Gursewak Singh, 17, dreams of studying and working in Japan – the only country he’s ever known. However, because of his status, his dream is far from reality.
In the 1990s Gursewak’s parents fled to Japan from India to escape religious oppression. He was born and raised in Matsudo in Chiba Prefecture which is a quiet suburban town just east of Tokyo. His family shares a legal limbo status which means they can’t work, they don’t have health insurance, and they can’t go outside the prefecture where they live.
Gursewak and his family have repeatedly filed for asylum but were denied each time. They are only able to stay in Japan because of a system called “provisional release,” which allows applicants to stay in Japan while their asylum cases are being reviewed.
Apart from the many things they are not allowed to do, Gursewak and his family are also subject to unannounced inspections performed by immigration officers. They also face detention at anytime.
How do they manage to survive? Gursewak and his family are able to support themselves through Sikhs in the community and Sikh charity, but without this kind of help, their time in Japan is ticking and his dreams for the future become uncertain.
“The most difficult thing now is not being able to work. I want to go to college next year, but without work, I can’t see my future at all,” Gursewak said.
“The immigration authorities tell us to go back to our parents’ home country. But I’ve never been to India. It’s not like going back to your hometown in the countryside,” he added.
Gursewak’s case is similar to other foreign children who inherited the same legal issue. There are around 500 children with the same status living in Japan, AsiaOne reported.
Mitsuri Miyasako, head of Provisional Release Association in Japan, said that because his country has a strong sense of homogeneity, it is extremely difficult for asylum seekers to access legal status.
Although these children are allowed to attend government-run schools wherein tuition is mostly free, the option of attending a university seems far-fetched because their parents are not allowed to work and can’t afford tuition.
The Japanese government argues that although these children were born and raised in Japan, the issue is not a matter of leniency. For citizenship, Japan only recognizes the right of blood.