Abolish the "Immigration Law Revision Bill": DON’T criminalize refugees!

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Abolish the "Immigration Law Revision Bill": DON’T criminalize refugees!
The Immigration Bureau of Japan has long been detaining foreigners without the status of residence for an indefinite period of time and has been repeatedly criticized by the United Nations and human rights organizations. However, as we speak, the "Immigration Control Law Amendment" is being prepared to further accelerate such human rights violations against these “status-less” foreigners and is about to be passed this spring.

If this bill passes, it will make foreigners “criminals” if they do not cooperate with deportation, and even those who help them out will be punished as "accomplices". 

Please support our fight against this inhumane bill by signing this online petition!

Long-term Detention: The situation is dire.
The Immigration Bureau of Japan has taken measures to "detain status-less foreigners whose deportation has been decided until they comply with repatriation, at the immigration detention facilities." The duration of detention is not regulated. In recent years, long-term detention has become normalized with no clear time set or a reason. Many have been detained for several years without a clear reason or a set period. In June 2019, a man being held in Omura Immigration Center, who had been on a hunger strike, starved to death, and the growing Long-term Detention was met with criticism by society at large. In October 2020, the United Nations clearly pointed out Long-term Detention as a "violation of international law" and called for the appropriate measures to be taken.

"Immigration Law Revision Bill" makes the situation EVEN worse
In response to this, the Ministry of Justice has created a proposed bill called "Revision of the Immigration Control and Refuge" to combat Long-term Detention. However, the content was to cover up for the contradiction of the system by furthering control and exclusion of the “status-less foreigners.” The bill does not include any plans for systemic changes. 

The main 3 points of the amendment proposal are

  1. Impose criminal penalties on deportees
  2. Create limits to how many times a person can apply for a refugee status. After the second time applying, the bill makes it possible for the applicant to be deported.
  3. Establish a new system called "Management Measures" that put status-less foreigners under the guidance and control of a "manager".

Logically speaking, they should revise the system, so that there is a prior judicial review before deciding on deportation, and an alternative plan for the detention centres. However, the Immigration Bureau does not even attempt to "correct the system that enables indefinite detention". Rather, it is trying to strengthen the control, surveillance and punishment for these foreigners.

"Deportation" that puts refugees life at risk
First and foremost, Japan rarely accepts refugees. Only 0.5% of the application is accepted. There are many that are re-applying to be granted refugee status. If the bill stating "those who were denied twice for a refugee status will be subject to deportation" passes, many existing refugee applicants will face deportation. On top of the long-term detention, this put their lives at risk.

The United Nations non-refoulement principle states that "refugees must not be forcibly expelled or returned to a country where their lives and freedoms are threatened." This amendment goes against this UN principle. The passing of this amendment is equivalent to abandoning the responsibility as a member of the United Nations and declaring to the international community that "Japan does not care if refugees die."

What is "Crime of Refusing Deportation"?
The most important and notable in this amendment is the introduction of "Crime of Refusing Deportation". The Immigration Bureau is trying to criminalize those who have nowhere else to go. The reasons for not being able to return to their countries varies from persecution, born in Japan to parents without residency status, to having already established livelihood only in Japan.  Those who are on a temporary release from the detention facilities have no rights granted to them at all. They are not permitted to work, receive health insurance, or leave the municipality that they live in without permission from the Immigration Bureau. The amendment seeks to impose additional criminal penalties on those in this situation and make them "criminals" once they refuse to be deported.

Additionally, whoever supports these foreigners in any way will also face criminal punishment as an “accomplice” in the crime of refusal of deportation. Any act including providing food or simply encouraging them will be criminal. Encouraging the children born to non-resident parents who have been ordered to move out by saying "you are welcome to stay here" or providing a place to live for those who are in need is also subject to punishment as an accomplice.

The above may also make it more difficult for the media to report on non-status residents. Non-status residents will be further isolated from society. The reality of human rights abuses at the hands of the Japanese government will be even more obscured.

Let's abolish the "immigration law amendment" that accelerates the control and exclusion of non-status foreigners!
If this bill passes, support for those on temporary release living with no rights at all will be harder than ever before. Their total exclusion from society is imminent. There will be many precious lives lost due to this amendment.

What is needed is not an immigration law reform that completely controls and excludes foreigners. What is needed now is to create an adequate process for residency permit and to realize a society in which the "right to live" is protected regardless of the status.

Do not let this bill pass. Let's use our voices to abolish the immigration law revision bill.

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POSSE: Who Are We?
We are a not-for-profit organization that focuses on labor issues and poverty issues, based in Tokyo. Our approach to these issues is holistic but we believe that addressing the root cause will make for a more just and equitable society. Young volunteers from university and graduate students play a key role in our organization, providing consultation, outreach activities, and advocacy, etc. 

KURDISH REFUGEE SUPPORT ACTIVITIES
POSSE is currently working to actualize the “RIGHT TO LIVE” for Kurdish refugees living in Saitama Prefecture.

There are about 2,000 to 3,000 Kurdish refugees living in Saitama Prefecture who have escaped the oppression by the Turkish government. The Japanese government has not approved any Kurdish refugee application in the past, even though many have escaped the danger of life and have come to Japan. Kurdish refugees who are on temporary release (a status-less individual who is usually detained at the detention centre but on a temporary release under certain conditions) are not allowed to work, are not covered by the Health Insurance, and live in a state of being excluded from all welfare.

In cooperation with other organizations, POSSE held a large-scale labor, medical, and livelihood counseling session in front of Kawaguchi Station in November of 2020, and provided counseling and food to about 300 visitors. After the event, we created a report to call for access to welfare by those without status to the city. We are fighting to have the right to life recognized regardless of their status.

LEARNING SUPPORT ACTIVITIES 
POSSE will start a study support group for Kurdish children and youth provided by our student volunteers. Many Kurdish youths were born and raised in Japan and have never been to Turkey. However, in Japan, there is no right to education if you are not Japanese. Many of the youths are forced to give up going to junior high school or high school due to financial reasons. Also, there are rarely any universities that accept students on a temporary release, so most will be cut off education after high school. We need to change this situation. The future of Kurdish children, who have lived only in Japan, should not be closed. Through our study sessions, we hope to support youths learning as well as capacity building to fight for a society in which children of foreign nationalities are universally granted the right to education.