Lawyer blames Japanese 'discrimination' for Filipina's ordeal

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 10 2009 08:48 PM | Updated as of Feb 11 2009 04:48 AM

TOKYO - A leading human rights lawyer Tuesday blamed Japan's "discriminatory" immigration policy for the plight of a Filipina girl whose parents are on the verge of deportation.

"The bottom line is that Japan's immigration bureau is reluctant to open up the door to foreigners, especially Asians, Africans and Latin Americans," the lawyer, Shogo Watanabe told reporters.

"It is discriminatory," he said at a joint press conference with 13-year-old Noriko Calderon, whose parents are facing deportation to the Philippines on Friday.

Her parents entered Japan in the early 1990s with illegal passports and stayed in the country undetected until two years ago when her mother was arrested, it was previously reported.

Noriko was born in 1995. She has grown up speaking only Japanese and attending local schools.

Japan's Justice Ministry has demanded both the parents return to the Philippines.

Noriko, who has been given permission to stay in Japan to continue her studies, now faces the choice of whether to return with her parents or to remain here alone.

"I have a dream. To make it come true, I need my parents here and I want the three of us to live together," said Noriko, who said she had been unaware of her parents' immigration status until her mother's arrest.

The family filed a civil suit asking for special permission for stay but ran out of legal options when the Supreme Court rejected their appeal in September last year.

"We are asking for a favor from the justice minister to give permission for them to be granted residential status," said Watanabe.

He said an estimated 500 families were in the same situation as the Calderons, and criticized Japan and its judiciary for not respecting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Japan, with a falling birth rate and a shrinking population, is considering allowing more foreign workers to enter the country, but has long rejected wide-scale immigration.