Statelessness, legal status and family reunion A report from Japan

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Statelessness, legal status and family reunion A report from Japan

Post by Yue FU on Tue Jun 28, 2011 5:45 pm

Statelessness, legal status and family reunion A report from Japan

In this early spring, when cherry blossoms were in full bloom, bright news reached the Stateless Network (The Stateless Network is a nonprofit, multi-ethnic organization and is the only organization that offers support to stateless persons in Japan Two stateless brothers from Thailand, Mr. J and Mr. G, who had been living in Japan for twenty-two years irregularly, were eventually granted Special Permission for Residence (SPR)! In the following weeks, a string of good news was brought to other stateless persons from Thailand. Apart from the significance of acquiring status of residence in Japan, they were all excited to be able to finally reunite with their families in Thailand after decades of being apart.

Since the triple disaster of March 11 that hit East Japan, starting with the magnitude 9 earthquakes, followed by the subsequent tsunami and the on-going nuclear crisis, the fear of aftershocks and the radiation threat have caused many foreigners to leave Japan. But those stateless persons, who had no legal status and had been ordered to leave Japan prior to the disaster, have had no choice but to stay in Japan. Since there is no government in the world that provides protection to them, they feel insecure and depressed. At the time when they were isolated and helpless, SPR gave them hope by making it possible for them to travel legally to the country of their families and then back to Japan. All staffs of the Stateless Network were heartened by the cheerful news of their SPR acquisition and appreciated the possible influences of the court judgments as mentioned below.

When stateless persons face deportation, there will be a serious problem because no country will accept them. With the legal assistance from Ms. F. Azukizawa, a volunteer attorney of the Stateless Network, two stateless persons from Thailand challenged their cases before the court. The two complainants are the second generation descendants of Indochinese refugees who had fled the first Indo-China War (1946-1954) to Thailand. Despite the fact that they were born and brought up in Thailand, they do not have Thai nationality, nor Vietnamese nationality, and remain stateless (For more details, see Chie Komai and Fumie Azukizawa, Stateless persons from Thailand in Japan, Forced Migration Review, Issue 32 (2009), p.33.). They came to Japan with forged passports in the early 1990s. About 16 years later, they were suspected of violating Japanese immigration law and deportation procedures were commenced. Their deportation destination was designated as Vietnam because the Japanese Immigration Bureau concluded that the complainants had Vietnamese nationality, and because the immigration law provides that in principle, anyone subject to deportation should be deported to the country of his/her nationality (Art. 53(1) of Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, Act No.79 of 2009.). However, after negotiations between the Japanese Immigration Bureau and the Vietnamese and Thai Embassies in Japan, neither Thailand nor Vietnam accepted the complainants as they were not recognized as nationals of any of those countries. The complainants claimed that the deportation orders were illegal mainly for two reasons: (i) they did not appeal for obtaining SPR because there were flaws in the procedure. The interviews, which were held without an interpreter, misleading the complainants to believe that they could go back to Thailand as they had wished; (ii) it is illegal to issue deportation orders to the complainants because they are stateless persons. The Tokyo District Court acknowledged the first reason. In the second instance, the court limited itself to mentioning in short that it was questionable to designate the destination of deportation as Vietnam. Accordingly, the court concluded that the deportation orders to the complainants were illegal (Judgments of the Tokyo District Court on 19th February 2010, Heisei 20 (Gyo-u) No.470 and Heisei 20 (Gyo-u) No.457.). The appeal court upheld the district courts judgments (Judgments of the Tokyo High Court on 31th August 2010, Heisei 22 (Gyo-ko) No.98 and Heisei 22 (Gyo-ko) No.97.). Subsequently, the two complainants were granted SPR.

Attorneys C. Komai, who handled the cases together with attorney F. Azukizawa, pointed out that more people all over Japan are in the same situation as the complainants and are forced to live under difficult conditions (Chie Komai, Sekai to Nihon no Mukokuseki Mondai (Statelessness issues in Japan and in the world, in Japanese), Liberty & Justice, Vol.62, No.2 (2011), p.60.). The serious problem is that the stateless persons with no status of residence in Japan are likely to go into long-term detention until deportation. Even when they are temporarily released from detention, they are still in very unstable situation, without legal status, nor permission to work, having to face various complex problems and fearing more detention. Under those circumstances, not only can they not go back to their country legally to see their families and relatives, they are not free to seek marriage prospects and establish a family. In this respect, legalizing the status of stateless persons by granting them SPR is important in that it entitles them to enjoy many rights for leading a normal life.

To make all the stateless persons live in freedom and dignity presents many challenges, such as lack of recognition and protection of stateless persons, discrimination against stateless persons, inaccurate nationality confirmation, issues of nationality and legal status of their future generations, etc. We need to bear in mind that those issues cannot be resolved without international discussion and cooperation.

Yue FU (

Yue FU

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