1 April 2010 Migrants in Japan face discrimination, exploitation and other forms of mistreatment, an independent United Nations human rights expert said, urging the Japanese Government to strengthen their protection.
“They [migrants] still face a range of challenges, including racism and discrimination, exploitation, a tendency by the judiciary and police to ignore their rights, and the overall lack of a comprehensive immigration policy that incorporates human rights protection,” said Jorge A. Bustamante, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, at the end of a nine-day visit to Japan on Wednesday.
Mr. Bustamante praised some of the measures taken by the Government to alleviate the impact of the economic crisis on migrants and their children. However, he stressed that “Japan has yet to adopt a comprehensive immigration policy that provides for the protection of migrants’ rights,” 20 years after it started receiving migrant workers.
“Japan should establish institutionalized programmes designed to create the necessary conditions for the integration of migrants into Japanese society and the respect of their rights, including to work, health, housing and education, without discrimination,” Mr. Bustamante said.
“Racism and discrimination based on nationality are still too common in Japan, including in the workplace, in schools, in healthcare establishments and housing,” he added. Existing general provisions are not effective in protecting foreign residents from discrimination based on race and nationality, he said.
Mr. Bustamante expressed concern about the policy of detaining irregular migrants, including asylum-seekers, parents and children, for prolonged periods, in some cases for as long as three years, saying that practice amounted to a “de facto indefinite detention.”
“Clear criteria should be established in order to limit detention to the cases where it is strictly necessary, avoiding detaining persons such as those who are ill or who are the parents of minor children,” the human rights expert said. “A maximum period of detention pending deportation should be set, after which foreigners should be released.”
The Special Rapporteur also drew attention to the high incidence of domestic violence against migrant women and their children. “Appropriate policies to protect and assist single mothers and their children who find themselves in this extremely vulnerable situation are lacking and should be adopted and implemented urgently,” he said.
Noting that a considerable number of migrant children in Japan do not attend school, Mr. Bustamante said that “governmental efforts should be increased to facilitate that foreign children study either in Japanese or foreign schools, and learn Japanese.”
During his mission, the independent expert heard many cases where parents of children born in Japan or who have lived there for up to 15 years have been recently deported or detained, resulting in the children being separated from their parents because of their irregular residence status. “In accordance with the principle of the best interest of the child, families should not be separated,” he said.
The Special Rapporteur will later this year present to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council a complete report on his visit, with his observations and recommendations.
An expert from Mexico on international migration, Mr. Bustamante was appointed as Special Rapporteur by the former Commission on Human Rights in 2005.
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