Can Undocumented Immigrants Become Naturalized Japanese Citizens?

SurajAnonymous student post

In March of 2010, a Ghanaian national, Abubakar Awudu Suraj, died as he was being escorted by immigration officials to a private jet at Narita airport for deportation; he had asphyxiated due to the immigration officials’ negligence. The Japanese immigration officials had tied his arms and legs, and stuffed a towel in his mouth, thus suffocating him (The Economist 2010).

Suraj had been detained in 2006 after he was discovered by the Japanese police for overstaying his tourist visa. At the time of arrest, Abubakar had lived in Japan for about twenty-one years, had a Japanese partner he subsequently married while in immigration detention, fluently spoke the Japanese language, and had a sustainable income from working at a metal plating factory, recycling and clothing sector, as well as painting for a magazine, illustrating posters and CD jackets. (Jacqueline Andall 2014). Why wasn’t Suraj considered for naturalization, or at the very least, a special residency Permit (SRP), which is granted arbitrarily to immigrants under such circumstances? According to article 5 of the Nationality Law by the Japanese Ministry of Justice, an alien is eligible for naturalization if:

suraj2…he or she has domiciled in Japan for five years or more consecutively;…he or she is twenty years of age or more and of full capacity to act according to the law of his or her home country;…he or she is of upright conduct;…he or she is able to secure a livelihood by one’s own property or ability, or those of one’s spouse or other relatives with whom one lives on common living expenses;… he or she has no nationality, or the acquisition of Japanese nationality will result in the loss of foreign nationality;…he or she has never plotted or advocated, or formed or belonged to a political party or other organization which has plotted or advocated the overthrow of the Constitution of Japan or the Government existing thereunder, since the enforcement of the Constitution of Japan. (Ministry of Justice, no date)

Basing on Article 5 of Japan’s Nationality Law, Suraj was a perfect candidate for naturalization, even though he was an undocumented immigrant. The only clause that might have deterred his claim to naturalization is that an applicant has to be of upright conduct, and undocumented immigrants are often perceived as dishonest and problematic. Ultimately, the final verdict on who qualifies as a naturalization applicant is always left to the Minister of Justice, and it is likely that illegal immigrants might not be considered.

Many cases involving undocumented immigrants in Japan have arisen in previous years that have attracted the attention of the international community and shed light on Japan’s problematic immigration policies. For example: the case of Fida Khan, a teenager born in Japan but facing deportation together with his Pakistani father and Filipino mother who entered the country without proper visas; and Noriko Calderon, a girl born in Japan to undocumented immigrants from the Philippines who were apprehended by immigration authorities after having lived in Japan for 16 years.

It is my humble view that Japan needs to amend its immigration policies so as to clearly state under which circumstances undocumented immigrants qualify for naturalization or permanent residency. I also think that Japan needs to open up its borders and promote migration into the country in order to solve the labor shortage problem that is arising due to low birthrates and an aging population. It is clear that Japan needs foreign assistance in terms of migrant workers if it is to compete favorably with other developed countries to maintain its economic growth and development.

References

Andall J. (2014). Deported from Japan: until death do us part. https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jacqueline-andall/deported-from-japan-until-death-do-us-part

Ministry of Justice. (n.d.). The Nationality Law. http://www.moj.go.jp/ENGLISH/information/tnl-01.html

The Economist. (2010). A nation’s bouncers: A suspicious death in police custody. http://www.economist.com/node/16113280

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