U.S. Department of State 2001 Trafficking in Persons Report - Japan

Japan (Tier 2)

Japan is a destination country for women, primarily from Thailand, the Philippines, and the New Independent States, who are trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation. There is evidence that trafficking takes place within Japan to the extent that some of these women are recruited and then subsequently forced, through the sale of their "contracts," to work for other employers in Japan. Japan is also a destination point for illegal immigration from China facilitated by Chinese and Japanese organized crime groups who hold illegal immigrants in debt bondage. Japan is also a major alien smuggling transit point for many travelers who are being trafficked from south and east Asia.

The Government of Japan does not yet fully meet the minimum standards; however, the Government is making significant efforts to combat trafficking. There are no specific laws that prohibit trafficking in persons; however, in 1999 the Diet enacted two new pieces of legislation which target persons who produce child pornography and those who hold individuals in debt bondage. Traffickers also can be prosecuted for violations of employment laws and Penal Code offenses such as abduction and kidnapping. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, law enforcement agencies have increased operations within Japan to expose broker organizations and establishments in the country that employ trafficking victims. However, there are allegations that some law enforcement units have been reluctant to investigate reports of trafficking and that the Government has not been aggressive in arresting and prosecuting suspected traffickers. Except for the Tokyo metropolitan government, which funds one Tokyo-based NGO assisting victims of trafficking, there is no government support for NGO's working with trafficked persons in Japan. Victims are often treated as criminals (prostitutes or illegal aliens) by the legal system because the Government does not consider people who willingly enter for illegal work to be trafficking victims. There is no formal "task force," or interagency working group, to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts among various ministries. However, in practice the Government focuses its prevention efforts in Asian source countries by funding public information campaigns targeted at potential victims and providing equipment and training to police and customs officials in those countries. The Government works cooperatively with other countries, but the immigration service has been slow to respond to illicit activities associated with transit passengers at Japan's international airports.


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