Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

U.S. Department of State 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report - Japan

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 5 June 2006
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report - Japan, 5 June 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4680d89420.html [accessed 20 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Japan (Tier 2)

Japan is a destination and transit country for men, women, and children trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation. The majority of trafficking victims are foreign women who migrate to Japan seeking legal work, but are deceived or coerced into debt bondage or sexual servitude. There are also anecdotal reports of forced labor exploitation of Chinese and Thai migrants. Women and children are primarily trafficked to Japan from Thailand, the Philippines, Russia, and Eastern Europe for commercial sexual exploitation. On a smaller scale, women and children are trafficked from Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, Malaysia, Burma, and Indonesia for sexual servitude. Internal trafficking of Japanese minor girls for sexual exploitation is an ongoing problem. There are no clear estimates on the number of trafficking victims in Japan, but most agree the number is significant and many women will not come forward for fear of reprisal by their traffickers. Japanese organized criminal syndicates (yakuza) operate internationally and are thought to be involved in trafficking.

The Government of Japan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Japan showed additional progress in advancing anti-trafficking reforms over the past year. The Japanese Government showed a more aggressive stance against trafficking and committed greater resources to victim care and protection. There has also been remarkable progress in the government's efforts to tighten the issuance of "entertainer visas" to Philippine nationals, which has resulted in a sizeable reduction in the trafficking of Philippine women to Japan. However, improved law enforcement efforts often conclude with suspended sentences against traffickers. Greater efforts to investigate and prosecute criminal syndicates thought to be involved in trafficking, legal reforms to deter such organizations from employing foreign dancers or singers, and longer sentences for those convicted of involvement in trafficking of persons would help reduce trafficking in Japan.

Prosecution

The Government of Japan's efforts to punish acts of trafficking improved over the last year. In June 2005, the government passed significant penal code reforms to specifically criminalize trafficking and provide for substantial penalties. Application of this statute, however, has been hindered by the difficulty of establishing the level of documentary evidence required for proving a trafficking crime. An amendment to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (ICRRA) also addressed trafficking and allowed the government to issue temporary special residency status for trafficking victims. There are also a number of related criminal statutes that may be used to go after traffickers and are often used in cases of underage victims of trafficking. Future possible amendments to Japan's law against organized crime would allow for broader use by prosecutors of "conspiracy" statutes for trafficking in persons, expand punishment, and authorize asset forfeiture. The "Law on Control and Improvement of Amusement Businesses" amendments went into effect in April 2006, and mandate that adult entertainment establishments confirm and verify a worker's immigration status. Over the past two years, there has been a steady increase in law enforcement efforts against trafficking-related crime; however, few prosecutions have resulted in the incarceration of traffickers. In 2005, the government reported 75 trafficking prosecutions; 64 of these concluded with convictions and 11 are ongoing. The government obtained one conviction (currently under appeal) under the revised penal code provisions on trafficking since this law went into effect in mid-2005. There are several ongoing investigations for trafficking under the revised penal code. Three of the 64 offenders convicted for trafficking-related offenses served prison sentences, ranging from four to five years' imprisonment and significant fines. In line with Japanese judicial practice, most other offenders were given suspended sentences, which generally entailed a fine and no jail sentence as long as the offender refrains from committing another crime during a set period of time. The government actively cooperated with a number of other countries, including Indonesia, Thailand, and Colombia, on trafficking cases throughout the year. The National Police Agency (NPA) continues to train its investigators and local police on trafficking, using a documentary film it developed with an NGO in 2003. However, establishing evidentiary links to organized crime is a major obstacle for law enforcement in the country.

Protection

The government continued significant efforts to shelter and protect victims of trafficking and allocated $100,000 for this purpose. The Diet is also currently discussing a separate allocation for the medical care of victims. In 2005, the government reported that 109 victims were identified and received services in Japan. Victims are generally protected and aided by one of the Women's Consultative Centers (WCC), which are located in all 47 of Japan's prefectures. The WCC either provides direct services or refers victims to a private facility or, if the person is under 18 years of age, to a Child Guidance Center. Japan's 2005 budget calls for 10 million yen for victim treatment, including funds for shelters, psychological services, and medical assistance. NGO shelters in Tokyo and Kanagawa also receive local government resources to work with trafficking victims. Last year, Japan funded the IOM ($160,000) to aid with repatriation of foreign trafficking victims and this resulted in the safe return of 66 victims. Temporary residency status was granted to 47 other foreign trafficking victims. New screening processes implemented over the year resulted in an increase of the number of trafficking victims identified, although most agree the number identified is still relatively low. Despite these gains, the government recognizes the need to provide better protection for women who agree to assist in the investigation or prosecution of a trafficking crime; many still feel endangered and are unwilling to testify against their brokers. More coordinated referral mechanisms and a dedicated trafficking shelter would improve the services available to victims.

Prevention

The government recognizes that trafficking is a significant problem in the country, and established an Inter-ministerial Liaison Committee to coordinate anti-trafficking activities. The government is also implementing a 2004 national plan of action against trafficking in persons. There have been a number of public outreach campaigns, including the production of one million pamphlets in seven languages informing potential victims where to seek help. Japan has been very active in reaching out to source countries, and has funded programs in both Colombia and Thailand aimed at reducing trafficking in persons. Government funding has also been provided to UNICEF ($650,000) and ILO ($2 million) for anti-trafficking campaigns in these countries. The government began efforts to address demand for trafficking by including trafficking information in a foreign affairs magazine distributed in Japanese secondary schools and initiating a research project on how to address trafficking in schools' curricula. Although prostitution is illegal, there have been no efforts to criminalize demand.

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