Update from Japan: Access to Justice for Thai Migrant Workers

February 15, 2015
Category: Uncategorized

“It turns out that few organizations actually have experience supporting Thai migrants with labour problems… I realized that Thai migrant workers are actually quite vulnerable in Japan.”  -Yuko Manabe, JWB Legal Research Fellow, Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Tokyo

JWB Legal Fellows Helping to Map Just Compensation for Thai Workers in Japan 

Migrant workers are increasingly traveling to Japan as the country’s labor crunch leads businesses to look  abroad for willing workers. With the 2020 Olympics on the horizon, the country is ramping up for an even larger increase of workers from nearby Southeast Asia, including Thailand.

Like those in other host countries, migrant workers in Japan are vulnerable to labor exploitation and human trafficking. Language and cultural barriers can make seeking aid even more difficult than in Singapore or Hong Kong.

JWB is working to map the routes to legal aid for migrant workers, especially when they must return home. With financial support from the Institute of Developing Economies, we are surveying the legal options available to exploited Thai migrant workers in Japan, should they choose to seek just compensation.

As in other countries, our work in Japan relies upon volunteers and pro bono lawyers. We would like to thank our research coordinator Kate Blashki, our board member Ryoko Minagawa, and our lawyers Ken Shimono, Mariko Kimoto, Kosuke Oie and Akiyo Inoko for their pro bono support throughout this project.

Here, we introduce our three Japan Pro Bono Legal Fellows and ask them about their work mapping access to justice.

Yuuka Tazawa

Yuuka Tazawa

How did you get involved in migrant workers’ access to justice?

The work with JWB is the first time for me to get involved in migrant workers’ access to justice. I’m really grateful for this opportunity because I have been interested in migration issues.

Your area of research with JWB?

Data collection regarding Thai migrant workers in Japan

What has been the most interesting part of the work? What has been the most challenging?

The most interesting part is getting to know experts in migrant issues. I accompanied our Executive Director to interviews with professionals in Osaka, Japan, which made me very impressed with their passion for their work to help migrant workers facing difficulties in Japan.

What was the most challenging for me is gathering information about Thai migrants in Japan from the Internet and academic literature. But I think that the fact that there is not much information out there did highlight the necessity of the further research on the issue, which our project is working on.

Tell us about your studies.

I’m studying law and development, focusing on stateless issues in Thailand. I’m on the first year in the Master’s program at Kobe University, Japan.

What is your favorite break from studying and work?

I like to watch movies and go out with friends when I’m tired of studying.

 

Yuko Manabe

How did you get involved in migrant workers’ access to justice?

I have been involved in Thailand as a researcher in the field for more than five years. I did several field researches in Thailand’s southern border provinces. As a researcher, I want to learn how people in difficult situations or suffering harm can get access to justice.

What has been the most interesting part of the work with JWB? What has been the most challenging?

Although I have studied about Thailand for several years, I didn’t know about Thai migrant workers’ situation in Japan that much. In contacting NGOs which support Thai migrants for my research with JWB, I thought Thai migrants would have some visible community and that many organizations would know their situation. However, it turns out that few organizations actually have experience supporting Thai migrants’ with labour problems. Of course there are organizations or individuals that provide good legal support, but I realized that Thai migrant workers are actually quite vulnerable.

Some Japanese scholars on Thai studies said that recently few Japanese scholars have researched about labour economics in Asia. My research with JWB has made me think I need to learn more about the labour situation of migrant workers in Japan.

What is your favorite break from studying and work?

I love Buddhist sculpture. I see photo books sometimes to relax. If I have plenty of time and money I will go to Kyoto and Nara to see old temples there.

What school do you go to and what year are you in school?

I’m in the second year of my Ph.D. at the University of Tokyo.

What are you currently studying?
Area Studies (Southeast Asia), Law and Sociology

 

Kazuma Hosokawa

Kazuma Hosokawa

Tell us about your studies.

I am a law student at the University of Tokyo, studying mainly private law. I am a 2nd year undergrad student
How did you get involved in migrant workers’ access to justice?

I attended a seminar about human rights when I was a freshman, where I studied human trafficking. Then, the host organization for the seminar, the Center for Documentation of Refugees and Migrants, told me about JWB’s work. I wanted to know more deeply about human trafficking and decided to join.

Your area of research with JWB?

Exploitation and human trafficking of Thai people in Japan.

What has been the most interesting part of the work with JWB?  What has been the most challenging?

There is little prior research on this theme, so finding useful information in the research is difficult, but for this reason, I can learn how research is done.

What is your favorite break from studying and work?

I am playing the violin in  the orchestra at the University of Tokyo. Practice is hard but I also can learn much from other violinists.