Please help me reunite with my children! (revised December 22)

Please help me reunite with my children! (revised December 22)

17,352 have signed. Let’s get to 25,000!
Petition to
japanese government

Why this petition matters

Started by Melek Ortabasi


I am happy to report that my children were issued emergency visas on December 22. I still have to follow strict procedures to get them in the country, but hopefully everything will go well. Despite this wonderful personal news, the overall situation has not changed: the travel ban is still in place, families are still being separated and students are still being kept from entering the country. I will continue working with Takashi Arai, whose petition about family separation is linked with mine (see below), and with the team to continue bringing attention to this issue. People with real reasons to be in Japan should be allowed in; public safety can still be maintained. Therefore, please consider continuing to support this petition. Thank you.

I am being separated from my dependent children because of Japan’s border enforcement measures, which are intended to prevent the spread of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19. I am a Canadian professor and single mother currently in Japan for a 10-month research stay, sponsored by the Japan Foundation and hosted by a university in Yokohama. Due to Japan’s ongoing travel restrictions, which have been in place since March 2020, my arrival in Japan was postponed from August 11 to October 28. Furthermore, while I was supposed to travel to Japan with my three children, the youngest of whom is eight years old, they have continually been prevented from entering. While there was a plan underway to let them enter the country on December 23, on December 2nd, the Japanese government abruptly suspended the validity of previously issued permissions and visas without any prior notice, as part of the border enforcement measures to prevent the spread of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19. 

Now I am being told that maybe they can come in February. But then again, maybe not. There are no guarantees, and I can neither make plans or even have any expectations. Under the new ban, which has no firm end date as yet, it may be possible to enter under “exceptional circumstances.” This is, in fact, how I was able to enter the country at the end of October, but my children were not at first considered under this rule. The Japan Foundation was able to get the Ministry to reconsider, but since Dec. 2, this tentative permission has been rescinded. I do not question the validity of Japan's concern over the Omicron variant. I DO question the fact that my human rights have been infringed by these poorly conceived and hastily enacted measures. 

I am being separated from my children, and this should not happen. I am a researcher, but I am also a mother and a human being. I am having difficulty focusing on the research – my topic is Japanese children’s literature – that I came here to do. I cannot begin the difficult search for family housing (have you ever tried to find a short-term furnished rental in Japan for a family with three children?) My children’s lives are being disrupted. Planning for their schooling in the spring semester (which starts in January for us) is all up in the air (again). The youngest has apparently been acting out in school. The eldest, who delayed his university entrance for a year so he could accompany me and provide a helping hand, stays away from home a lot. My middle son hides in his video games. The current care situation is not sustainable. If we are not reunited again soon, I will have to return home, giving up my fellowship, valuable income, and the opportunity to do research for which I have waited for years. It seems a poor way to treat someone who has made Japan her career, and whose love affair with the country began thirty-five years ago, when she was a Hello Kitty-loving teen who thought learning the Japanese language would be cool.

Currently, the entry ban ensures only that the families of Japanese citizens and long-term residents should not be separated. The policy even states that (Japanese) children should not be separated from their families; and that there should be exemptions for this purpose. The Japanese government tried to ban its own citizens from traveling this week, and the outrage caused a reversal of policy within a matter of hours. I do not demand an unconditional lift of the travel ban. I do demand that temporary visa-holders such as myself also have a right not to be separated from their family, particularly when those family members are children still under the care of a parent. This is a human rights issue.

My children have been vaccinated. There is required testing for COVID before and after their flight. They have already been made to sign an agreement, required by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that they submit to a strict 14-day isolation quarantine in an airport hotel. They would not pose a threat to Japanese public health. Ten months is a long time for a child. It is a long time to be separated from a child for a mother as well. 

If you’d like to read my short op-ed about my family’s situation, you can do so here.  

Please sign this petition to bring light to this infringement on our human rights, and help me convince the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to allow my children into Japan as soon as possible.

If you sympathize with my cause, please know I am but one of many whose family is being negatively affected. I am working with Takashi Arai, the author of the following petition, which also calls for reunification of families separated by the entry ban. We share the same demands for the Japanese government to revise the current restrictions. Our petitions are linked to aggregate the signatures on both pages. Please consider visiting his page to read his plea as well! 

If you are affected by the travel ban, We want to hear your stories, too! Please share them in your comments when you sign.



17,352 have signed. Let’s get to 25,000!