Your Mother or Your Life
Japan might be the only country on earth where ‘Permanent Resident’ means ‘Undesirable’.
I have been a ‘Permanent Resident’ (at least that’s what my visa says) of Japan for 7 years. I pay tax here, I pay social security here. This is the only country on earth where I have a home and health care. My business is here.
But in the eyes of the Japanese government, I am suddenly undesirable. My ability to have free movement is restricted. This is because of a ruling during these times of Covid19 that says that ‘foreigners’ — regardless of whether they are Permanent Resident (PR) Visa holders or not — are not allowed to re-enter Japan if they leave.
At the present time, even by the Japanese government’s own number, there are 200,000(!) foreign PRs stuck outside of Japan. The tales you can easily find online are shocking. Even though they are not allowed re-entry into Japan — where they have jobs, spouses, children, houses — they are legally required to pay social security (which can only be paid from within Japan) or face legal repercussions. Some have inevitably lost their jobs, having been stuck outside of Japan for 4 months now. Some have lost their homes or apartments.
On the other side, some are also facing deportation from the country they are stuck in. But deportation to where? Japan will not let them in — even though this is their legal home. If these people are put on a plane to Japan, once they land they are refused entry and sent back to….no one knows.
To be clear, these people are not facing a quarantine upon arrival. They face a ban on entry. They are sent back. There are verified stories of foreign spouses arriving in Japan with their Japanese spouse and children and the foreigner not being allowed entry while the wife and children are.
Japanese citizens are free to come and go as they please. They face no legal measures to even make them quarantine upon arrival. In Japan there is no legal basis to control the population, so no lockdowns have ever happened. Yet foreign RESIDENTS are seen as a threat and potential spreaders of Covid19.
It is worth restating that we are not talking about foreign tourists. We are talking about RESIDENTS.
Aside from the personal disruption and devastation, the impacts are being felt economically. If a company has its Asian headquarters here invariably they will have foreign workers. If those workers happened to be outside of Japan on April 2nd, when this ban went into place, they cannot return. Because of the uncertainty that this ban his instilled in the business community, foreign companies are starting to leave Japan. Several prominent media and service companies have already started to shift to Hong Kong or Singapore as a more secure (Hong Kong! More secure than Japan!) place to do business.
For me, there is a personal toll: my 88-year-old mother lives alone in Canada. Normally I visit her 3 times a year and spend 6 weeks at a time there, giving her assistance and company. Because of this ban, I cannot go because I do not know if I would EVER be let back into Japan. And I have no health care coverage in Canada, so what happens if I get sick? I cannot be repatriated to Japan, my legal place of residence.
Japan is one of the few countries on earth — and the ONLY G7 country — to have such a ban in place. Not even New Zealand — famous for their measures during Covid19 — stopped Permanent Residents from re-entering.
I would call on the foreign press, and foreign governments, to try to exert some pressure on Japan to change this ruling. At the very least a ban on Japanese tourists should be put in place, as they pose an imminent health risk — they can travel freely, even to high-infection-rate areas — and then arrive in your country. 98% of the population in Japan is Japanese Nationals (one of the highest ratios in the world), yet the other 2% is seen as a threat to disease. If I travel to Canada with my Japanese wife, she would be allowed re-entry to Japan where I would not, despite the fact that we would have been exposed to the same environments while outside Japan.
There is no excuse for what Japan is doing here, this is shameful, disgraceful, and immoral. The only reason that they are banning foreign residents from entering Japan from countries where Japanese nationals are allowed to go is xenophobia. This is a disgusting political maneuver from the Japanese government to show its populations that it’s doing something. There isn’t a rational and scientific reason to do that for the so-called prevention against the virus since the protocol used for the Japanese nationals coming back to Japan could have been EQUALLY applied for the foreign residents.
Countries will have to seriously reconsider the relations they have not only with China but also Japan. Those countries are just not trustable and they operate without any respect for mutual agreements. Japanese residents in Canada are treated fairly and equally, and the least we can ask is reciprocity from Japan.
I love living in Japan. I love the Japanese people. But their government sees me as something not worth having (though worth taking money from) and it has ever so slightly soured my feelings towards this country. Hopefully, they will take action soon to not just remove this ban but legally ensure that it doesn’t ever happen again. I call on the nations and media of the world to highlight this situation. 200,000 people — and my mom — would be grateful.
This article originally appeared on philsmy.com