NEWS: Japan Plans to Change Law That Encourages Stowaways

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Jyothi Kanics---Global Survival Network (jkanics@igc.apc.org)
Fri, 23 Oct 1998 09:03:37 -0700 (PDT)


Japan Plans to Change Law That Encourages Stowaways
By MASAYOSHI KANABAYASHI
The Wall Street Journal, October 22, 1998

TOKYO PLANS to fix a quirk in its immigration laws to discourage stowaways
from Asian countries.

The statute of limitations on foreigners who enter Japan illegally is three
years. Those caught within that time face prison terms; those caught after
three years are just sent home. The problem is that foreigners who enter
legally and overstay their visas face a jail term no matter how long they
have been in Japan.

That leaves a big incentive for foreigners to stow away when entering Japan
with plans to work illegally, says the Justice Ministry. It is "strange,"
says a ministry spokesman, that people who enter the country legally should
face a harsher punishment than those who don't.

So the Justice Ministry is preparing to send a bill to Parliament in
January to fix what it calls a loophole. Details have yet to be clarified,
the spokesman says.

This follows a law last year that increased the maximum sentence for anyone
who helps foreigners enter Japan illegally. Last year, authorities arrested
more than 7,000 foreigners on charges of illegal entry, up by almost half
from a year earlier. Most of those arrested were from China, Thailand, the
Philippines or South Korea.

And the problem is likely to get worse. Authorities are on alert for more
stowaways as Asians flee their own recession-wracked countries to work in
Japan. (A Justice Ministry official says that while Japan is in recession,
it is still possible for other Asians to make what -- for them -- is big
money here.)

Faced with a surge of illegal entries of Chinese from Fujian province, for
example, Japan's National Police Agency this month started a training
course in the local dialect spoken in Fujian for Chinese-speaking officers.


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