Japan, Korea and Taiwan are countries that receive workers whose working conditions are like slavery.

In Japan we are working together in an organizational structure established between the Executive Committee and Association of Major Superiors of Religious Women and Men in Japan. I was elected as principal leader of the network group of Talitha Kum Japan, against human trafficking. For this reason my work or role is to facilitate communication among those groups and to plan an annual seminar to raise awareness, train and mobilize consecrated persons and lay women in Japan to respond and oppose human trafficking.

There are many countries that send workers to Japan, especially Vietnam, China, Cambodia, the Philippines and Thailand. Talitha Kum Japan networks with other delegations of Talitha Kum in Asian countries to exchange information about human trafficking. With this objective, with three other committee members I attended a Conference of Southeast and East Asia TK in Hua Hin, Thailand, in November of 2017.

This year, continuing with raising awareness, I participated in programs in different dioceses and parishes in order to inform people about what is happening in Japan regarding human trafficking and to organize seminars or workshops for immigrants and victims of trafficking, in collaboration with their countries of origin.

I would like to share a specific case. First about a Vietnamese woman. She came to Japan on a student visa, but her purpose was to work in Japan. When she arrived in Japan, she discovered that she was pregnant, and she returned to Vietnam. She had already expedited the student/residence visa. The employer asked her to return the residence card. She would have liked to return to Japan after giving birth, but it was very difficult for her to return because the student visa/residence card was no longer valid. The Commission of TK, taking on that case, discovered that the contract that she made in Vietnam and the contract to work in Japan were different. In the work contract in Japan there is no article that stating that she had to return to her country, but in the one from Vietnam, in order for her to come to Japan this article was included. She did not realize that difference in the contracts. Therefore, TK saw the need to exchange information between Japan and the countries that send the workers. At this time this case has no solution.

The other case was a of woman who came to Japan as a “technical intern trainee”. When she realized that she was pregnant, the patron proposed two alternatives to her: if she wanted to continue working she would have to abort, if not she would have to return to Vietnam. A member of TK consulted on that case with a lawyer, and it is now in the courts.

Many Asians would like to come to Japan in order to earn money. The easiest way of obtaining a visa is to apply in order to work as “intern technical apprentices” or for student visas or engineering visas. In many cases foreign students become “fugitives” because they cannot pay their school fees. More than 7000 Asian apprentices in technical intern training programs abandon their jobs. The majority of these cases are due to non-fulfillment of the contract between the employer and the organization that sent them. Some of the apprentices are paid 20,000 yen to 60,000 yen a month. So, they take the risk of finding other jobs. The technical apprentices know very little about the contract that they signed, so when problems come up, they do not know where to turn.

As there are many cases and problems among the workers of other countries. Talitha Kum Japan, when it finds person in difficulty, looks for an interpreter or a defender to resolve problems, and also to hide them in some shelters offered by various congregations. For some years our house in Gotanda also offered space for those persons.

Monica Shioya, aci