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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #244: August 31, 2004

Filipino illegal workers in Japan warned of crackdown

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Filipino illegal workers in Japan warned of crackdown"
Martin Marfil, Philippine Daily Inquirer


The article reports the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has warned Filipinos staying illegally in Japan that the Japanese government had launched a campaign against overstaying foreigners, and also called on illegal Filipinos in Japan to leave that country voluntarily.

It sounds a bit odd in the sense that the Philippine government agency is seemingly advising lawbreakers in Japan to not get caught. But their government has been known to side with their citizens under any circumstance. A very indicative incident was when, in July, the government announced to withdraw its troops from Iraq by giving in to the terrorists' demands who took a Filipino truck driver hostage, even under strong pressure from the United States not to do so.

Was the decision made because the Philippine government was against president Bush's policies? Many say it was not so, and suggest the fact of the matter was that the government wanted to send the messages to its citizens working abroad not to get upset, and keep working in comfort that their government is always on their side.

The Philippine government, upon making the announcement to withdraw its troops from Iraq, said there are more than 1,000 Filipino workers in Iraq hired directly by Iraqi companies or other foreign companies, and it would not want them to be targets of further assaults. Indeed, it is estimated that close to 8 million Filipinos, or about 10 percent of the population, are working in 200 countries and regions all over the world. They send back home tens of billions of dollars annually, comprising 10% percent of GDP. In fact, POEA was established in 1982 exactly for the purpose of promoting their people to work overseas.

It is, therefore, understandable, for POEA to warn Philippine citizens living in Japan - legally or otherwise - not to get caught by the law enforcers.

On the other hand, it is true that Japan has began to toughen enforcing its immigration rules to watch for foreigners staying in Japan illegally. The Justice Ministry estimates there are more than 200 thousand foreigners illegally staying in Japan. More than 20% of them are Koreans, and the Chinese and Filipinos each about 14%, or about 30 thousand Filipinos illegally staying in Japan.

The campaign against overstaying foreigners by the Japanese government was triggered by the general public's sentiment against foreigners when they were told that crimes committed by foreigners are increasing at the rate of 20% in recent years, and most of them are committed by those illegal staying here. In the meantime, specific incidents also made the feelings of the people sour against foreigners.

One of the most significant was when a whole family in Fukuoka was murdered. The bodies of Mr Matsumoto, 41, his wife Chika, 40, son Kai, 11, and daughter Hina, 8, were found June 20, 2003 in Hakata Bay handcuffed and weighed down with dumbbells. The atrocious nature of the crime, while seemingly lacking the motive had invited a lot of speculation, and concern for safety across Japan. It was finally solved toward the end of 2003, when three Chinese students were arrested as being responsible for the crime. The three Chinese planned an attack on the family because an expensive car was parked at the house, making the killers think there would be money. By slaying the whole family the criminals were able to gain 40 thousand yen, or less than 400 US dollars, that was in the wallet of Mr Matsumoto. It was later found that the three had, before this crime, committed numerous robberies.

This incident shocked the naive people in Japan. They finally realized that Japan is filled with all sorts of foreigners with different types of cultures and ways of thinking, despite physical features being often indistinguishable from their own. The report of increasing crimes by foreigners fueled the skepticism toward foreigners in general, which has led to the government's campaign against illegally-staying foreigners.

There is a legitimate argument, however, on the other side of the event, that Japan is in need to accept a large volume of immigration to cope with the decreasing population. One of the recommendations being made along these lines is to accept Filipino nurses and care-givers, to fill the gap of scarce professionals and the large chunk of the aging population.

It is a desire of almost every developed country to adopt an immigration policy where capable people would come in and those unwanted would stay out. Japan has finally reached the fringe of that vast issue.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications