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5 Nov 2019

Kyodo News

Japan: Legal firm in Yokohama refuses to return passport to Filipino contract worker

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"Yokohama legal firm refuses to return passport to Filipino woman", 4 November 2019

A legal service firm in Yokohama is refusing to give a passport back to a Filipino woman under an employment contract...,preventing her from seeking a new job or returning home...

It is illegal for employers to keep passports of foreigners who live in Japan as technical trainees. But the country has no penal regulations concerning those of other foreigners, with only the labor ministry's guidelines advising employers not to keep them.

The case of the Filipino woman suggests this legal pitfall could potentially put foreign workers in a precarious condition even at a time when Japan is opening its doors wider to them...

...[T]he woman...had been working as an interpreter at the firm, Advanceconsul Immigration Lawyer Office.

...She also claimed that the legal office...has paid only part of her salary.

...Under the contract, the firm would keep her passport and the woman would need permission to retrieve it after making a written request. The office would also determine the manner and period of withholding her passport, she said.

She stopped working at Advanceconsul in early July but it refuses to recognize that she has quit. It has not responded to requests to give back her passport.

...Some other foreign workers also requested Advanceconsul to return their passports, but the firm has not done so. Kanagawa Prefecture's labor committee recognized in September that the firm's refusal to negotiate with the workers over their passports was unfair practice.

The firm has declined to respond to inquiries from Kyodo News.

...There is no movement so far by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to prohibit employers from keeping their foreign workers' passports...

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