Diplomatic Bluebook 2001

B. Consular Functions and Measures for the Protection of Japanese Traveling and Living Abroad

1. Measures for the Safety and Protection of Japanese Nationals Overseas

During 2000, the number of Japanese traveling overseas and living abroad continued to steadily increase. With the growing popularity of tours to rarely visited regions, the number of Japanese tourists visiting countries and regions with unstable public security is rising. Meanwhile, the age brackets of Japanese traveling to foreign countries are becoming wider along with the boom in overseas travel by the elderly. Thus, it may be said that the overseas activities of Japanese nationals are expanding both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Consequently, the number of cases in which Japanese are caught up in foreign incidents and accidents is also on the rise. There were several painful incidents and accidents during 2000: Japanese nationals who were participating in a tour to remote regions of Guatemala were wounded and killed; in Greece, a Japanese tour bus was hijacked; and 10 Japanese (including Japanese youth) lost their lives in a cable car accident in Austria.

While providing support to individuals who are caught up in these types of incidents and accidents and to their families, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is offering various types of information and implementing public relations and educational activities to promote the safety of Japanese nationals overseas.

In cases where there is a serious deterioration in the security situation, or during other emergency situations such as natural disasters, disturbances, or terrorist incidents, or in cases where such situations are deemed increasingly likely to occur, the Ministry issues five levels of travel advisories and warnings on the security risk in the country or region concerned. Additionally, the Ministry provides information regarding crime and terrorist trends in all overseas regions and other notices concerning the safety of Japanese abroad in the form of information releases from the Ministry's Overseas Security Information Center.

The Ministry is also striving to provide highly detailed security information via the "Overseas Safety Information Facsimile Service by Nation," the "Overseas Safety Telephone Service," and the "Overseas Safety Information Terminal Touch Vision" service, as well as via the Internet through the "Ministry of Foreign Affairs Overseas Safety Website" which was established in 2000.

To raise the security awareness of Japanese nationals traveling overseas, the Ministry holds a program called "Week for the Safety Promotion of Japanese Nationals Overseas" each June. The activities during this week include the holding of seminars regarding overseas safety. Furthermore, the Ministry provides Japanese firms expanding their business overseas and travel agencies with general overseas safety information and promotes security dialogue and cooperation for overseas safety with the private sector.

2. Improving the Social Welfare of Japanese Living Abroad

As the number of Japanese living abroad has been increasing year by year, the activities of Japanese consulates to secure the safety of Japanese nationals and facilitate their comfortable overseas activities have become increasingly complex and diverse. As part of the government's efforts to improve the social welfare of Japanese nationals living abroad, the Ministry has long been providing support to overseas Japanese schools and Japanese supplemental schools in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. As for health aspects, since 1972, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been dispatching traveling teams of medical doctors with the cooperation of Japanese medical institutions, primarily for medical consultations with Japanese nationals living in developing countries, especially those in tropical regions with poor medical conditions. The Ministry also provides information regarding the spread of infectious diseases through information releases from the Overseas Security Information Center based on the information received from the World Health Organization (WHO) and from each country's government. In recent years, the Ministry has been working to implement policy measures to respond to the diverse requests of Japanese residing overseas, such as eliminating duplicate contributions to pension funds and issues on computing the total length of payment as well as simplifying the procedures for obtaining driver's licenses abroad.

3. Overseas Voting

Following the 1998 promulgation of the Act Revising Portions of the Public Offices Election Law, Japanese residing abroad are now able to participate in national elections. The first balloting by overseas Japanese residents took place during the House of Representatives election of June 2000, and approximately 17,000 Japanese residing abroad exercised their right to vote. To participate, eligible voters must register in advance. Japanese overseas diplomatic and consular missions are implementing public relations activities concerning this new system, and consulate staff are traveling around the countries where they are posted to register additional voters. As of the end of 2000, approximately 65,000 Japanese residing abroad had registered to vote in future elections.

4. Measures to Prevent Passport Forgery

In recent years, there have been a great many cases where passports and other travel documents have been forged or altered by international criminal organizations and international terrorists and used illegally. Accordingly, enhanced measures to prevent travel document forgery are now being addressed at numerous international fora. Recognizing that building up an effective cooperation system with other countries is essential to prevent such abuse, in November 2000, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held the Workshop on Passport Policy, inviting passport issuing authorities and forgery countermeasure experts from four developed countries, and is striving to improve forgery prevention technologies and to build up an international information network. The Ministry is also appealing to Japanese nationals on Passport Day (February 20) to remind them of the importance of not losing their passports.

5. Foreigners Residing in Japan

To facilitate the transnational movement of people accompanying the advance of globalization and to promote personnel exchanges, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has continuously worked to simplify and expedite visa procedures. This emphasis is also consistent with the government's deregulation policies. Specific measures, including the easing of visa procedures for foreign IT engineers, are taken in this regard.

The number of foreigners entering Japan and the number of foreigners registering as foreign residents in Japan have both been gradually increasing. Meanwhile, the number of foreigners who have illegally overstayed the duration of stay of their landing permits has remained above 200,000 ever since suddenly increasing to that level in 1992. Crimes committed by some of these illegal residents present an erroneous image of foreigners living in Japan to the Japanese public, obstructing sound international exchange. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working to prevent foreigners from entering Japan for the purposes of working and residing illegally through strict examination of visa applications.

The Ministry is also working to resolve consular issues through regular conferences with representatives of certain governments such as China and the Republic of Korea (ROK).

Incidentally, during 2000 the Diet continued its deliberations on a bill that would give permanent foreign residents of Japan the right to vote in local elections.

6. Cooperation with Overseas Communities of Nikkei

The history of Japanese emigration now stretches back over 130 years, resulting in large Japanese communities in various parts of the globe. The number of Japanese and Japanese descendants living abroad, mostly in North and South America, is estimated to be on the order of 2.5 million, including 1.3 million in Brazil and 1.0 million in the United States. These Nikkei (Japanese emigrants and descendants) are highly acclaimed in their respective countries for their activities in wide-ranging fields, including politics, administration, economics, academia, and culture, and for their positive contributions to economic and social development. They also play a critical role in promoting mutual understanding and amicable relations between Japan and their countries of residence.

Looking to the advent of a new century, in December 2000 the Overseas Emigration Council issued a report entitled "Future Policy regarding Cooperation with Overseas Communities" of Nikkei which transcended the former perspective that was mostly limited to providing support to emigrants and incorporated ideas and specific policies toward building up relations and enhancing cooperation with overseas communities of Nikkei worldwide.

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