Photo/IllutrationA scene from “Taikyo no Shunkan!” in which immigration officers find a Vietnamese woman suspected of staying illegally in Japan (Captured from the TV show)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

In one scene, immigration officers round up a Thai woman who works at a pub as a narrator says, with no evidence, that her shared apartment is a “den” of illegal workers.

In another scene showing a Chinese man, a narrator states that many illegal overstayers have connections with crime syndicates. It is unclear if the allegation refers to the man on the screen.

Such scenes are from a string of TV programs about crackdowns on illegal immigration that have been blasted as fueling anti-foreigner sentiment in Japanese society. One criticism is that such programs fail to provide broader contexts and details of the featured cases.

“Presenting issues regarding the residence status of non-Japanese as serious crimes without explaining the backgrounds and flaws in the labor system will lead to further discrimination and prejudice against foreigners,” said Tomoko Uraki, a lawyer who works to protect the rights of non-Japanese.

In Fuji Television Network Inc.’s “Taikyo no Shunkan!” (The moment of expulsion!), which aired on Oct. 6, Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau officers raid a Gunma Prefecture apartment to nab a Vietnamese woman thought to be living there illegally. It turned out that she arrived under Japan’s technical intern training program but later fled her workplace in Kagoshima Prefecture.

The training program has come under fire in recent years for labor abuses and exploitation of the non-Japanese interns by business operators. But the reason the Vietnamese woman ran away from her job in the first place was left out of the TV program.

A group of lawyers, including Uraki, submitted a letter in October to Fuji TV, saying that the program uncritically featured the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau while giving an unbalanced account of the cases involving suspected illegal overstayers.

In response, Fuji TV said it had no intention of discriminating against foreigners.

The Thai woman taken away by immigration officers from her apartment in Ibaraki Prefecture was shown on TV Tokyo Corp.’s “Gasaire!” (Domiciliary search!) on Oct. 10.

She was suspected of working without a proper visa based on information gathered at the pub by undercover officers posing as customers.

As she packs her belongings, the narrator describes her apartment as “a den of female foreigners illegally working in the nightlife business.”

The Chinese man suspected of illegally staying in Japan who may or may not have connections to organized crime was featured in TV Asahi Corp.’s “Super G-Men” (Super government men) on Sept. 20.

Regarding its role in such shows, the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau said it provides assistance in response to requests from broadcasters. While the bureau promoted programs featuring its staff members on Twitter before airing, it said it is not responsible for the content of such shows.

“We provided help to TV stations because we believe they offer good opportunities for us to introduce our activities to the public,” an immigration bureau officer told The Asahi Shimbun. “We never say anything about the content of the programs.”

Journalist Koichi Yasuda explained one likely cause of the problem.

“Those shows air one-sided opinions uncritically because broadcasters can easily obtain videos of foreigners being raided if they are allowed to accompany immigration officers,” he said. “Considering the narration and subtitles appear to fuel prejudice against non-Japanese in general, I feel the mass media is indirectly supporting an anti-foreigner campaign staged by certain people.”

Eriko Suzuki, an immigration policy professor at Kokushikan University, agrees.

“Airing special coverage of scenes where non-Japanese are being raided in a succession of TV programs could contribute to an atmosphere where people become suspicious of those from overseas and will try to get rid of them,” Suzuki said.

Hisamitsu Mizushima, a media studies professor at Tokai University, said there are similar problems with TV shows that introduce police activities.

“Going against the principle of innocent until proven guilty, (both types of programs) give viewers the impression that those on the screen are convicted criminals,” he said.

Mizushima noted that such shows themed on non-Japanese are more serious in that they may promote discrimination.

“If broadcasters really want to introduce situations that the Immigration Bureau faces, they need to shed light on various aspects of the issue, such as problems with the law and the system to accept foreigners,” he said. “If such efforts were made, programs simply designed to allow people to feel gratified by watching those who violate laws being punished would not be created.”

(This article was written by Akiko Minato and Takahiro Kawamura.)