UN panel concerned about Japan immigration rules

A UN panel has expressed concern over changes to Japan's immigration law laid out in a draft revision, saying they do not do enough to protect the human rights of foreign migrants.

The Japanese government drafted the revision to deal with the growing number of illegal foreigners detained at government facilities after refusing deportation.

The draft would allow deportees to stay with family members or supporters if they meet certain conditions, including not being considered a flight risk.

The UN Human Rights Council's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and others have expressed fear that forced detentions will continue.

They suggest the new measure will be applied only in exceptional cases and note that it will function at the discretion of immigration authorities.

They point out that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Japan has ratified, stipulates that everyone has the right to physical freedom and no one can be deprived of it except in accordance with procedures established by law.

The working group and others have asked the Japanese government to address their concerns. These include the practice of detaining migrants without judicial review, limitless detention periods and the impact on the lives of the children of those held in detention.

Lawyers and human rights groups helping refugees in Japan said on Tuesday that the UN panel and those acting in concert with them are not asking for anything out of the ordinary.

They say that the panel is merely calling attention to the fact that the conditions for holding migrants in detention, such as judicial review, are in many cases overlooked.

The Japanese activists are demanding that the government provide an explanation of the draft revision it's trying to push through the Diet.

Justice Minister Kamikawa Yoko said the revision was drafted based on scrutiny and advice by lawyers and scholars on international law.

She said had the UN panel had a chance to hear explanations by the Japanese government in advance, it would have correctly understood the background, content, and appropriateness of the revision.

She said there's no choice but to lodge a protest, given that the working group unilaterally announced its view.