Asahi: domestic resistance to new IC Gaijin Cards


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Hi Blog.  As reported two days ago (with the upcoming Tokyo May 24 public demonstration by Amnesty International et al), there is domestic protest against the proposed new IC Gaijin Cards — it’s even made domestic media.  Good.  Suggest you get involved and spread the word.  Yesterday’s article from Asahi Shinbun, translated by William Stonehill.  Courtesy of TimK at PALE.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

“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)



20 comments on “Asahi: domestic resistance to new IC Gaijin Cards

  • This is good news that at least some pockets of J community understand the NJ sentiments that NJ are Human beings first. Just yesterday an article appeared in the JT about the work of Mr. Susumu Ishihara and his magazine “Immigrants”. If someone can get the copy of this magazine and compile similar views from it, I think it would be worth reading for all (as Magazine circulation is very small.)

    But I still think that more needs to be done to correct the deficiencies in the proposed law. NPOs Approaching the DPJ for help is one, I said earlier.

  • Thanks for the article. It is good to hear that there may be some concessions.

    I did learn one thing that I had been wondering about: it is to be implemented within three years of revision.
    (「新たな在留管理制度は改正法成立から3年以内に施行される予定。」) I had thought that it would start much, much sooner. Perhaps it is to synchronize at the latest with the existing 3-year visas (or re-entry for PR) when renewed.

  • hotbertaa says:

    I’ve gone out on a number of occasions without my wallet and ID card. Having to carry it at all times and paying a penalty if you don’t have it should be dropped. I’m all for these rules, but you shouldn’t punish forgetfulness.

  • Jurassic Heim says:

    A typically superficial article in the J press may be helpful to a degree, but much broader awareness of the issues is needed to affect a real shift in attitudes, i.e., that NJ are meaningful contributors to society, not just a horde of rabid criminals waiting to pounce when the cops look the other way.

    The bribe-to-go-home requirement for the latin american nikkei sets a rather dangerous precedent. Will the fine print in new legislation provide for a no-return policy for all future arrivals? A clause allowing the GOJ to render PRs no longer permanent whenever it wants? Higher penalties for companies that do not duly report their inventory of NJs to the MOJ? In other words, will on-demand purification be built into the revised law?

    I also think a concerted effort is needed to hammer in the message that “regular” PRs (not just the extra special flavor) deserve recognition of their longer-term contribution. The GOJ could start at the airports. As in most other countries, we PRs should be able to use the citizen line. And the fucking inane requirement to have my photo taken every time I enter (and I travel for business very often) could easily be dropped without risk of domestic social order collapse…. Fingerprints are the trend worldwide so my hopes for seeing that go are low. But the photo nonsense is, should be and can be a thing of the past.

    The usual protest method is not effective in the long run, since 99.9% of TV viewers say “oh, there go the criminals again”. We need a sophisticated lobbying machine, with a slick logo and website, and of course free tissues at every eki…

    And a former resident of Risley Hall would be an excellent candidate.

    — Won’t counterargue. Risloids get around. And they aim to make a difference, somewhere in the world.

  • let`s talk says:

    Comparing how much information and what kind of information this new ID Chip will carry, you will find a lot of similarities with the USSR internal passport.But even there people were not subjects of criminal penalties in case if they lost their passports or didn`t have IDs on them.Neither were foreigners living in the USSR and failed to carry their IDs.The same is about modern Russia.

  • Asterisk says:

    The part I don’t like is this thing about three months without a job and your visa gets cancelled.

    That seems to be the biggest anti-labor, anti-foreigner provision the LDP could come up with. Anyone who gets caught in a disagreement about:

    job conditions;

    job terms;

    the ubiquitous contract employment that almost all foreigners are forced into;

    could well find themselves having to argue their case back in their home countries. Which is probably what the sneaky goal of that provision really is.

  • I met with the secretary to a DPJ politician in Nagoya on Monday and he seemed to be very well clued in to how non-Japanese feel about the current and proposed laws. I will also get the chance to meet with his boss in a couple of weeks and intend to let her know how I feel.

    The secretary interestingly raised the point that most politicians won’t change any policy unless unless it has public backing. So getting the word out, and getting organised, seems critical. Getting the DPJ in power would help too.

    — I agree. Make sure the voters in your family are aware of your discontent with the LDP and encourage them to vote something else.

    I also encourage readers to contact their local politicians as Sean has…

  • Asterisk,

    > The part I don’t like is this thing about three months without a job and your visa gets cancelled.

    I was at immigrations last week submitting paperwork. While talking with an official there, I was told that you only loose your visa if you quit your job and do not find another one within three months. However, if the company fires you (specifically 会社都合), then you are not subject to the three month provision and your visa is valid until whenever it expires, potentially up to three years later.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Allan, are they still going to force foreigners to participate in the unemployment insurance scheme? It seems a bit unfair that you have to contribute just like anyone else, but have such a hard time collecting. If a Japanese national quits his job, he can collect on that insurance after waiting for a ceratin period. If a non-national does, he has to leave the country or find a new job.

  • Asterisk says:

    Allan –

    Here is a point I’m not clear about: it has been going around that one foreigner let go at the end of fixed contract employment was told by Hello Work that he “quit”.

    The company said quit, because the worker allegedly agreed to the end date in the fixed term contract. Not that the choice was either accept the company’s end date or have an immediate end date.

    What assurances are there that after the law is in, all of the sudden the separations won’t all be deemed as quits? Particularly all the screwy ways that Japanese employers play with paper and signatures in their varied bullying.

    To me, people quit when they either find something better or can’t take it anymore. In the first instance, there is no worry. But I bet 90% of the cases fall into the latter.

    To the poster who complained about unemployment insurance – thanks for making it tougher for everyone else. UI ought to be the demand of every foreign worker here. That is basically your reed thin safety net, at 4 yen per 1,000 note. Don’t protest it.

  • QUOTE: The part I don’t like is this thing about three months without a job and your visa gets cancelled[QUOTE]

    This is the same like with Brazilians. Sorry, you stopped paying to our LDP pocket, so we don`t want you here anymore. Japan will go down sooner or later with their communistic, run by family organization GoJ.
    We can say what we want and they don`t give a sh** about it. They nonsense and xenophobic propaganda and making blind to real problems its citizens will end up with higher taxes, medical bills etc to all good Japanese and NJ people. This is something like in Bush era but towards only NJ in Japan. It would go like this:
    We believe they are danger or may become danger, so let`s control them before they commit crime. One opf them is not having gaijin card with you. This will go to Police foreign crime report whcih of course increase to have news. Well, we should afraid Japanese more, whose brain gets squeezed and they kill people because they “felt” like doing it. I will try to be on protest taking video which will go to YT with more links to
    By the way, today morning on BBC they were talking about Brazilians in Japan.

  • GiantPanda says:

    QUOTE: The part I don’t like is this thing about three months without a job and your visa gets cancelled[QUOTE]

    This is absolutely no different to the current status, and is a lot more generous than those countries where your employer “sponsors” your visa, so the minute you lose your job you are out the door.

  • Giant Panda is absolutely correct unfortunately. I live in the UAE now, where if you lose your job your visa is immediately cancelled and your bank accounts stopped – unable to then pay your bills you will then almost certainly find yourself in jail.

    However this wasn’t my experience in Japan. When my contract wasn’t renewed, I went to Hello Work, got my benefit and had a look around Japan. The people at Hello Work tried and wanted me to find another job – and there was work available there (I don’t know of course if this is still the case now). There was no fuss and no hassle (beyond the bureaucracy you encounter anywhere).

  • QUOTE: This is absolutely no different to the current status, and is a lot more generous than those countries where your employer “sponsors” your visa, so the minute you lose your job you are out the door. {Quote}

    GiantPanda –

    Not necessarily. I’ve heard that one before.

    The problem is that in the sponsor-system countries, usually after a short number of years (maybe 5), you can apply for permanent residency. In Japan, a single person has to wait 10 years as a rule.

    Moreover, in the sponsor-system countries, employers can’t make a revolving door out of things like HB-1 visas in America, or the related ones in like countries. Most of the foreign work traffic in Japan is revolving door.

    I think if you’re going to set a high PR bar, you should honor the visas given for the whole term. Not everyone is here from a country where they couldn’t make a better wage. But everyone here incurs a big expense and inconvenience if they have to suddenly pick up and go.

  • Asterisk,

    My conversation at immigrations was in the context of 正社員 employment. For contract work I have my doubts, but I suggest confirming with immigrations directly. Perhaps special exceptions can be made in special circumstances, such as these difficult economic times.

    Mark in Yayoi,

    I do not know. But I can certainly understand how collecting unemployment will be difficult if you are forced to leave within three months, and the paperwork reportedly takes times to process. And unemployment is typically only good for 90-120 days for most people. ( Anyway, hopefully the NJ could find new employment within that time period, but I know that very few places are hiring now.

  • Asterisk says:

    Allan said:

    [QUOTE]My conversation at immigrations was in the context of 正社員 employment. For contract work I have my doubts, but I suggest confirming with immigrations directly. Perhaps special exceptions can be made in special circumstances, such as these difficult economic times.[close QUOTE]

    It’s generally understood if your contract doesn’t get renewed, or you are given a finite term, then it is the company that is dismissing YOU. Not that YOU have decided to go looking for something else.

    What does a person do, if they’re sitting across from an employer who presents a premade document with an end date? Refuse it? Say, “well that end date could be construed as a ‘quit’ in the future, so I’d rather not get involved in the whole mess to begin with!”

    This is something that the United States Embassy and other related country embassies should get seriously interested in, given “difficult economic times”.

    “Difficult economic times” make it tough to keep the Seventh Fleet and 45,000 U.S. troops here for just $2 billion a year “sympathy money” from Japan.

    But you don’t hear anyone raising the issue in Congress (yet).

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Allan, thanks for the reply. I can’t imagine that unemployment could be collected without an address in Japan, and if your visa expires, you turn in your alin registration when you leave the country, and are stricken from the rolls, so to speak, so such people probably couldn’t get the paperwork done and still be in Japan in the time period you describe. Whie I of course hope such people can find new employment, my concern is really for the unfairness of forcing people to contribute to a social scheme from which they can never collect. If visa rules change as proposed, non-nationals should not be forced to contribute to unemployment insurance.

    — Collecting for unemployment is one thing, but I think the bigger (and even less collectable) issue is the requirement into the nenkin pension coffers, when you know you’ll never be here for the full 24 years, but the current proposal is for three-year visas to be extended to five (and you can only collect half of the first three years anyway). I think that’s the bigger rip-off.

  • As far as nenkin goes, with most major countries of the West, Japan has totalization treaties.

    The contributions made in Japan are aggregrated with whatever the pension scheme is at home, and you get a fractional benefit if the combined number of years is 25.

    For the U.S. for example, 20 years in Social Security and 5 into the Japanese system would provide a benefit from Japan — but just based on the 5 years.

    I know the U.K. has a different deal with Japan. Canada and Australia have ones now similar to the U.S.

    Plus, I think the Japanese will give back 36 months worth of contributions (or thereabouts). Not many countries do that.

    To me, the real problem is labor equality while working in Japan. Businesses are given too much leeway to treat foreign workers differently. If the U.S. started pulling Japanese aside and doing the same there would be holy hell.

  • “Plus, I think the Japanese will give back 36 months worth of contributions (or thereabouts).”

    Maybe, but it tops out at 500,000 yen. That’s just a little over a year for me.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Plus, I think the Japanese will give back 36 months worth of contributions (or thereabouts). Not many countries do that.

    But this only applies to the employee’s half of the contributions. The other half, which was contributed by the employer, simply disappears. People don’t notice when pseudo-taxes like these are taken directly from their employer before they ever see them, but the money was still earned by the employee. This half should be returned as well.

    What I can’t understand is the all-or-nothing aspect of the Japanese pension system. Contribute for 24 years and 11 months, and you get nothing, with all your contributions given to others, but contribute for 25 years and a day, and you get everything.

    I made some small contributions to the US Social Security system while working in high school and college — total lifetime earnings of about $30,000, so my total payments are much less — and I get a letter in the mail every year telling me of my past contributions, and how much more I have to contribute to get a pension. It’s some tiny amount — were I to go back to the US to work full-time for even a year or so, I’d qualify. My pension would be small, but it would certainly be fairer than the alternative.

    What other countries run their pension systems like Japan’s? If you were to spend half your working life in Japan, and the other half in a Japan-like country with no totalization treaty, you would have to pay for decades, but get nothing in the end.


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