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Irregular Migration | Japan |

Japan Japan tentatively opens its doors to international care workers Japan (2012)

Irregular Migration

Gabriele Vogt

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Irregular migration is attributable to one main cause: failure to leave the country after the expiry of the residence permit. In 2011 the Ministry of Justice recorded 78,488 irregular immigrants in Japan.

The vast majority (54,220 persons – 69.1%) entered Japan with the status of "short residence", which provides for a stay of a maximum of 90 days for the purpose of tourism or business. It is worth noting that with 4,322 persons the group of irregulars entering the country as ‘students’ makes up the second largest group, but amounts to less than a tenth of the first placed group. Nevertheless this group, in particular the students from China, is the main focus of public discourse surrounding irregular migration.

In recent years, as a result of a large-scale campaign initiated in 2004 by the Ministry of Justice, irregular migration has drastically declined. One of the controversial tools of the campaign was an internet platform on which people could enter information anonymously (address, workplace etc.) about persons they suspected of being irregular migrants. This and other dubious methods led to a marked fall in the number of irregulars in Japan: from 198,646 persons at its peak (1993) there was first a slight decline to 193,745 in 2006, then from 2006 the campaign was expanded and more widely publicized: in the following year (2007) the number of irregular migrants fell to 170,839 persons. Today the number is less than half the size it was at its peak in 1993, the numerical decline being constant for all nationalities. In 2011 the largest group of irregular migrants came from Korea (19,271 persons), followed by China (10,337), the Philippines (9,329), Taiwan (4,774), Thailand (4,264) and Malaysia (2,442). It is noticeable that irregular migration to Japan is predominantly a phenomenon of immigrants from Asian countries who are looking for work in Japan, which remains an economic magnet for the region.

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Prof. Dr. Gabriele Vogt is professor for Japanese Studies at the Asia-Africa-Institute of the University of Hamburg. Her research focuses on socio-scientific research on Japan and covers not only international migration to Japan but also Japan’s demographic chance and topics of political participation.
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