MANILA - A report on people without a nationality who live in the Philippines has been issued by the local office of the U.N. refugee agency, drawing attention to Filipinos of Japanese descent seeking citizenship of Japan.
The report from the UNHCR Philippines calls in part for the Philippines and Japan to act urgently to help the Japanese-Filipino residents to acquire the citizenship, saying some 3,800 of the Japanese-Filipinos have been identified, including an estimated 910 still living in the Philippines.
Most of the stateless residents, second-generation Japanese-Filipinos, were children of Japanese fathers who moved to the Philippines before World War II and Filipino mothers.
Their fathers were mostly drafted by the Japanese military after the war broke out in the Pacific in 1941, who were later killed in the war or deported back to Japan, leaving the children behind.
"Because they became retaliatory targets of Japanese atrocities during the war, many Japanese descendants fled into remote locations and hid their Japanese bloodline and discarded the documents and pictures indicating their Japanese origin," the report noted as one of the main reasons these people never acquired citizenship from either country.
The Philippine branch of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees recommended the Philippine government to add them to its list of identified people at risk of statelessness, similar to people with Indonesian descent who are already included in the catalogue.
The report also said a joint committee on cooperation between the Philippines and Japan could be created to swiftly resolve the cases of the Filipinos of Japanese descent without nationality as the average age of the Japanese-Filipinos is 81.
"As the population is aging, time is of the essence," the report said, urging the two countries to help the Japanese-Filipino residents to obtain Japanese nationality by processing their cases at family courts in Japan.
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