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Hi Blog. There’s a joke going around to describe this weird era we’re living through. Where somebody is fretting in bed about how things are, and his partner says, “Go to sleep, dear. It’ll be all worse tomorrow.”
Another development that qualifies for that would be the Japanese government’s decision to treat all foreigners as more contagious than Japanese, and bar all foreigners only from re-entry from overseas. Excerpt from The Japan Times (May 19, 2020):
JT: Foreign residents stranded abroad by Japan’s coronavirus controls
Japan is the only Group of Seven member denying entry to long-term and permanent residents
“…The coronavirus pandemic has prompted authorities worldwide to introduce entry restrictions on border traffic. But regulations in Japan have sparked a particularly strong reaction from its international community, as it is the only Group of Seven member denying entry to long-term and permanent residents and has set no clear criteria for their return.
The approach has left many foreign nationals in limbo — those who had headed overseas in earlier stages of the pandemic are now stuck abroad and face uncertainty about their careers and lives in Japan, whereas those who remain here fear that leaving the country would jeopardize their future as well.
Amid the restrictions, a decision about whether to cross the border due to a medical emergency in one’s immediate family can be agonizing. For Kvien, joining his grieving loved ones and paying tribute in person was an obvious choice. When he left, the travel ban was not yet imposed.
“Let’s say it had happened one week later, I would have (faced) a huge dilemma knowing that if I went (to Denmark), I couldn’t return,” said Kvien, who has a valid working visa in Japan but remains stuck in Copenhagen, on Thursday.
As the virus continued to spread, causing more than 4 million confirmed infections, some countries such as India have even banned their own citizens from returning home in hopes of limiting transmission. But most developed countries, while urging locals to refrain from nonessential travel, have exempted legal residents alongside citizens from their travel bans, albeit under mandatory quarantine.
In contrast, under Japan’s regulations imposed April 3, all foreign nationals, including those with permanent residence status and their non-Japanese spouses, and those who are married to Japanese nationals, will be subject to the measure if they try to return to Japan from any regions affected by the pandemic…”
The GOJ could have said (as India did, according to the above article) that re-entry was forbidden by anyone regardless of nationality. Or else they could have put all re-entrants regardless of nationality in 14-day quarantine, as they did for the first several weeks of quarantine. But no. Instead, the Ministry of Justice decided that only foreign residents don’t have lives, families, occupations, etc. in Japan that matter and just shut them out. As if foreigners are somehow more contagious or less worthy of concern than members of The Tribe. Naturally, if foreign residents have some urgent matter that happens to be overseas, say, oh, the illness/death of a family member from the very pandemic that closed the borders in the first place, tough shit. (You see, family tragedies only matter if someone in The Tribe dies.)
For that reason, Debito.org awards a coveted “Dejima Award” (only its eighth so far) to the Ministry of Justice (particularly Justice Minister Mori Masako). Dejima Awards are reserved for only the most eye-blinkingly obvious and inexcusable examples of racism perpetrated by Japan’s racists and authorities. Thanks for deciding once again that foreigners’ lives simply don’t matter to you. Only foreign residents have to make the choice between exiting Japan and losing their livelihoods here or staying in Japan missing a life event there. How callous and inhumane. And oh so very typical of the cold-blooded Japanese bureaucracy. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
PS: Debito.org Reader Sven Kramer has notified me that he has created a bilingual petition against this stupidity that you can sign. In his words:
Change the policy of generically denying entry to all foreign residents of Japan, including permanent residents, family members of Japanese citizens, and other mid- or long-term foreign residents who have their livelihood in Japan
An open petition to Prime Minister Abe Shinzō and Minister of Justice Mori Masako
Initiated by Sven Kramer, long-term foreign resident of Japan and spouse and father of Japanese citizens
As a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, many countries have implemented restrictions on international travel. This includes a generic entry denial of foreign nationals and requiring virus testing and a subsequent two weeks long quarantine from the country’s own citizens upon entering. In most counties, especially developed ones, at least permanent residents and eminent foreign relatives of citizens (spouses and children) are exempt from those entry bans, but not so in Japan.
Since April 3rd, 2020 Japan is implementing a very strict limitation on who can enter the country, after spending even a few hours in the by now more than 100 countries and areas which are designated by the Ministry of Justice of Japan. Only people with Japanese citizenship and special permanent residents (mostly ethnic Koreans and Chinese who lost Japanese citizenship in 1945 and their descendants) are admitted under the condition to test for COVID-19 and go into a two weeks long self-quarantine if tested negatively. Every other foreign national, including even permanent residents who have lived nowhere else but in Japan for decades and long-term foreign relatives holding spouse visas, is subject to the current generic entry ban. Foreign residents with their livelihood in Japan basically get the same treatment as short-term tourists and business travelers at the border now.
This unnecessarily strict policy leads to some dire dilemmas. For example, you live in Japan permanently or long-term as a foreigner while having still close relatives like parents in your home country. If one of your parents dies, you should be able to attend his or her funeral without losing your livelihood, but since Japan denies entry to all foreigners without reasonably defined exceptions, you lose your livelihood if you attend the funeral. If you want to protect your livelihood for sure, you have to make the hard choice of staying away from the funeral of some of your closest relatives. Cases in which long-term and permanent residents of Japan had been denied reentry after attending the funeral of a parent were reported recently by the “Japan Times” and “Tōyō Keizai Online” (links below)
There is one more major problem, and that is the separation of families because of applying the entry denial to foreign spouses and parents of Japanese citizens. If a foreign spouse or mother/father of Japanese citizens has to travel internationally for a very good or unavoidable reason (e.g. the above-mentioned funeral), he/she cannot return to his/her family in Japan because of the ban. If he/she was accompanied by his/her Japanese family members (because other developed countries do not only admit their own citizens, but also their foreign relatives at least when well defined exceptional cases apply), the current border policy of Japan can lead to family separation at the Japanese port of entry. This unnecessary and cold-hearted acceptance of forced family separation by the Japanese government is a major human rights violation and has to be stopped immediately. Japan is reportedly the only G7 member who does this.
To be fair, the official documents published by the Ministry of Justice state that in rare special circumstances or for humanitarian reasons foreigners might be admitted into Japan. However, those “circumstances” or “reasons” are nowhere well, reasonably, and comprehensively defined, leaving that caveat so vague that it becomes meaningless. Even attendance of one own parent’s funeral is not generally seen or being defined as a reasonable exception.
For the main reasons stated above, I think that the inclusion of permanent and long-term foreign residents, including even family members of Japanese citizens, into the current entry ban at the Japanese ports of entry, is just unnecessarily cruel and cannot be reasonably justified with the intention of preventing the international spread of COVID-19. It also has the potential to seriously damage Japan’s reputation in the world as a major developed country. I and the supporters of this open petition therefore strongly request to the government of Japan, and especially to Prime Minister Abe Shinzō and Minister of Justice Mori Masako, to immediately lift the generic entry ban on permanent, long-term foreign residents and non-Japanese family members of Japanese families, who have their livelihood in Japan and have to travel internationally for very good or unavoidable, well-defined reasons, and applying the exact same conditions to them, that are applied to Japanese citizens and special permanent residents.
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