Statement by Mr. Yukio Takasu
Director-General, Multilateral Cooperation Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
at the Symposium on the International Movement of People and Immigration Policy toward the 21st century
29 November 2000
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to discuss the important but challenging topic "facilitating the international movement of people and international cooperation."
With the advance of globalization and the rapid development of information technology, the movement of people across national borders has increased dramatically. In meeting the challenges of today's globalized world, it is of utmost importance to facilitate the free and smooth movement of people. Globalization does not benefit people equally and it entails different forms of movement across borders. The new economic realities have enabled some to expand their businesses across national borders and travel or work overseas legally. Some of those who have been left out of the new prosperity, on the other hand, seek better opportunities and higher wages in overseas labor market through legal arrangements, while others can do so only illegally. The most seriously affected are the socially and economically vulnerable in developing countries, especially women and children, who are often preyed upon by organized crime rings.
The basic principle in dealing with the international movement of people is to promote and facilitate the orderly movement and restrict or prohibit the unregulated movement of people. Efforts to facilitate as well as those to regulate and control the movement of persons cannot be made by a single country alone and must be pursued through international cooperation. International cooperation should be promoted at the global, regional, and bilateral levels.
Having said that, let me first discuss the type of movement which is desirable and should be encouraged, namely, business travelers and skilled laborers. The volume of international business transactions, both in goods and services, has increased rapidly, and more and more businesses are expanding their operations beyond national borders. As a result, the numbers of international business travelers, both transient and residential, have significantly increased, and the need to strike a balance between facilitating the international movement of business travelers and upholding immigration regulations has become an important subject among trade negotiators.
I would like to provide some examples of the recent development in international cooperation to facilitate such travel. At the global level, the OECD ministerial conference this year issued a communique titled "Shaping Globalization," which recognizes the increasing importance of international movement of labor force. At the WTO, some countries have been discussing ways to facilitate the movement of the labor force across national borders from the viewpoint of promoting trade in services.
At the regional level, for example, the APEC Business Travel Card system has been implemented by Australia, Chile, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Malaysia. Under this system, bona fide business people from participating APEC members are able to apply for the Business Travel Card, and once clearances are obtained from participating APEC members, cardholders are able to travel to and undertake legitimate business in participating members for a maximum of three months. APEC will be an ideal forum for the promotion of regional cooperation to ensure the orderly mobility of business people in this region.
Japan, as the second largest economy in the world, has recognized its responsibility to promote the movement of skilled labor in the Asia-Pacific region. It has been actively supporting the development of human resources in Asia-Pacific countries through technical assistance programs. In this context, for example, you may recall the announcement by former Prime Minister Obuchi of the "Plan for Enhancing Human Resources Development and Human Resources Exchanges in East Asia" (Obuchi Plan) in 1999.
An example of bilateral cooperation is the plan announced by Prime Minister Mori during his trip to India in August, which includes a proposal to issue multiple-entry visas valid for three years to further facilitate the accommodation of IT specialists from India to Japan.
(Non-Skilled Workers, Migrant Workers)
The widening disparity of wealth and living standard is resulting in a massive influx of unskilled laborers from rural areas to urban centers within a country and from developing countries to industrialized countries. These migrant workers cross national borders in search of higher wages and better job opportunities.
The issue of accepting the legal entry of non-skilled migrant workers is addressed by each country according to its domestic economic requirements and social acceptance of such foreign workers. In the case of Japan, given the advent of the aging society and the decrease in the working-age population, it is increasingly important to consider, on the basis of a national consensus, expanding the framework and guidelines which govern the flow of laborers from overseas to supplement Japanese workers.
In this connection, the role of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is worth mentioning. The IOM has traditionally provided humanitarian assistance to international migrants, including refugees. But it is now also actively involved in labor migration issues in the Asia and Pacific region, and it assists the work of the Inter-Governmental Asia-Pacific Consultations on Refugees, Displaced Persons and Migrants (APC). One of the functions of the IOM is to assist governments to establish and strengthen migration policies to ensure a better match between international requirements and domestic needs. In my view, Japan should be more actively involved in the activities of the IOM, especially in its effort to create an international standard for the movement of labor force.
In discussing issues relating to migrant workers, the integration of those workers in the socieies of receiving countries is important. The aforementioned communique of the OECD maintains that policies are needed to facilitate the better integration of migrants in receiving countries. Often marginalized from the society, the basic human rights of migrant workers are sometimes neglected, and frictions between foreign workers and local communities are often observed. Of course, laws concerning illegal migrant workers should be strictly enforced. But the human rights of migrant workers must also be protected based on the spirit of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Our goal should be to construct a society where people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds can respect each other and coexist peacefully.
Another category of people who deserve international protection are refugees who have been forced out of their countries of residence. The post-Cold War era is characterized by conflicts arising out of ethnic strife and the collapse of the governance. As a result, the number of refugees drastically increased after 1990 to a peak of 30 million in 1995. Now, at the turn of the century, there are still more than 25 million refugees and internally displaced persons in the world.
This development has posed new challenges to the international refugee protection framework, which was basically formed fifty years ago with the enactment of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. The new challenge includes the issue of internally displaced persons and the protection of temporary refugees from warfare and natural disasters. In addition, as a result of the massive movement of people in search of better living conditions, the receiving countries are burdened by the influx of refugees and are having trouble coping with the increasing cases of refugee status applications. In the wake of these new problems, the UNHCR Global Consultations on International Protection intend to clarify and define the scope and content of protection in order to better meet the changing situations in the world. We welcome this initiative and intend to actively participate in the consultations. The protection of and assistance to refugees can be most effectively carried out by international cooperation through the UNHCR, to which Japan extends strong support.
Migrant workers sometimes cross borders clandestinely and illegally to seek better economic opportunities, often depending upon international smuggling rings. In this region, organized crime rings, such as the "Snake Head" of China, are involved, often using extensive networks and sophisticated methods. The ARF (ASEAN Regional Forum) Experts' Group Meeting on Transnational Crime has studied and exchanged views on the security implications of the influx of illegal migrants in the Asia-Pacific region. In order to combat the smuggling of migrants conducted by organized criminal groups, regional and bilateral cooperation in law enforcement as well as immigration control among relevant authorities is indispensable. Effective action must be taken not only in the country of destination but also in the country of origin. For instance, it is largely due to the development of bilateral cooperation between Japanese and Chinese authorities that the number of cases of massive smuggling of illegal migrants from China has been significantly reduced this year. The UN Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly just two weeks ago, is also expected to facilitate our fight against the smuggling of migrants and international cooperation in this field.
(Trafficking in Persons)
The socially vulnerable and marginalized, especially women and children, are especially prone to fall victim to international crime rings. The victims are exploited in various ways, but the most egregious violation of human rights and dignity is seen in "trafficking in persons" cases. The term "trafficking in persons" generally refers to the transnational transportation of human beings by coercion or deception for sexual exploitation, forced labor, or similar purposes. Forced to travel abroad against their will, the victims of trafficking, mostly women and children from economically struggling regions in developing countries, are exploited by organized criminal groups and are forced to work in sex industries or in hard labor. The increase in trafficking in women and children is a global phenomenon, and the Asia-Pacific region is no exception.
Governments around the world are cracking down on criminal organizations and are strengthening border controls with a view to eradicating the tragedy of trafficking in persons. The Japanese government hosted the "Asia-Pacific Symposium on Trafficking in Persons" in January this year, with a view to deepening understanding of the present situation in the Asia-Pacific region and to discussing actions to be taken to suppress the criminal activity and protect the victims. In view of the seriousness of this problem, the G8 has also actively discussed this issue at the Lyon Group (Senior Experts Group on Transnational Organized Crime). In the Ministerial Conference of the G8 on Combating Transnational Organized Crime held in Moscow in 1999, the ministers compiled and announced the "Guiding Principle of Action to Combat the Smuggling of and Trafficking in Human Beings." The most significant achievement in this field is the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Japan has played a leading role in negotiating the Convention and the Protocols. As the first comprehensive international legal instruments to fight against this organized crime, the Convention and the Trafficking Protocol are expected to facilitate international cooperation to eradicate this heinous crime and rescue its victims. I would also like to refer to the valuable activities undertaken by an international NGO called ECPAT to address the trafficking in children for sexual purposes. I am pleased to report that substantive preparatory work is proceeding well, with support of members of the Japanese national committee, to host the Second World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children next year in Yokohama, to follow up commitments made in Stockholm in 1996.
Given the complex nature of the international movement of people and the difficulty in striking a balance between humanitarian requirements and effective immigration control, let me share with you this closing thought. I believe that the concept of "human security" can function as a guiding principle in dealing with the movement of people. The idea of "human security" was developed to deal with the various issues in an increasingly globalized world from the viewpoint of ensuring the survival and dignity of individual human beings. Since the Asian economic crisis in 1997-1998, Japan has taken the leadership in promoting a comprehensive concept of human security as one of the most important aspects of its international cooperation and has urged the international community to strengthen the human-centered approach in addressing global issues. The issue of the international movement of people, I believe, requires a human-centered approach to alleviate suffering and ensure they can pursue their lives free from fear. Based on this principle, efforts should be made to protect the dignity of each individual through cooperation among states, international organizations, NGOs, and individual citizens.
Thank you for your attention.
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