Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Influencing immigration

"Has it happened again? Did politicians try to exert their influence over government offices, asking them for favors?

"This time, the story is about issuing visas to Filipinas entering Japan.

"In 2006, Leyte Island in the Philippines was hit by a massive landslide. Some Filipino women who had entered Japan without acquiring entertainment visas were allowed in on grounds that they were to appear in charity concerts to aid Leyte Island residents. But it turned out that they were actually working as bar hostesses. The Shizuoka prefectural police arrested a bar owner and others on suspicion that they had violated the immigration control law and the Adult Entertainment Business Regulation Law, and searched some places including the office of the private group that acted as guarantor for the women.

"According to investigations, the nonprofit group was being run, for all intents and purposes, by a former state-funded secretary for Masatoshi Kurata, a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker and senior vice minister for internal affairs and communications.

"Not only that, officials of both the Justice Ministry and Foreign Ministry have disclosed that Kurata and his former aide had approached the two ministries to expedite the issue of short-stay visas for the Filipinas.

"If Kurata and his aide did indeed try to exert influence, then this cannot be overlooked. Issuance of entertainment visas is strictly restricted. Their alleged actions are tantamount to assisting illegal activities.

"Kurata flatly denies the allegations, saying, "I have never tried to exert influence." But then, what about the charges that Kurata had said, "Please help out with the charity"?

"Kurata admits he knew that his former aide was involved in the organizing of the concerts. The former secretary had originally explained that the visas were issued because, "a supporter had asked Kurata for help, and Kurata had instructed me to look into it." However, this aide later backtracked and denied Kurata had given him any instructions.

"Where is the truth? We hope Kurata will provide a convincing explanation about his involvement with the private group, and how the visas were issued.

"Because Kurata is senior vice minister for internal affairs and communications, the government is required to look into the matter and determine the facts. Of course, law enforcement authorities also need to investigate the case.

"There is something else that has come to light.

"Japan has long been criticized here and abroad for "human trafficking," that is, for allowing foreign women to work as bar hostesses. This latest scandal has brought to light the reality that these things are still going on.

"Most of these women tended to come to Japan as dancers and singers, and enter with entertainment visas. That is why there has been a crackdown on such visas since 2005, with much stricter requirements. Since then, the number of women entering with these visas dropped drastically, but the latest incident shows that other types of visas are now being used as covers.

"If such loopholes are increasingly being used, then the matter is serious. If nothing is done, and such activities are allowed to continue, then it would seem as if the Japanese authorities are ignoring the problem. Japan's international credibility will plummet.

"Unless there is also something done about this situation, there will be no fundamental solution."

By Editorial (Asahi Shimbun, 10/20/2008), Link to article (last visited 10/22/2008)

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