Undocumented Children

by Yurino Kawamura

All children have equal rights. All children must have opportunity for education, access to medical care, and right to realize their dreams. Doesn’t this apply to undocumented children?

According to Lee et al, the number of undocumented children of undocumented or illegal immigrants in Japan is estimated to be 20,000 to 30,000. Some of their parents have moved to Japan in illegal means, but others are so called over-stayers, whose visas have already been expired. In most cases, children themselves had no choice but to live in a country where their parents have chosen to work. Current Japanese law says elementary and middle schools are to offer education to children if they asked for it, regardless of their nationality, and regardless of their state of documentation. However, according to Lee’s case study, many undocumented children were still unable to go to school. Some parents simply didn’t know that undocumented children can go to public schools. Others needed their 9-year-old daughter to take care of her younger sisters when they were working in the daytime. There is no doubt that similar cases may take place in the case of Filipinos. Also, some cases are reported that educational committees refuse undocumented children. Although the law admits the children’s right, more effort should be exercised to widespread that idea into schools and committees.

It seems unbelievable, but 20 years ago, children of Japanese Brazilian workers were refused to enter elementary school by education committees, because they could not comprehend Japanese. This kind of problem roots in the attitude toward foreign people. Not only by making laws, but also by changing these people’s attitudes toward emigrants should eliminate prejudice and unequal treatments toward undocumented children. What’s even worse, even if the children are raised in the Japanese community and society, once their parents are put into custody, children are exposed to the risk of being deported. In many cases, children have to choose either to “return” to their parents’ homeland or to stay in Japan apart from their family. This is a crucial and tough choice for teenagers. Although they themselves had no choice but to survive and make a good community in the environment they were brought to, they have risk of being torn apart from it all of a sudden. Could it be said that undocumented children are treated equally?

Living in a foreign country where you cannot communicate fluently may cause a huge stress upon children. Even the children of legal emigrants face some risks such as discrimination. Facing many kinds of risks, undocumented children have much tough time to grow up. We have to think about at better way to let undocumented children live better lives.


Lee et al, “A study about a non-attendance at school / the life reality of a child in a statelessness state in Japan -From a viewpoint of International Human Rights law”, Bulletin of Social Medicine, No.23 2005 (in Japanese)