Up until the end of 2014 we were able to help many undocumented foreign residents who had been issued with a deportation order by appealing the court order due to a change in circumstances and in a number of cases were able to secure legal status for such individuals. However since 2015 most of our appeals for legal status have been rejected.
In addition the number of cases in which an individual is granted “Special Permission of Residence” has continued to decrease. There are “Guidelines for Special Permission of Residence” but there are no clear standards for this process and how the guidelines are applied remains opaque. Furthermore there is frequent judgement by the Immigration Bureau of the Ministry of Justice to separate children and parents.
In order to consider this pressing problem APFS gathered together with lawyers involved in the cases of undocumented foreign residents, research experts in sociology and local supporters on three occasions in order to consult upon the conditions and guidelines of the Special Permission of Residence. These meetings were held on 1st September (no. 1), 5th October (no.2) and 9th December 2016(no.3).
In the first meeting lawyers introduced the trend in which many court cases were filed against the decision not to grant Special Permission of Residence but the cases in which the plaintiff won were most few. It was suggested that the reason for this trend was that the Minister of Justice has very wide range of discretionary powers. However, there is a case where they won based on so called ‘principle of proportionality’. Researchers pointed: “I am wondering why the laws and guidelines don’t have universality which they should have.” “Japan is violating the International Bill of Human Rights which Japan ratifies. They should regard the best interests of children but the courts don’t give judgements in accordance with it.”
In the second meeting we attempted to inspect the universal application of the “Guidelines for Special Permission for Residence” and in order to do this decided to assess a number of cases according to the guidelines. It was also suggested that we make a series of proposals regarding Special Permission for Residence to the Ministry of Justice’s Immigration Policy Consultation Committee.
Furthermore it was suggested that as the United Nations Human Rights Committee will be coming to Japan in the consideration of the European Court of Human Rights, we should use this opportunity to inform them of the situation of undocumented foreign residents.
In the third meeting, we reported the results of the evaluation of the actual cases according to the “Guidelines for Special Permission of Residence”, but the reflection of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ elements in the evaluation differed by each evaluator, which highlights the difficulty of the approval of the Special Permission of Residence.
Following these series of discussion meetings, we have confirmed our plan to submit concrete proposals to the Immigration Policy Consultation Committee, and have decided to continue our activities as a group under the title of “Citizen Consultation Group on the Special Permission for Residence”.
The challenges which the citizen consultation group will have to take on from now must include a follow up upon the points of debate within previous Immigration Policy Consultation Committee sessions, and the invitation and hearing of experts in the field of collective amnesty and special permission of residence in other countries.
Members of ‘Citizen Consultation on the Special Permission for Residence’ (on January 10, 2017)
Tetsuo Mizukami (Prof. of Rikkyo University Department of Sociology) Chairman
Koichi Kodama (Lawyer)
Chie Komai (Lawyer)
Yoshiaki Noro ((Prof. of Rikkyo University Department of Sociology)
Fu Yue (Associate Prof. of Ibaraki University Department of Social Sciences)
Yoshinori Matsushima (Representative of Support Group for Filipino Families)
Junpei Yamamura (Doctor of Minato Shinryosho)
Akiko Watanabe (Support Group for Iranian Mothers and Children)
Chie Watanabe (Lawyer)
Jotaro Kato (Representative of APFS)
Kenlai Cho (Full member of APFS)
Mayumi Yoshida (Vice-representative of APFS)
Katsuo Yoshinari (Board member and advisor of APFS)