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4 Feb 2020


Japan: Filipino woman sues former employer for confiscating personal documents

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"Japan should ban confiscation of foreign employees' passports, lawyer says", 23 Jan 2020

The Japanese government should forbid employers from retaining the passports of their foreign workers, a lawyer said...after a Filipino woman sued her former employer for refusing to return her personal documents.

The case comes at a time when the government is seeking to attract labourers from outside Japan in hopes of finding a solution to the country’s severe labour shortage...

“Unfortunately, it’s common practice for companies to take the passports of the foreign workers they employ,” Shoichi Ibusuki, the plaintiff’s lawyer, [said.]

...“But to take someone’s passport and then force them to work is forced labour, and should not be allowed under Japanese law,” he said.

The...woman...filed a lawsuit...demanding the return of her passport, graduation certificate and other documents that she turned over when she started working at the company, a law office, in May 2019.

The woman asked for her passport back when she resigned in July 2019 but the company refused to return it, claiming it feared she would “run away,” said Makoto Iwahashi, a representative from a non-governmental organisation that is assisting the woman with legal procedures.

...AdvanceConsul Certified Administrative Procedures Legal Specialists’ Office, her former employer, declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

...It is illegal in Japan for companies to confiscate the passports of technical trainees under a special intern programme, but there is no law forbidding firms from taking the passports of foreign labourers in Japan under other visa schemes.

There is a government guideline advising against the confiscation of passports but it is not legally binding.

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