Chapter V.
Structures Supporting Japan's Diplomatic Functions

B. Consular functions and measures for the protection of Japanese abroad

a) Protection of Japanese nationals abroad

During 1997, the number of Japanese traveling overseas was an all-time high of 16.80 million, up 0.6% compared to the previous year. As of 1 October 1997, a total of 507,749 Japanese nationals were classified as long-term residents overseas (non-permanent residents staying abroad for three months or longer), while the number of Japanese residents classified as permanent residents abroad rose to 274,819. Thus, the total number of Japanese nationals residing abroad was an all-time high of 782,568, an increase of 2.4% over the previous year.

As the number of Japanese people traveling overseas increases, the number falling victim to crimes and accidents is also growing. Responding to this situation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs integrated the travel and evacuation advice into a five risk-level "Travel Advice and Warning." (As of mid-December 1998, the number of cases reported for each level of security risk was: 52 cases of "Travel caution" (level of security risk: 1); 37 cases of "Recommendation to defer non-essential travel" (level of security risk: 2); 21 cases of "Recommendation to defer all travel" (level of security risk: 3); 4 cases of "Departure advice for residents staying for non-essential purposes" (level of security risk: 4); and 11 cases of "Evacuation advice for all residents" (level of security risk: 5)). Interest in "Travel Advice and Warning" has increased among Japanese people, especially after the crisis in Indonesia in May 1998. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also working on providing information on security situations abroad to the public through publication of the full text on its home page. It is also working to publicize information through fax and telephone services at the Overseas Security Information Center of the Ministry and by organizing the "Week to Promote Safety of Japanese Nationals Overseas." Furthermore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working to promote dialogue and cooperation between the government and the public in the area of overseas safety.

b) Overseas voting

In May 1998, the Act Revising Part of the Public Offices Election Law was promulgated to enable Japanese residing overseas to vote. Accordingly, from May 1999, work related to registration for the purpose of overseas voting commenced. This will make overseas voting in parliamentary elections (for the time being, for seats in proportional representation districts) possible after May 2000. Specifically, Japanese residing overseas will in principle be able to vote by appearing at voting booths set up in overseas diplomatic or consular establishments of Japan, while others, such as those living in remote areas, will be able to vote via mail as well. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working with the Ministry of Home Affairs on various preparations, including the development of structures and mechanisms, to ensure that overseas voting is carried out smoothly.

c) Strengthening consular functions

With the great increase in the number of Japanese abroad and the diversification of their activities, etc., consular work in diplomatic establishments and consulates abroad is becoming increasingly complex and diverse. To carry out the new tasks concerning overseas voting along with other consular work smoothly and promptly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is engaging actively in the rationalization of consular work through, for example, office automation and the fostering of consular experts.

d) Measures to prevent passport forgery

In view of the increase in the number of forgeries and illegal uses of passports and other travel documents by transnational organized crime and international terrorists, the enhancement of security features to prevent the forgery of travel documents is being emphasized recently in international fora such as Summits of the Eight as an issue that transcends national borders. From the viewpoint that organizing an effective mechanism for cooperation with other countries is vital in handling this issue, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been working to improve safety measures for preventing passport forgery and to establish an information network among the Asian countries. Japan held a seminar in November 1998 on the prevention of passport forgery, inviting representatives of passport-issuing authorities and anti-forgery experts from seven countries in Asia. Furthermore, the Ministry is promoting the creation of an active cooperative mechanism among developed countries at summit s and in other fora.

e) Responding to generational change in Japanese communities

The number of Japanese immigrants and their descendants in Latin America is now estimated to have reached 1.5 million. New generations are growing up, with second- and third-generation descendants now beginning to form the majority of Japanese communities there. Many of them find work in Japan. These people are active in various walks of life, and contribute to the development of their countries of birth. They also play a significant role as a link to Japan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs continues to work to actively support their activities.

f) Foreigners in Japan

In 1997, 4.66 million foreigners entered Japan (compared to 4.24 million in 1996), while the number of registered foreigners in Japan was 1.48 million at the end of 1997 (compared to 1.42 million in 1996). Figures are, therefore, on the increase, and there is every reason to assume that these will continue to grow steadily as Japan continues its internationalization process. While the number of foreigners who had overstayed their permitted period of stay in Japan and were living here illegally had decreased to around 276,000 as of January 1998, down 22,000 from the peak in May 1993, this figure is still large. Many foreigners staying in Japan illegally tend to become involved in crime. The situation not only creates prejudice against foreigners in Japan, but also seriously undermines the image of Japan in the countries from which the foreigners come, which impedes sound international exchanges.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeks as far as possible to prevent people from entering the country for the purpose of illegal work. At the same time, from the viewpoint of promoting interchanges with people from different countries, and as part of a general move toward deregulation, the Japanese Government is promoting simplification and acceleration of visa-issuing procedures. In 1998, Japan simplified visa application forms for some Eastern and Central European countries and Australia.

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