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Hi Blog. Here’s my latest Shingetsu News Agency “Visible Minorities” column 15. Enjoy. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
Visible Minorities: New Covid Foreign Resident Re-Entry Rules Still Racist
OCT 19, 2020 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN
SNA (Tokyo) — Sometime during your life in Japan, you will probably feel a chilling attitude in Japan’s bureaucracy: as a foreign resident, you don’t really matter. To Japan’s policymakers, you’re at best an existence to be tolerated, at worst an unpredictable element that needs constant policing.
You’ll see it in things like Japan’s special foreign registry systems, or the “Gaijin Cards” that must be carried 24-7 and leave you vulnerable to random street ID checks by racist cops.
But you might not have realized until recently the most dehumanizing tenet of all: That foreigners should have no legal expectation to belong here.
Japan’s Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that Japan’s foreign residents have no “right of sojourn,” i.e., to leave Japan temporarily and expect to return. (Japan Times columnist Colin Jones called it a “reverse Hotel California”–you can leave any time you like, but can never check back in.)
That means that even if you invested your entire life in Japan, married a Japanese, had children, paid taxes, bought property, started a business, and even achieved Permanent Residency (which by definition should be a legitimate claim to reside here forever), nothing you did matters. You cross the border, you’re out.
Hypothetically, if push comes to shove, a Permanent Resident will have the same status as any foreign tourist at the border.
Well, that hypothetical came true last April when, due to Covid, Japan decided to bar all foreigners from re-entering Japan–even though Japanese could still return and merely quarantine. No other developed country does this, and there is no science indicating that Japanese passports offer enhanced epidemiological protection. It was purely arbitrary.
So foreign residents found themselves stranded overseas apart from their Japanese families, or watched helplessly from Japan as their overseas kith and kin died. This heartless and explicit racism attracted significant international attention, so from October 1, Japan announced it would open its borders to foreign residents under certain conditions.
But it turns out that, realistically, these conditions are still a ban…. By arbitrarily creating a tight 72-hour hour window requiring special paperwork unattuned to the realities of Covid testing overseas (especially when the test is meaningless if you get infected on the plane), Japan’s bureaucrats merely deflected international criticism from its regular racism by replacing it with new, improved racism.
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