Thursday, February 5, 2009

Petition for Intrnational Rights of Migrant Workers


December 1, 1997

To:His Excellency
The Prime Minister 
Mr. Hashimoto Ryutaro

We, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan, have always concerned ourselves with the social problems that arise in the community form time to time. Keeping in close touch with the Catholic Church worldwide, we strive to protect human rights and promote the cause of justice and peace and social welfare at home and overseas. Hence our petition to Your Excellency. 

We hereby wish to record an earnest plea that the Japanese government ratify without delay the agreement adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 8, 1990, namely the "International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families," and we strongly urge the government to take positive steps to protect human rights so that foreigners will receive the same treatment as Japanese. This will also help Japan to become an international nation in the true sense of the word. 

Doubtless there have been requests from other quarters also concerning the convention but we wish to add our entreaty too in the hope of creating a greater awareness of the importance of ratifying this international pact. 

Of recent years, wen have witnessed a phenomenal increase in the number of foreigners living and working here, but Japan's laws and social conditions are not always able to respond to the demands of the situation, and this has resulted in serious infringements of human rights. 

Great numbers of these foreign workers, both men and women, work in poor, substandard conditions without any protection whatever. They are not covered by health insurance nor are they eligible for other medical assistance. Thus, when their health is injured, they are not given even the opportunity of obtaining a cure. This is a grave and urgent situation which calls for legislation to give them access to National Health Insurance regardless of visa conditions or resident status and also to enable them to receive emergency medical assistance under the National Assistance Act. We are well aware that the problem is aggravated by the fact that majority of these workers belong in a so-called non-qualified category. Nevertheless, international rules concerning the equality of all mankind demand that, for humanitarian reasons, the government take immediate steps toward a fitting solution. 

"The Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action," adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights in June 1993, calls on all nations to ensure and guarantee the human rights of all migrant workers and their families. 

In measuring the degree to which any country has become international, the treatment it accords foreigners is an important criterion. If we consider things in this light, "The International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families" adopted by the United Nations in December 1990 should be ratified at the earliest opportunity. Prompted by that same reasoning, we ask you to set up a system for emergency medical assistance for foreigners and to prepare revised and more humane imigration laws. We are thinking specifically of the "Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act" and the "Alien Registration Law." 

+Stephen Fumio Hamao
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan

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