Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Tougher adult business law takes effect May 1

Will this law help curb human trafficking?

Or does it not go far enough?

from the Japan Times
The revised adult entertainment control law will go into force May 1 featuring measures designed to crack down on human trafficking, the government decided Tuesday.

Those arrested or sent to prosecutors for violating the human-trafficking provisions of the Penal Code will be denied business permits.

The revised Law Regulating Adult Entertainment Businesses requires business owners to keep documents confirming that any foreign woman employed for "entertainment services" holds a work permit. It also features measures to punish distributors of sex service fliers and those who advertise sex businesses.

Violators will face a fine of up to 1 million yen. There was no penalty previously.

The revised law contains provisions to curb aggressive touting in entertainment districts.

The move comes amid international criticism of Japan's adult entertainment industry, which has been described as a hotbed for human trafficking.

According to a National Police Agency report issued in July, 51 Thai women were brought into Japan illegally and forced to work in the adult entertainment industry in the first half of this year. It was the highest figure for a six-month period since the NPA began tracking the statistic in 2001.

Human rights groups and researchers, however, estimate that thousands of women, mostly from poor parts of Asia, enter Japan illegally every year and are forced to work in the sex industry.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Justice Ministry may clamp down on foreigners

from the Mainichi Daily News:
Justice Ministry may clamp down on foreigners following Peruvian's arrest for murder

Justice Minister Seiken Sugiura said on Friday that a ministry task group would discuss what measures to take in connection with accepting foreign workers after a Peruvian man was arrested for killing an elementary schoolgirl.

The 30-year-old Peruvian man reportedly admitted to killing the 7-year-old girl in Hiroshima, but denied any premeditated intention to murder her.

"He apparently has permanent resident status and reportedly is a third-generation Peruvian of Japanese descent," Sugiura said. "If there are problems in the way Japan accepts foreigners, a working group led by Deputy Justice Minister Taro Kono will discuss what measures to take."

Sources said that the in-house working group would discuss better ways to filter foreign workers and stronger measures against those who overstay their visas.

Anti-foreign backlash feared in Japan after murder

from Reuters:
Japanese police arrested an unemployed Peruvian on Wednesday on suspicion of strangling a primary schoolgirl and abandoning her body in a cardboard box, fanning fears of an anti-foreign backlash.

Concern about crime committed by foreigners has been growing in Japan, and broad media coverage of such offences has made many Japanese wary of welcoming more foreign residents to their nation despite prospects of a shrinking work force.

Activists now fear such feelings will be stoked still further by the arrest of Juan Carlos Pizarro Yagi, a Peruvian of Japanese descent, in connection with the murder of 7-year-old Airi Kinoshita last week, a crime that horrified the nation.

"Manhunt for Peruvian," said a banner headline on the front page of the morning edition of the Asahi Shimbun, a liberal daily, while others said "Arrest warrant issued for Peruvian."

"The fact that he was Peruvian was the big thing in the headlines, when there was absolutely no need to mention it," said Makoto Teranaka, with Amnesty International. "After all, most headlines don't say 'Japanese arrested.'"

"This is really quite a serious human rights problem, and shows that the winds of society are blowing harder against foreign residents of Japan."

Airi disappeared on Nov. 22 shortly after noon while walking home from school in the western Japanese prefecture of Hiroshima. Her body was found around two hours later packed into a cardboard box abandoned in an empty lot in full public view.

Yagi has denied killing the girl, media reports said.

The murder, which was top news on tabloid television shows, was seen as especially shocking because it took place in broad daylight in a residential area, and the fact that a Peruvian was arrested guaranteed wider play.

"There have already been a lot of comments on television that could fan prejudice, such as remarks implying foreigners commit a lot of crimes," said Yuriko Hara at IMADR, a group that fights racism and discrimination.

Hara also noted that most media outlets were referring to the suspect as Carlos rather than by his surname, as would be usual.

"That seems to be playing up the sensational aspect that this crime was committed by a foreigner," Hara added.

Foreign crime is undeniably rising as Japan's foreign population grows, but still only a small fraction of serious crimes are committed by non-Japanese.

The number of legally resident aliens has doubled over the past 25 years and now amounts to about 1.45 percent of the population.

Annual police reports highlighting the number of foreign arrests, and wide media coverage of them, create a sense among many Japanese that the problem is serious and growing.

Last February, in the most recent such report, police said they arrested a record number of foreigners in 2004. Still, only 2.29 percent of the 389,027 people charged with violating Japan's Penal Code and other relevant laws were foreigners.

Nearly 9 in 10 Japanese believe their country is less safe than it was a decade ago, and most blame foreigners and young Japanese for rising crime, government polls have shown.

"It's often said that concern about terrorism is feeding this fear of foreigners, but if you look at incidents of terrorism in Japan's recent history, all of them were conducted by Japanese," said Amnesty's Teranaka.

"Foreigners are simply being made scapegoats by people upset by rising crime rates here."

High court upholds refugee's status

High court upholds refugee's status
Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 1, 2005
In a rare decision, the Tokyo High Court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling that said the Justice Ministry was wrong to deny refugee status to a man who had been a senior member of the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar (Burma).

It is only the second case in which a high court has ruled that an asylum seeker was a refugee. In the previous case in June, the Osaka High Court also ruled in favor of a Burmese man.

Presiding Judge Toshiaki Harada said there was reason to believe claims by the 52-year-old man that he faced persecution in Myanmar. The man said he was a former regional chapter leader for Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD).

Immigration officials questioned the claims, saying the man entered Japan on an authentic passport and had communicated with his family in Myanmar after his arrival. The judge said immigration authorities were wrong to deny him refugee status.

"The decision to deny refugee status on the grounds that sufficient evidence to support the refugee claim did not exist would have to be called unlawful," Harada said.

The man, whose name is being withheld by lawyers, arrived in Japan in June 1998 and applied for asylum soon after.

He said he first participated in anti-government activities in the 1970s and joined the NLD soon after it was established in 1988. He fled the country after learning police were preparing to arrest him in connection with a demonstration near Suu Kyi's house in May 1998.

Citing the precedent of the high court to overturn lower court rulings that favor asylum seekers, lawyers said the ruling reflected a change in the judiciary's perception toward refugee cases.

Lawyers said Harada held four hearings, not the one session that is customary in such cases. The judge also agreed to listen to testimony by Tin Win, a high-profile Burmese refugee in Japan, who testified on the man's past at the NLD.

"We believe that the ruling shows a growing awareness among the judiciary toward the unique nature of refugee cases, and hope that it will serve as a standard for future cases," said lawyer Yasuyoshi Hamano.

An official at the Justice Ministry's Immigration Bureau called the ruling "regrettable" and said an appeal might be considered.