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June 1997, Volume 4, Number 6

Japan's New Immigration Law

A revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law went into effect on May 11 in Japan. The revised law increases penalties on organizations smuggling foreigners into Japan and includes penalties for those who assist illegal entry. Police and immigration authorities report that the number of Chinese who entered the country illegally during the four-month period from December 1996 through March 1997 totaled 912, compared with 137 reported in the same period a year earlier.

On June 2, Japanese police arrested two Chinese on charges of remitting more than 10 billion yen (US $86 million) to China via on underground bank. The police suspect that the two Chinese sent a total of 12.6 billion yen (US $108 million) for illegal Chinese migrants between December 1995 and February 1997. The arrested Chinese levied a commission of 0.5 percent on the remittances.

Fifty Chinese nationals were taken into custody on an uninhabited island in western Japan on May 14 on suspicion of attempting to enter Japan illegally. Most were from Fujian Province; about nearly 40 percent of all illegal Chinese immigrants arrested in Japan are from Fujian.

Local governments in rural Japan have started to double as marriage agencies, bringing young women from the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea and other Asian countries to Japan to marry Japanese bachelor farmers. The Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare reports more than 20,000 marriages between Japanese men and foreign women since 1995.

Farmers seeking foreign wives spend as much as $20,000 on marriage broker fees, trips abroad and presents for the prospective bride. The "bride price" paid to the woman's family can run up to $3,000.

There are a growing number of newspapers and magazines for foreigners living in Japan. Traditionally, most ethnic publications have been written in Japanese and aimed at Chinese and Korean nationals. There are currently about 100 ethnic publications in 15 languages, including Portuguese, Chinese, Farsi and Thai.

Japan will allow the Filipina wife of a deceased Japanese man to visit Japan in order to return her son to the Philippines. The woman was deported from Japan in September 1995, despite being married to a Japanese national. The boy was found alone in a supermarket March, 1997, and the next day his father was found dead. A birth certificate was not issued for the boy, so he is not Japanese and officially has no relatives in Japan.

Japan is one of the world's most egalitarian societies--half of all Japanese households earn between $35,000 and $75,000 a year-- only two percent earn less than $16,000 per year, or more than $160,000 per year. About one percent of the population is on welfare, one percent of births are to unwed mothers and 99.9 percent of Japanese are literate.

"Chinese nabbed for 'underground' bank in Japan," Jiji Press, June 2, 1997. Yosuke Sakurai, "Ethnic media tell how to assimilate foreign residents," Daily Yomiuri, May 31, 1997. Joji Sakuri, "Rural Japan Faces Lack of Brides, AP, May 19, 1997. "50 Chinese illegals taken into custody in western Japan," Japan Economic Newswire, May 15, 1997. "Deported Filipina allowed to enter Japan to collect son," Kyodo News International, May 12, 1997. "Law cracks down on alien smugglers," Daily Yomiuri, May 12, 1997.