targets.
Official xenophobia, backed by a public fed on media-driven paranoia, makes little
economic sense, either.
Chinese students complain they are being denied visas arbitrarily and language schools
in Japan say the loss of their most valued customers leaves them at risk of bankruptcy.
Nurses from Thailand and the Philippines, whom many consider the solution to the
crisis facing the Japanese health service as the elderly population continues to
grow, are still banned from working here following intensive lobbying from domestic
To them and many other foreigners who wish to contribute, rather than simply spend,
Koizumi's words of welcome must ring very hollow indeed.
LABOR-JAPAN: RIGHTS ACTIVISTS RAP TOUGHER
By Suvendrini Kakuchi
10 March 2004
Inter Press Service
(c) 2004 Global Information Network
TOKYO, Mar. 10 (IPS/GIN) - Japan has started to further tighten its immigration policies,
a move that officials say is driven by security concerns but which activists assail
as violating the human rights of non-Japanese.
A major bone of contention for rights and labour activists helping foreign workers
is a website launched by the Justice Ministry last month. Visitors to the site are
asked to report on foreigners they suspect have overstayed their visas.
"We are not going to allow the government to get away with this. The Web page
clearly incites racial discrimination," said Sonoko Kawakami of Amnesty International
The controversial website was posted on Feb. 16 and is called 'Information Concerning
Foreigners who are Overstaying, Etc'.
Visitors are not required to provide their identity but are encouraged to submit
via Internet personal information on foreigners they suspect could be living in Japan
without visas. Details sought include nationality, workplace, and home address.
The site classifies illegal foreigners as people who bother their neighbours or cause
anxiety in others.
As such, it contravenes the Justice Ministry's mandate of providing human rights
protection, activists charged.
Kawakami said the website breached the U.N. International Convention on the Elimination
of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Japan signed in 1995.
Activists have launched a petition against the site.
"We are determined to force the government to close this appalling abuse against
foreigners. The web site ignores the hard work of foreigners who are so important
to the Japanese economy," said Miyoko Honda, spokesperson for the Labour Union
for Migrant Workers, based in Tokyo and established two years ago.
The union was launched to help undocumented workers, mostly Asian and African, who
arrive in Japan to work in jobs that are dangerous, dirty and so low-paying that
they are shunned by the Japanese.
It helps workers to force their Japanese employers to pay overdue salaries, compensation
for injuries and better wages for shifts that stretch to more than 12 hours.
The Justice Ministry, citing security concerns following reports of vicious crime
committed by foreigners last year, also has started stringent checks on overseas
students and refugee applicants, and has presented proposed legislation that would
impose harsher penalties on undocumented workers.
At present, foreigners found lacking valid visas are arrested, fined modest sums
and deported immediately. The new measure would raise the ceiling for fines to 30,000
dollars and impose prison sentences of up to three years.
More than 70 percent of the 250,000 undocumented foreigners living in Japan enter
on short-term visas, according to the government's immigration bureau.
An official who asked not to be named said the new website was routine and part of
the computerization of information on immigration.
"We are not looking for tips on foreigners and will not use the information
we get to immediately apprehend suspected residents," he said.
In 2002, 75,000 people sent tips by phone or email, he added.
Kawakami countered: "The immigration bureau is not even aware of how the website
will fan anti-foreigner sentiment. It shows how little protection is afforded by
authorities to foreigners in Japan."
Honda said official neglect forced the migrant workers' union to intervene in the
case of a Bangladeshi man who was maimed for life after his boss accidentally drove
a forklift into him, breaking the employee's spine.
"We fought with his boss who first refused to even take him to hospital. In
the end we won by getting the worker compensation for his injury," said Honda.
Jaffer Mohamed, a Sri Lankan factory worker in northern Tokyo, said he should be
given a legal visa because, "I work hard and pay my taxes."
Activists agreed. "Rather than set up discriminatory Web sites, the government
should acknowledge the hard work of these undocumented workers and give them legal
status," said Honda.
Surveys by her union showed that Asians are paid half the wages given their Japanese
counterparts, live in appalling conditions, and suffer psychological stress doing
blue-collar jobs in small and medium companies.
Proponents of boosting immigration also have said that the latest measures run counter
to international pressure on Japan to open its doors to immigrants to boost its economy.
Ministry plugs gaps in 'racist' telltale site
Mainichi Shimbun, April 1, 2004
Faced with accusations of racism, Immigration Bureau pen pushers have revamped their
controversial Web site to take some sting out, but persist in allowing for it to
be used so foreigners without visas can be reported by e-mail.
Bureau bureaucrats initially responded to claims their Web site was racist by removing
some of the harsher choices it allowed those to explain as the motive for filing
a report on illegal aliens.
But it has since removed all multiple-choice options and allowed those filing a report
to explain their motive for doing so freely.
"The Justice Minister told us to change the page so that it would not cause
any misunderstanding, so we made the site better," a bureau spokesman said.
"However, we have absolutely no intention of ending the service where people
can make reports by e-mail."
Over 1,000 complaints have been made to the Immigration Bureau about the page, including
one from a network promoting the rights of foreign laborers in Japan.
"Corrections have made the site better, but it still promotes anti-foreigner
sentiment and should be abolished altogether," Manami Yano, a spokesman for
the network said.
Immigration officials set up the site to make it easier for people to snitch on non-Japanese
working in the country without a valid visa.
Initially, people telling on foreigners were given a series of choices to explain
their motive, including the contentious, "because the foreigners are a nuisance
to the neighborhood," and, "because foreigners make me anxious."
The two controversial phrases were first removed from the list of choices, but on
March 25, the list was removed altogether and those filing a report can now write
whatever they like.
Bureau officials have also added a disclaimer to the site, saying that by requesting
information about foreigners staying illegally in Japan they do not mean to slur
the reputation of law-abiding non- Japanese in any way. (Mainichi Shimbun, April
Date: Tue, 6 Apr 2004 14:16:28 +0900
From: Arudou Debito <email@example.com>
皆様、こんにちは。有道 出人です。お久しぶりです。２〜３月にかけて単 行本「ジャパニーズ・オンリー」を英訳して（出版決定！札幌高裁の判決後、
では、本日は、３月中旬に移住連様からのレポートを転送した件、入管 の いわゆる「不法外国人告げ口サイト」
、 マンガは http://www.debito.org/japantimescartoon033004.jpg
April 1, 2004）(English)
Ijuuren Site http://www.jca.apc.org/migrant-net
Amnesty International Japan Site http://www.labornetjp.org/Campaign/2004/cyberx/index_j.html
Date: Fri, 9 Apr 2004 12:35:49 +0900
From: Arudou Debito <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: 福岡警察 も「不良外国人」をチクるウェブサイトを
皆様、こんにちは。有道 出人です。いま友人からもらったメールからの件 ですが、先月新聞と多数の人権擁護団体が取り上げた入国管理局を「不法外国
・ 来日外国人によるクレジットカード偽造及び偽造クレジットカードを使 用した詐欺事件
PROGRESS TWO: THE KOBE MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT
JOINS THE FRAY
Hi all. The whole Immigration Snitch Site issue is still alive. According to Japan
Today of April 14, 2004, (http://www.japantoday.com/e/?content=news&cat=1&id=294951),
Amnesty International renewed its call for the Snitch Site service to be completely
terminated, not just amended to have no preset justifications for squealing.
Now even the local government is getting involved. Received this from a friend, forwarding
with permission. Debito in Sapporo
To: Arudou Debito <email@example.com>
From: Kjeld Duits
Subject: Our protest in Kobe starts to bear some fruit
Hi Debito, I mentioned a few weeks ago to you, I had protested against the snitch
site when meeting in my position as Chairman of the Netherlands Society in West Japan
with the Governor of Hyogo and other local government officials in Kobe. I was at
the time immediately seconded by representatives of other groups for foreign residents.
The Yomiuri Daily reported today that the Kobe municipal government has submitted
a petition against the immigration snitch site. Our protest seems to be having some
effect. I will continue raising this issue when I meet with government officials.
Warm regards, Kjeld
http://iKjeld.com -- Photos of Japan
Kobe protests e-snitching on immigrants
Yomiuri Shimbun, April 15, 2004
The Kobe municipal government submitted a petition Tuesday asking immigration authorities
to discontinue an e-mail system requesting information from the public about non-Japanese
living in the nation illegally.
The municipal government said in the petition submitted to Justice Minister Daizo
Ozawa that the e-mail system encouraged people to discriminate against non-Japanese.
It is the first petition of its kind submitted by a local government.
The Hyogo prefectural government also submitted a petition Wednesday to the ministry
requesting a halt to the system, saying it seemed to encourage the monitoring of
As of Dec. 31, 103,000 non-Japanese were living in the prefecture.
The developments are likely to cause controversy as the ministry has shown a desire
to continue using the e-mail system.
The system was launched in February to halve within five years the estimated 250,000
non-Japanese illegally living in the nation.
People who wish to make a report to the ministry fill in an on-line form about the
suspected illegal non-Japanese and e-mail it.
The Web site states that the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law allows
people who have information about illegal immigrants or overstayers to report it
to immigration authorities.
The municipal government said it was easy to notify the bureau about illegal immigrants
or overstayers by e-mail.
It also said the e-mail system was used to defame non-Japanese in general without
reasonable grounds as the bureau accepted anonymous e-mail messages, adding that
it was concerned that people might promote misconceptions about non-Japanese or inflame
prejudice against them.
However, an Immigration Bureau official countered that charge, saying the bureau
refused to accept slanderous messages about non-Japanese staying legally in the nation
based on humanitarian considerations.
Copyright 2004 The Yomiuri Shimbun
To: Arudou Debito <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: Arudou Debito <email@example.com>
Subject: Japan Times 4/18: 2 local govts protest snitch site
Bcc: all mailing lists w/o reporter, hiba members mailing listserv, all human rights
Hi All. Friend Kjeld has sent me another update on Immigration's Snitch Site, about
the petitions submitted in protest by the Kobe and Hyogo Prefectural Governments
(the Hyogo governor explicitly demanding the site's abolition!). FYI. Debito
More on the issue at http://www.debito.org/immigrationsnitchsite.html
Scrap rat-on-foreigners Web site:
The Japan Times: April 18, 2004
By ERIC JOHNSTON, Staff writer
KOBE -- Hyogo Prefecture has become the first local government to call on the Justice
Ministry to abolish a contentious Web site that asks Japanese to report via e-mail
any foreigners they suspect to be illegal aliens.
On Wednesday, Hyogo Gov. Toshizo Ido submitted a petition to the Justice Ministry,
demanding the Web site be abolished. "We realize that the site was designed
as a policy to crack down on illegal immigrants. But from the point of view of fairness
to all, and of the human rights of non-Japanese, we ask the ministry to stop this
site," Ido said in the petition.
The decision to officially protest the Web site came after Ido discussed the issue
in late March in a meeting between prefectural officials and representatives of foreign
resident groups in Hyogo.
Past meetings between the two sides had focused on issues of specific concern to
the prefecture, but the March meeting was the first one the governor had personally
Kjeld Duits, chairman of the Netherlands Society in West Japan, raised the issue
with the governor, as did many of the other representatives.
"The site goes beyond discrimination. It ignores all basic human rights and
should be closed down immediately," Duits said. Other groups present, including
those representing North and South Koreans, Chinese, Brazilians and Vietnamese, also
slammed the site.
Ido agreed to help, and sent the petition Wednesday. While other local governments,
including the city of Kobe, have called on the ministry to exercise caution in operating
the site, Hyogo is the first local government to officially call for its scrapping.
The ministry Web site has been controversial since it first opened in February. The
original version asked for Japanese to report on foreigners for a number of reasons,
from "disturbing the neighborhood" to "creating anxiety" among
those who are reporting them. The ministry promised such foreigners could be reported
After thousands of foreign residents and Japanese protested the site, warning it
would lead to human rights abuses, it was twice rewritten to say that while most
foreigners obey Japan's laws, an estimated 250,000 are in Japan illegally.
The site now asks that Japanese report foreigners they think might be working illegally.
But efforts to get the ministry to remove the site continue, with Amnesty International
recently condemning it and calling for its removal.
Hyogo has an estimated 103,000 foreign residents, most of whom are Korean or Chinese,
and, along with Kobe, has a local reputation for being one of the most foreigner-friendly
prefectures in the Kansai region.
The Japan Times: April 18, 2004
(C) All rights reserved
POSTSCRIPT WITH BACKGROUND INFO (from a reliable source):
...Governor Ido has a progressive reputation, so he may make this a higher priority
than his predecessor, who did little more than smile and bob his head as told. In
addition to human rights issues, Ido shocked the local foreign business community
by asking P&G to help the local bureaucracy with attracting foreign investment.
Kobe city also sent a similiar request. But, unlike Hyogo, they did not directly
call for the abolishment of the site. They only asked that it be "managed properly''.
They don't deny media reports saying that Kobe "wants to abolish'' the site,
but their wording was far more circumspect than Hyogo's.
Japanese Immigration Web Site Fuels Anger Among Foreigners,
Voice Of America Broadcast
Steve Herman, Tokyo, 05 May 2004, 12:22 UTC
(Real Audio files on the issue, with voices of the interviewees, also
available at the above link)
Japan's Justice Ministry, amid international protest, has again revised an Internet
web site that encourages Japanese to send anonymous e-mails, reporting any foreigner
they suspect of being illegally in the country. Despite the changes, the controversial
web page is still prompting human rights concerns over Japan's immigration practices.
An array of Japanese groups - including local governments, human rights watchdogs,
labor unions and church organizations - have blasted the Justice Ministry's new immigration
web site. It was launched in mid-February and quickly nicknamed "Fink-on-a-Foreigner"
by its detractors.
What initially set off the controversy was the ability for people to report anonymously,
via electronic mail, their non-Japanese neighbors for such infractions as "creating
anxiety" or "disturbing the neighborhood."
Those are actions that critics say have no connection to illegal behavior or relevance
to the law.
The protests twice led the Justice Ministry's Immigration Bureau to tone down the
contents of the site. The latest revision includes an online warning to potential
informants that attempts to libel foreigners will not be tolerated.
But Immigration Bureau Assistant Director Hideharu Maruyama defends the basic aim
of the web site. He says allowing Japanese to alert authorities anonymously about
suspect foreigners is no different than what has been done traditionally by telephone
Mr. Maruyama says that because many of those making complaints live or work in proximity
to suspected illegal aliens, in some cases they might be in danger if they were not
able to provide information anonymously.
Andrew Horvat is with the Japanese office of the Asia Foundation - an independent
policy and development organization focusing on the rule of law. He says he is not
surprised at Japan's method of relying on tips from citizens.
"The tradition in this country for police-citizen cooperation is very, very
long. And in fact, Japan doesn't really have a very large number of policemen. But
it has a lot of people who think that law and order matters," he said.
But to some, the idea of spying and informing on foreigners harkens back to the early
20th Century special agents of the "Tokko" - the Japanese thought police
- which used citizen cooperation to keep tabs on everyone in the country.
Photographer Kjeld Duits, head of the Netherlands Association of West Japan, is a
22-year resident in this country who is worried about the immigration website.
"It gives the impression that all foreigners are here illegally and that all
foreigners somehow cannot be trusted and should be spied upon." he said.
Mr. Duits and representatives of the local Brazilian, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese
communities took their concerns to Toshizo Ido, governor of Hyogo Prefecture - which
has 100,000 foreign residents.
Mr. Ido promised Mr. Duits and the others he would look into the matter.
"I was extremely surprised that he actually kept his word and he did something
about it," he said. "And that shows that especially the prefecture of Hyogo
is very concerned about all its people, not only the Japanese people who live here
but the foreign people who live here. It's a very, very good feeling."
The prefecture is home to the Far East regional headquarters of U.S. consumer products
giant Procter & Gamble and Governor Ido is aggressively courting additional foreign
investment for the Kobe area.
The prefecture government is calling for the Justice Ministry to abolish the contentious
The Asia Foundation's Mr. Horvat, who has resided in Japan for 30 years, says the
disputed Internet site popped up amid a government campaign to rid the country of
the estimated 250,000 workers living here illegally.
"When we talk about illegal workers, these are workers whose entry was overlooked,
quite purposely, by the authorities," he said. "So, for the authorities
now to go and say 'Oh, if you see someone who is behaving suspiciously, report him'
- well, let's just put it this way: this is just a little bit too convenient. What
this country needs is not a fink-on-a-foreigner site, what it needs is a regulatory
environment that reflects the actual needs of the country."
Those needs - according to many in and out of government - include more foreign laborers,
especially in the health care and service industries, as Japan ages and its population
The Immigration Bureau's Assistant Director Maruyama says foreigners who are in Japan
legally should be supportive of the campaign to reduce the number of illegals.
He says cutting the number of illegal aliens will help to increase the proportion
of legal foreigners, improve the image of foreigners among Japanese, and thus eventually
lead to a liberalization of regulations on immigration.
The Immigration Bureau says it has no plans to stop its informant system, pointing
out that such tips lead annually to the apprehension of tens of thousands of illegals.
The web site reportedly generated more than a 1,000 e-mailed tips in its first 45
days online, but the authorities are not saying if it has actually resulted in any