Arab News Japan
TOKYO: Over 300 people marched in central Tokyo on Saturday against the new immigration bill that the Japanese government wants to pass in parliament during the coming days.
A planned reform of a law that would make it easier to deport failed applicants for refugee status drew fierce criticism from human rights groups and lawmakers who said it ran counter to international norms.
The government says the proposed reform, which would mean asylum seekers could be deported after a third failed application, will solve the problem of long detentions of asylum seekers while they re-apply, or appeal against a rejection, according to Reuters.
Some asylum seekers are granted provisional release during the process, meaning they can live relatively freely although they cannot work, but others are held in government detention centres where they spend months or even years.
The crowd of demonstrators, which included political groups, human rights campaigners, Buddhist nuns, Congolese, Senegalese and Kurdish immigrants, carried signs that read “No One Is Illegal” and “Refugees Are Human Beings,” and shouted slogans against the new bill.
Japanese and Congolese carried placards with photos of the civil war currently unfolding in the Congo. These showed the massacres committed on the civilian population by armed groups.
Many of the demonstrators were invited to sign a petition for Kurd Deniz Yengin, who said he spent three years in the Ibaraki detention center because his visa had expired, even though he was married to a Japanese woman and had not committed a crime. He was eventually released due to developing schizophrenia as a result of the stress induced by his long detention.
Japanese media had extensively reported on his situation and a former budget minister (Renho) spoke out for him.
Japanese governments have long been very reticent about immigration and asylum.
The country is known to have tough laws relating to political refugees and does not grant the political refugee status, despite recommendations by the United Nations, which says detaining foreign nationals for extended periods is a violation of their human rights and the the problem of an ageing population and shrinking workforce that economists say could be alleviated by allowing more immigrants in.
Two months ago, COVID-19 struck 58 detainees at the Shinagawa Immigration Detention Center, making the conditions of detention even more precarious.