Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Demand for Government Help to Deported Filipinos

On August 27, 2013, a dialogue with government agencies was organized to probe on the case of the 75 Filipino deported from Japan last July 6, 2013. The dialogue was facilitated by the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (ECMI-CBCP) in partnership with the Catholic Commission of Japan Migrants, Refugees and People on the Move (JCARM) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan (CBCJ).  

The JCARM organized a fact finding mission headed by Rev. Fr. Resty  Ogsimer, Cs, with  some lay missionaries, and  leaders of migrant NGOs in Japan due to the alarming reports they received  of the  inhumane treatment during the deportation.  Particularly, they wanted to understand the protocols in the deportation processes from-and-to the country; especially because this is the first ever mass deportation from Japan unannounced to the deportees so they were caught unprepared. The 9-man team or fact-finding mission would also want to ensure that welfare services are available and provided to the deportees.
Under the new regulation of Japan, migrants who stayed for more than three years without valid and acceptable documents cannot circumvent the required fine, imprisonment, or worst, deportation.   Once deported, one has to wait after five years for the possibility of going back, and be accepted once more in Japan. 

The 75 Filipino deportees from Japan were held as undocumented migrants. These Filipinos were tormented by fears when Japanese government started to implement the new immigration law. Most of them were incarcerated for months others for years before their mass deportation. 

Allegedly, male deportees have experienced being dragged, and handcuffed like case-hardened criminals when dispatched to the chartered plane.  Most of the 75 deportees have lived, and established their lives in Japan for more than two decades, and some do not have immediate family in the Philippines.  Others have children left behind in Japan, and worst, without preparation, they have nothing to start with in the Philippines in terms of their economic needs.   

The Department of Foreign Affairs’ office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) were the government agencies represented in the dialogue. Also present were representatives from local migrant NGOs like Development Action for Women Network (DAWN), Philippine Migrants Rights Watch (PMRW), BATIS, Balik Buhay Service Cooperative, and some representatives of the 75 deportees.   

The DFA-OUMWA said that the deportation was confirmed to them two days prior to the scheduled date.   Allegedly, within that short period, the agency has managed to negotiate with the Japan authorities to exclude in the deportation those Filipinos with established family ties in Japan, resulting to the reduced number of deportees.  From the initial listings of 100 individual deportees, it was reduced to 75 individuals accounting to 54 males, 13 females, and 8 children.    

On the issue of rights violation and inhumane treatment of deportees, DFA-OUMWA explained that handcuffing is part of the Japan process of deporting foreign nationals. Moreover, it assured the Church and the NGOs that the agency has haggled with the Japan authorities to observe humane and dignified protocols on deportation, and have asked to exempt from handcuffs the women and children; and that handcuffs of the males be removed when the plane entered the Philippine air space, which was contrary to the claims of other deportees that cuffs were only removed 30 minutes before their landing.

The DSWD was in-charge to receive and assist, de-brief, counsel, and provide medical assistance to the deportees, and to facilitate their safe travel back to their respective homes.  Although the initial assistance were delivered, the fact-finding team demanded for a more pro-active and relevant response. The team found out that after more than a month, deportees have not yet receive any form of economic assistance.   Other government agencies present have also committed to look into the possibilities that their agency could assist the deportees in terms of employment, and economic reintegration.
With the utmost desire not to repeat the same ordeals narrated by many of the Filipino deportees, since there are still more than a hundred undocumented Filipinos inside the Japan immigration detention centers,  the JCARM of the CBCJ thru its 9-man team, together with the ECMI-CBCP has issued a joint statement underscoring the following: 

WE DEMAND that the Japanese government 
1) Respect the deportees’ rights to access family and legal assistance before deportation; 2) Prohibit excessive use of handcuffs to manage the deportees because it is an act of torture and humiliation; 3) provide proper medical attention with a reference to the hospitals in the Philippines. 

WE also DEMAND that the Filipino government     
1) extends its support to fulfil urgent needs of the 75 undocumented migrants; 2) help those undocumented who wish to remain in Japan  acquire legal status; 3) provide an accessible and tangible reintegration program designed for undocumented workers. 


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