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Banned from working, asylum seekers are building Japan's roads

62 Comments
By Thomas Wilson, Mari Saito, Minami Funakoshi and Ami Miyazaki

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If you are not wanted somewhere, are treated like dirt and STILL have the motivation to do this hard work you deserve that visum WITH a gold ribbon. I'd take a hard working asylum/refugee over 10 neet's anyday.

31 ( +33 / -2 )

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters at the United Nations in September that Japan should address its demographic problems by putting women and the elderly to work before considering immigration.

Right, pouring concrete, laying asphalt, building the roads to nowhere? Abe really is the "Clown" Prince of Japan.

19 ( +24 / -5 )

When I read stories like this, and see the look in their eyes, it really makes me appreciate that my wife and I have stable jobs,

17 ( +20 / -3 )

"Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters at the United Nations in September that Japan should address its demographic problems by putting women and the elderly to work before considering immigration."

Typical fascist thinking.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

As far as the Japanese government is concerned, this problem is being handled. The guy featured in this story has been in Japan nearly a decade. Japan has therefore opted to just exploit these people and depend on the dependably clueless Japanese populace to never even know it's happening.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

Yeah, I am sure the elderly and women are just lining up in droves to do that kind of work. What would Japan do without brilliant strategists like Abe? Dig your own grave but don't blame it on foreigners.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

If there really is a shortage of labour how come so many jobs are advertised at minimum wage? If a company is only willing to pay Y700 per hour it's not surprising there is a lack of applicants. Increase wages and the labour shortage will disappear.

15 ( +17 / -2 )

Subaru cars was enjoying a boom driven in part by its reliance on cheap laborers from Asia and Africa who were seeking refugee status in Japan.

Enjoying? Enjoying? Are you serious? You enjoy slave labor? You enjoy not paying people enough money.... this is disgusting Subaru and Japan for allowing this to happen.

14 ( +18 / -4 )

@Yochim san There are more refugees in "Team Refugee" at the Olympics than there are in Japan!

12 ( +12 / -0 )

The fact is - with a shrinking population and Japanese young people not willing to do this kind of work, this kind of situation is only going to increase.

If Japan and the Japanese people continue to keep their heads deep in the sand over the issue of immigration and an ever-shrinking workforce, one of two things will happen. Either the country will fall even deeper into economic decline, or it will eventually be forced to rush through some kind of half-baked immigration policy that will be worse than the current situation.

If the Japanese can get over the psychological blocks to immigration and start planning now, they have a chance to direct the course of their country's future in this area.

If not, they will end up with a jury-rigged system that will ultimately fail them and their country.

Either that, or start having a LOT more babies NOW.

Your choice, Japan.

11 ( +15 / -4 )

SHAME on Japan, I have watched for over 2decades while Japan has continually exploited those seeking refugee status & illegals in general.

Japan LETS these people in KNOWINGLY!! They know they will find KKK jobs, they LET them, they do nothing about the companies that abuse these people!!

And every once in a while to round some up & kick them out, only to let more in to work under the tables & out of sight!!

And meanwhile almost NO ONE actually gets refugee status..........not very nice Japan, you SHOULD do better!

11 ( +15 / -4 )

Do you think publishing this sort of stories will help these people or make govt. go more strict on checking on companies who are hiring people without papers?

9 ( +10 / -1 )

I've long felt sorry for the Kurds. They need Turkey and the surrounding countries where Kurds have traditionally lived, to each give over a slice of territory so that the Kurds can have their own sovereignty. The Kurds have done more to combat IS than the Turks are likely to do as all the latter are concerned with is containing Kurdish unrest, If Japan were to grant temporary work visas to these people they would learn skills which they can take back to their country of origin when things settle down there. In the meantime they would have access to decent medical care and a chance to learn another language.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Unlike many officials, Kawaguchi mayor Nobuo Okunoki isn’t willing to play policeman. “I’m not going to tell these people they can’t work. Everyone needs to live and they have families to support,” he said.

Japan is fortunate to have an enlightened mayor like Okunoki, but shame on those government officials who step in to prohibit refugees from working.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

It's always dispiriting to read the more pitiless commenters on this subject. The world always seems a hopeless place.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Scrap the fake 'technical trainee' programme, make construction and other key industries eligible for working visas for workers fully protected by all existing Japanese labour laws, and bring the refugee screening process up to international standards. That will resolve all issues mentioned in this article and many others.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

If you think Japan is the only country allowing this look again.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

construction and hard labour type job command higher wages in most first world countries. and rightly so. why would you slave away in the hot sun every day pouring concrete asphalt when you could work at the convenient store or Mcdonalds making the same wage. Until higher wages are paid for construction, road works etc people will flock to easier jobs for the same money. A friend of mine works as roof tiler, very hot/cold , heavy and a little dangerous work. he makes almost $300 a day!! doing it! Why!? because if you dont pay high wages for these type of jobs you won't attract any workers.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

@talaraedokko

"Just wait, in a generation or two Japan will be owned / controlled by what we now call foreigners / immigrants. Young Japan is very weak. We'll have a two tier nation for a while until today's Japan will be totally unrecognizable." And who do you think is to blame?
4 ( +5 / -1 )

construction and hard labour type job command higher wages in most first world countries

Your assumption seems to be incorrect. I checked the average salaries for construction workers in Japan, Australia, and the US. There isn't a huge difference. The average is near $40,000 USD for all three countries. Although the pay isn't great, it's still quite a bit better than working a McDonalds.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Japan's slavery system still alive and well. They know full well these people are working illegally, but they need it, so for them it's the best of both worlds while the people being work trafficked can't get status, can't get the correct pay or insurance, and can't get any respect except from fellow workers and perhaps some employers. It's no wonder Japan is still one of the worst countries in the world for this kind of thing. They need to listen to the companies, who are looking in there right direction, and make it easier for blue collar workers to immigrate for work and a better life.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

browny1, if your friend's husband gets a twice-yearly bonus like most shain do, he could be bringing home only about 25 man a month plus two 50-man bonuses that would bring him up to 4 million a year. Someone bringing home 35 man a month would be earning much more than 4 million a year when bonuses are added in.

Temp workers don't (usually) get any bonus.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

choiwaruoyaji, that does really work in the middle east. Tell me in Syria what is left for them to go home to? The man in this story was from turkey whose solution not so long ago was to march a million undesirables into the desert and to their deaths simply because they were Christians. A man with a hoe can do little against those with missiles and machine guns.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I have met and known some of the Kurdish community here. Good people. Hard working people. They deserve to have their own country.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Service sector, specially in technical fields there is huge demand, getting visa is easy but educated foreigners can do little unless they have professional level of Japanese. On the contrary the blue collar jobs doesn't require high level of Japanese competency but there is no visa category other than trainee workers who can legally do these type of works. We haven't heard such news so far regarding construction works are crippled due to shortage of workers. There are always some ways figured out in the back door.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Last October, Balibay and two of his brothers were injured in a brawl with a group of Turkish migrants that erupted outside the Turkish embassy as Kurds and Turks waited to vote in the country’s parliamentary elections.

If I were a genuine refugee who had a well founded fear that the Turkish government was out to persecute me (and my family), the LAST thing I would do is show up at their embassy to vote and let them know that I'm now living in Japan. It's hard to think of anything that would be more inconsistent with the behavior of a genuine refugee.

2 ( +12 / -10 )

Japan, with shortage of workers, should appreciate refugees choose to come to Japan. Hope there is no Trump copy cats in Japan.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

It's not just these asylum seekers being exploited by Japanese companies. There are many other foreigners being exploited through language schools and the gentlemen's club industries. These employers give these people jobs with no benefits or insurances, pay them a minimum wage and literally treat them like slaves. However, the government, immigration and police focus on the victims and not on the Japanese companies exploiting these people. Japan's 'zero immigration policy' is just a paper lie and there are thousands of foreign workers being exploited every day in Japan.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

@browny1

An experienced construction worker makes at least 15,000 yen per day. They make over 4 million a year. Even the "illegal" worker in the article is making 3 million.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Well with all the people retiring and all the jobs needing people the unemployment rate should be near 0%!!

Well that's a nice dream....

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Hes got enough money to smoke though.......

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Construction projects will not last forever. Not all projects are fruitful for commercial returns. Especially Olympic infrastructures. When the building boom is over, who will employ them?

So long as land exists, so does the opportunity for development. Companies will never stop constructing buildings. Same goes for roads, bike lanes, road repairs, and really any infrastructure maintenance...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

A few remarks:

it is very natural to flee persecution by going to country where you don't speak language and know the culture if persecuted and need to leave all your belongings behind, you spend your limited money to buy expensive flight tickets to far away country while there are plenty of countries way more lenient about refugees much closer it is very logical to go and vote for your country while it has not protected you from your own fellow citizens from persecution Japan loves refugees so much that it grants asylum seekers status by thousands Japan is helpful to asylum seekers by limiting refugees visas so that asylum seekers are happy to know that it will ensure that they go back to their home country one day wealthy company managers are full of empathy to let asylum seekers earn money for the most dirt jobs politicians in Japan are kind hearted to prepare ground for immigration as to ensure retirement time goes smooth (money flows and caretakers everywhere)

Ironic mode off.

All those situations from refugees hide personal situations to be untold...from both sides.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

cleo - thank you.

Yes it's entirely possible. It'd be a bit too frank of me to ask him directly next time we meet. lol.

But somehow I don't think he is getting such bonuses. In my region a twice yearly bonus of 50 man (from my knowledge) is not that common outside the big companies, banks, insurance, govt, etc. His company being relatively small - just a few trucks - may well not be paying anything like that. I don't know. An example of salaries / bonuses in this neck (unrelated to construction, but interesting ) is my wifes. Working fulltime contract in a bank for ¥940 /hr. She saw an increase of ¥20 / hr this year (to boost Abes figures) - while her miserly bonus was completely cut.

Back on topic - the world outside of the big metro areas is significantly different and from my limited experience - the temp construction lackies get run roughshod. Unless there were considerable labor law changes, lower unskilled laborers - esp foreigners, will be exploited fro eons to come.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters at the United Nations in September that Japan should address its demographic problems by putting women and the elderly to work before considering immigration." WTF! as much as I like mr Abe, this is bang out of order, Mr Abe were in the 21st century not the 1600,s these refugees have had a hard time and have suffered terrible losses that we can't imagine, although Japan turn a blind eye to them working illegally, japan can't bend slightly to help! wow how selfish is this? Japan should be grateful ! for the cheap labour, and don't forget you have the olympics coming up and where are you going to get the labour then? Japan stop buying your head in the sand and wake up!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Where are you seeing these adverts? In my part of Tokyo the adverts are all in the 1000-1200 yen range.

The adverts come with the Sunday paper. Here in Sendai most of the positions are paying Y700 - Y800 per hour. It is extremely rare to see anything at Y1000 per hour.

Whatever the wage, if there is a shortage of applicants they aren't paying enough. We often read how companies must pay billions of Yen to attract and retain top managers, with the result that there is no shortage of managers. But when it comes to ordinary workers it's a different story. The managers whine that nobody will work for the meagre pay on offer and employ illegal immigrants instead.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Futaro GamagoriAUG. 10, 2016 - 11:07AM JST i feel sorry for these people. but, japan didn't force them to come. their situation in japan might not be the best but i'd like to think it is far worse where they came from that's why they stay. everyone in this room sound educated and smart and it seems like you know all the undesirable things about japan very well but somehow you're still here.

Tell us one place in the world that does not have 'undesirable things'.

Feeling sorry is not enough - only countries with heart and compassion take on refugees; it's not an easy thing to do, but we would want other countries to do the same for us if we were in the same position.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

How about making the unemployed Japanese attend these jobs that no one seems to want?

As for the immigrants, Japan is right not to relax its laws because once you do the floodgates open, like has happened in Europe and cultural ghettos form with very little integration or adoption of the host countries culture and customs and infighting between different religious or ethnic sub cultures within the same minority group.

To reduce the labour shortage, five year, one off, none renewable work VISAs offering full medical and minimum wage protection without sponsorship could work and would help to reduce the flourishing black market cash economy that is robbing the Japanese exchequer of tax revenue and allowing organised crime to capitalise on the situation.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

We Japanese know many many centuries ago, Chinese and Koreans emigrated to Japan, mixed with natives and became Japanese.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Building Roads and Digging Ditches for the prefecture is a government job. That should pay 3000 Yen an hour minimum. Where is the union? This is union work. Otherwise Japan Government is guilty of unfair labor practices and should be tried for this by the ICC.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Nathaw hit it correctly. Muslims cannot run around and escape the responsibility in their own country. Taking up "refugees" just indices them to never change their rotten countries Japan is hopefully smart enough to avoid a French/German/Belgian fate

1 ( +1 / -0 )

1200 Kurds in a city the size of Tokyo? Let more in I say ! Using a refugee for 10 years in construction is a sign of a non existent immigration policy!

It can only be considered extremely shameful!

0 ( +4 / -4 )

poppler - the Australian rate you quoted is about correct - depending on industry, skills etc. USA - I don't know.

But I believe that rate is way higher than such workers recieve here. That's 4 million yen / year. Just anecdotal, but my friends husband works for a paving / concreting company - full time permanent and she told me a coupla years back his base salary was about 25man /month (he got overtime, pension, health etc) but way short of 35man/monthI can only assume Temp / contract workers would get far less. It's well documented the low salaries of temp Fukushima laborers for example.

bullfighter - yes- most of the Australian refugee internment centres are deplorable and are subject to much heated debate in Aust. Many of these centres are populated only by "boat people" and their plight is particularly hard.

Onthe other hand, Australia has taken in 100,000s of refugees over the decades, esp from war torn, poverty stricken areas. Such refugees have entered into and been accepted into all walks of life in Australian society. Many started out working in the dangerous, dirty industries and improved their lives and gave hope to their children. They have contributed wonderfully to the growth of Australia. And I'm talking about refugees - not the millions of normal immigrants.

The current governor of South Australia was a Vietnamese refugee - a boat person - escaping the communist regime after the war. Just think about that for a moment.

One can only hope that Japan can see fit to give such chances to the relatively handful of asylum seekers seeking a life here.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

japan has a rule of allowing people with dependent visa and student visa only 28 hours a week . but many people work in 2 or 3 places but do not work more than 28 hours a week in the same country . does the japanese government doesnot see it or act like it didn't see anything . they should improve the laws. people were saying that after my number people can't work in 2 places . but when my company asked for my number everybody said they would leave the job and then it said it doesnot need my number.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

people who work in げんば usually get paid a lot. where i used to work we pay at least 1.5 to 2万円 a day regardless of nationality/ethnicity. JPY 4M is actually still conservative for a full time construction worker.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

This problem is in most 1st world countries. Very sad.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Shameful.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sound not much different than the USA. Someone has to do it and it sure is not going to be the average citizen.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What a disgrace. If Japanese government don't want them as immigrants then at least issue working visas so that businesses that hire can do so legally and these workers can earn without fear. Doesn't the government understand that these people will contribute to economy by consumption? If they are legal workers, they might have to pay taxes too. After they have proven their worth under work visas perhaps they can start application to asylum visa under careful consideration. Japanese government needs to embrace forward thinking than thinking in archaic past.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tell us one place in the world that does not have 'undesirable things'.

Feeling sorry is not enough - only countries with heart and compassion take on refugees; it's not an easy thing to do, but we would want other countries to do the same for us if we were in the same position.

that's entirely the point. there is no place that doesn't have "undesirable things" so please stop talking shit about my country (not referring to you btw) especially if you came to live/work here on your own will. whoever these people in the article are, are far more safer than where they came from. if it's not the case then i guess they are asking the wrong country for help.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think refugees should seek refuge in countries near to their own country.

Then, when the situation improves there, they can go back home.

I think we should move away from this idea that people can travel to any country they please, claim asylum and start a new life.

People have to try to improve the situation in their own countries.

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

“Japan bans us from working, but everyone knows that without foreigners this country’s in trouble,” said Balibay. “Construction jobs won’t get done. There aren’t enough workers and young Japanese can’t do these jobs. The government knows that better than anyone.”

What a distorted view this Kurd has. Japanese government is ever tightening the measures against illegal foreign workers like this person, because they are bringing the wage down. What kind of Japanese citizens and legal foreigners would like to work below the minimum wage?

Justice Minister Mitsuhide Iwaki, who last week stepped down as part of a cabinet reshuffle, declined to answer questions about Reuters’ findings that asylum seekers on provisional release are working on government projects.

Apparently, they are lying about their visa status.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

ScroteAUG. 10, 2016 - 04:53PM JST

Where are you seeing these adverts? In my part of Tokyo the adverts are all in the 1000-1200 yen range.

The adverts come with the Sunday paper. Here in Sendai most of the positions are paying Y700 - Y800 per hour.

Each prefecture has its legal minimum wage. http://pc.saiteichingin.info/table/page_list_nationallist.php

The minimum wage in Tokyo is 907 yen per hour. The minimum wage in Miyagi prefecture is 726 yen per hour.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

wtfjapan

construction and hard labour type job command higher wages in most first world countries.

Agreed.

In the next 30-50 years there's going to be a whole revolution in work hours and salary. I work because I love my work and as long as I make a salary I can live on, I wouldn't change my work.

You could pay me 4 times what I earn and still there's no way I'm tiling someone's roof or tarmacking roads in the middle of summer.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Disgraceful!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It's no wonder Japan is still one of the worst countries in the world for this kind of thing.

And, your evidence for this claim is?

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

Just wait, in a generation or two Japan will be owned / controlled by what we now call foreigners / immigrants. Young Japan is very weak. We'll have a two tier nation for a while until today's Japan will be totally unrecognizable.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

i feel sorry for these people. but, japan didn't force them to come. their situation in japan might not be the best but i'd like to think it is far worse where they came from that's why they stay. everyone in this room sound educated and smart and it seems like you know all the undesirable things about japan very well but somehow you're still here.

-6 ( +5 / -11 )

Japan is not Germany who has accepted more than a million refugees with unregulated loose immigration.

Japan is not USA which allow refugee to bomb runners of the Marathon race. Boston bombers repaid their gratitude to USA with bomb. How grateful are they?

Japan is not France which has become the killing field for radicalized terrorists who are descendants of refugees. France immigration and assimilation policies have failed.

Construction projects will not last forever. Not all projects are fruitful for commercial returns. Especially Olympic infrastructures. When the building boom is over, who will employ them?

-6 ( +7 / -13 )

One way to put an end to these stories would be for Japan to adopt the Australian model for dealing with refugees.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/18/australias-refugee-policies-a-global-inspiration-for-all-the-wrong-reasons

http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/02/australia-papua-new-guinea-refugee-manus-nauru/

As we all know, Japan has a number of islands in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific. These could be put to good use for an Australian-style approach to dealing with refugees.

-7 ( +5 / -12 )

If there really is a shortage of labour how come so many jobs are advertised at minimum wage? 

Where are you seeing these adverts? In my part of Tokyo the adverts are all in the 1000-1200 yen range.

Your choice, Japan.

Indeed, something for Japanese voters to decide.

"Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters at the United Nations in September that Japan should address its demographic problems by putting women and the elderly to work before considering immigration." Typical fascist thinking.

I trust (hope) this is sarcasm.

 On the contrary the blue collar jobs doesn't require high level of Japanese competency but there is no visa category other than trainee workers who can legally do these type of works.

Wrong. There are several visa categories. Permanent residents, dependents, and those who qualify as so called Nikkei and their dependents can hold any legal job. There may be others, but these are the three main ones. Generally people in these three categories do not gravitate to this type of work because they have better alternatives but legally they can take these jobs if they are so moved.

-11 ( +4 / -15 )

So called "asylum seekers" and "refugees" are causing unrest and disruption in every country they go to. That's the future that Japan faces if it accepts any of them, from whichever country.

-14 ( +16 / -30 )

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