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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before