Japanese crackdown fails to halt 'alien' tide: Police think immigrants are being brought in by mobsters to do the jobs that no one else wants

WHEN police boarded the Hosho Maru 28, a 99-ton fishing boat which had been moored without permission in a small port in Atsukeshi in northern Japan, the vessel was deserted. But in the hold they found Chinese magazines, food leftovers and some Chinese currency. And the floor had been covered with wooden boards on which tents had been pitched.

From the evidence, the police think the boat was used to smuggle some 500 people from China into Japan two weeks ago. By now they have disappeared without trace - presumably into the lower ranks of Japan's labour market.

Try as they might, Japan's immigration authorities cannot keep up with the flow of illegal immigrants who are drawn to the country by the attraction of high wages. They come from China and Korea, from South- east Asia, from Bangladesh and from the Middle East.

They will work longer hours, for less pay, than Japanese workers. And, according to the Labour Minister, Masakuni Murakami, they are 'aggravating public ill-feeling'.

In April, Mr Murakami announced a new crackdown against illegal foreign workers. It was particularly aimed at Iranians, who had become conspicuous by holding a regular weekend market in a park in central Tokyo. The market was closed by the police, and shortly afterwards they began arresting and deporting Iranians who still lingered in the park.

At the same time police moved against South Koreans working in the construction industry and South-east Asian women working as hostesses in nightclubs. In one single blitz from April to May, more than 3,000 foreigners working illegally in Japan were rounded up and deported, according to the Justice Ministry.

As foreign labourers are firebombed in Germany and tossed around at the centre of a political storm in France, in Japan the government is simply kicking them out - if it can find them.

The Chinese are the most difficult to find. With physical characteristics similar to those of the Japanese, they can be easily absorbed into the already large population of Chinese living in the big cities of Japan. Police think that they are being brought in by the yakuza, organised crime syndicates, which already have jobs lined up for them when they arrive.

The Hosho Maru was registered in the name of a known yakuza member. In a similar incident last April, a ship that was intercepted off southern Japan with 149 Chinese on board was captained by a member of a yakuza gang. The Chinese were arrested on suspicion of attempting to enter Japan illegally.

The latest crackdown on foreign labourers has caused barely a ripple in Japan, where people are taught from a young age that a great gulf separates the 123 million Japanese from the rest of the world - usually referred to as gaijin, or aliens. Even opposition parties see little political advantage to be gained by attacking the government on immigration policy.

In fact, Japan feels even more vulnerable to a flood of immigrants than does Western Europe: the tens of millions of Eastern Europeans who covet the lifestyles of Western Europe pale beside the hundreds of millions of Chinese and South-east Asians who look longingly at Japan's disproportionate affluence. The government's answer to the income gap is to spend most of its foreign aid budget in Asia, hoping that economic improvement at home will dissuade other Asians from seeking jobs in Japan.

But despite generally rapid growth in Asia, stringent immigration checks at Japanese airports and harbours, and frequent crackdowns on illegal labourers in Japan, the immigrants keep coming. And there is plenty of work for them to do, particularly the dirty and low- paid jobs that the Japanese no longer care for.

According to the Justice Ministry, about 300,000 foreigners have overstayed tourist or student visas. Most are presumed to be working illegally. As fast as they can be deported, more come to take their places.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss