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News Round-Up Special Edition: Disaster in Japan

One week after the start of the disaster in Japan, earthquake-induced power outages, food shortages, and the fear of radiation has prompted migration out of some regions and in some cases out of the country altogether. One news analyst even asks: Is the nuclear refugee the next type of environmental migrant?

The devastating impact of the earthquake and tsunami upon Japan’s largely invisible population of unauthorized immigrants remain to be seen. The January 1995 Kobe earthquake that killed 5,300 people and left 300,000 homeless prompted many unauthorized migrants to seek exit visas to leave Japan at their own expense. As this historical example shows, unauthorized migrants are not entitled to housing or other assistance that is made available to quake victims. Yesterday, the Migration Policy Institute posted a snapshot of the most recently available statistics on foreign nationals in the country, along with a link to their 2006 report on Japanese immigration policy. According to the information, 91,000 people overstayed their visas, plus another 13,000 to 22,000 estimated to have entered the country without authorization. Together, unauthorized migrants represent about 5 percent of the foreign nationals in Japan.

Some reports  over the past days indicate that relatives of migrant workers from the Philippines have been unable locate them on official lists of the missing. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) lists over 4,300 Filipinos in Japan. The DFA’s Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs has  set up a crisis management center for those concerned about the welfare of their family members.

Access Denied welcomes any reports on the situation of unauthorized migrants in Japan following the disasters. You can send us information at contactaccessdenied@gmail.com or simply post replies here.

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