Recommendations Regarding the Legitimization of Undocumented Residents submitted to Ministry of Justice

On March 27, 2019, we at APFS submitted our petition, Recommendations Regarding the Legitimization of Undocumented Residents, to the Ministry of Justice.

There was much talk and debate in the National Diet and news media following the finalization of the new Immigration Law that takes effect this April, but there was nothing mentioned about any mercy to be granted to undocumented residents currently living in Japan. On the contrary, in the Cabinet’s Comprehensive Measures for Acceptance and Coexistence of Foreign Human Resources, there includes a section calling for the “thorough removal of illegal residents”, as well as language calling for the stricter monitoring of undocumented residents on provisional release and the quicker enforcement of deportations. Here at APFS, in helping many undocumented residents, we have seen many cases where it is simply not possible to return to one’s home country for various reasons, such as having one’s life and economic livelihood based solely in Japan. There are also many cases where children are born to undocumented residents, and have never experienced life outside of Japan. We proposed to the Ministry of Justice that, prior to accepting new foreign laborers, it should legitimize undocumented residents currently living in Japan.

In other countries, when the government revises their immigration law, a general amnesty is sometimes used to legitimize undocumented residents when they meet certain conditions. Here in Japan, we have a special pardon system in place called the Special Permission to Stay, whereby the government can pardon undocumented residents on a case-by-case basis. We appealed to the Ministry of Justice to use this current system in a flexible manner, to legitimize undocumented residents on a large-scale basis.

In our petition, we made four specific recommendations:

1) The Ministry should explain its reasons each time it decides to grant or deny a Special Permission to Stay to an undocumented resident. Currently, it makes its decision without stating the reasons behind the decision.

2) In addition to its own published Guidelines on Special Permission to Stay, the Ministry should look to international human rights treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), for guidance when making its decision to grant or deny a Special Permission to Stay.

3) The Ministry should base petitions for rehearing in Immigration Law. Currently, petitions for rehearing are recognized in practice, but they have no legal basis in Immigration Law.

4) Children born and raised in Japan should necessarily be granted Special Permission to Stay.

Mr. Tamura and Mr. Kizaki of the General Affairs Section of the Ministry of Justice Immigration Bureau received our petition. As awareness of the problems concerning undocumented residents grows, the status quo will be challenged, and their treatment will change. Thus, our petition to the Ministry of Justice was necessary.

At APFS, we will continue to support undocumented residents, and together we will continue to raise our voices.

* Please contact us if you would like to see the full text of the petition.