Photo/Illutration A bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law passes the Upper House Committee on Judicial Affairs by majority vote on June 8. (Koichi Ueda)

Despite stringent protests from opposition lawmakers, an Upper House committee passed a controversial bill aimed at speeding the deportation of foreign nationals illegally staying in Japan, paving the way for its enactment as early as June 9.

The Upper House Committee on Judicial Affairs on June 8 passed by majority vote the bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, which is also designed to prevent prolonged detentions. 

It would allow immigration authorities to deport those seeking refugee status after two rejections of their applications unless there is “good reason.”

Currently, deportation orders are suspended if applications are pending.

Government officials contend that some foreigners are attempting to stave off deportation by repeatedly filing an application even after they are denied refugee status.

The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan remains opposed to the bill, saying those who need protection could lose their lives if they are sent back to their home countries.

The CDP’s censure motion against Justice Minister Ken Saito was voted down during the Upper House plenary session on June 7.

A vote on the bill at the Upper House plenary session is expected on June 9. The bill already passed the Diet’s lower chamber on May 9. 

An estimated 4,000 people, including citizens, lawyers and opposition lawmakers, gathered outside the Diet building to oppose the government bill on the night of June 7.

Protesters rally against a bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law outside the Diet building in Tokyo on June 7. (Shingo Tsuru)

Protesters said the Japanese government should protect the human rights and lives of all people.

A crowd of about 200 people that included citizens and lawyers also called for the bill to be scrapped at a protest rally in front of JR Osaka Station on June 7.

The bill includes provisions aimed at encouraging those illegally staying in Japan to promptly return to their home countries.

A deportation order would carry penalties against acts obstructing repatriation procedures. If foreign nationals who received a deportation order voluntarily return, the period in which they are denied re-entry to Japan would be shortened from five years to one year.

Government officials said a new system would be introduced to prevent prolonged detentions.

Some visa overstayers will be allowed to live away from detention facilities until they are deported if their activities are monitored by officially designated supervisors, such as their supporters and relatives.

Under another system, foreign nationals who fled from conflict would be granted similar protection afforded to refugees. Government officials said the system will be applied to evacuees from Ukraine, for example.

(This article was compiled from reports by Kazumichi Kubota, Shingo Tsuru and Takuya Asakura.)