TOKYO—Apparently buoyed up by last year’s success in arresting foreigners found overstaying in the country, Japanese immigration authorities intend to go after the rest of the illegals, aiming to get rid of at least half of them by 2008.
“Our target is halving the total number of overstaying foreigners nationwide until 2008,” said Mitsutoshi Imokawa, deputy director for international affairs of the Immigration Bureau, in an interview.
He said his office looks forward to more arrests of foreigners illegally staying in Japan.
Citing records from last year’s crackdown, Imokawa said the bureau deported 36,000 of 45,910 foreigners reportedly overstaying in Japan.
Filipinos rank third in the largest number of illegals working in business establishments.
In January this year the total number of overstaying foreigners reportedly reached 219,418. But the figure indicated a decline of .05 percent, or 1,134 less, from the same period last year.
The Immigration Bureau intensified its crackdown last year to deal with the growing crime rate attributed to foreigners.
Yutaka Takehana, vice governor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, said his office has seen local crimes committed by non-Japanese crime groups getting more violent.
Although Japan welcomes foreigners to stay in the country, Takehana said the government also has the duty to protect the safety and security of local residents.
Immigration authorities recorded the peak in illegal foreigners in 1993, which reached 298,646. Of this figure, close to 70,000 have been deported.
This year, as part of the bureau’s intensified campaign, it linked up with the metropolitan police in raiding the places frequented by suspected illegals.
“Our crackdown is in close coordination with the police. We have been successful in this because we see a decline in the number of illegal foreigners,” Imokawa said.
However, the cleanup drive initiated by the Immigration Bureau has sent jitters among small businesses in several areas of the country.
In Koiwa, a small town in northeastern Tokyo, at least 70 small shop owners have sought the assistance of Liberal Democratic Party Rep. Katsuei Hirasawa in their petition to go slow on the raids because they were gradually killing their businesses.
Setsuko Tsuchiya, a Laundromat owner, said her business has been slow over the past few months since Immigration intensified its drive.
“I used to have seven customers before, but now it is down to zero. Because of the tight operation, my business has been gravely affected,” she said in Nihongo.
Another shop owner, Yoshiyuki Tajima, a real-estate agent, said Koiwa is highly dependent on foreigners, thus a majority of small businesses are against the operation of the Immigration Bureau.
“We have lost at least 20 percent of our income since the bureau intensified its operations,” he said in an interview.
But the bureau maintains that the crackdown is intended to protect the interest of the majority.
“We just hope that those people would understand the situation,” Imokawa said.