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27 Sep 2021

Takafumi Ohtsuka, Toyo Keizai

Japan: Former technical trainees at Tokatsu Foods facing measures to return to home countries

"「帰国措置」は適切だったのか" 17 September 2021

[ Japanese-to-English translation: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre ]


"I was not convinced at all. I spent a lot of money to come to Japan, but if I had to go back, I thought it would be better to die in Japan. This is how A, a Cambodian former technical trainee, looks back on those days. A thought that if she worked in Japan, she could earn a high income and support her family. With this dream in mind, she borrowed $6,000 (approximately ¥700,000). After training in Cambodia, she came to Japan in October 2015 and started working at a food factory.

She worked at the Yamakita Factory (Yamakita-cho, Kanagawa Prefecture) of Tookatsu Foods (headquartered in Yokohama City), which produces lunch boxes and sandwiches for FamilyMart and Starbucks Coffee Japan. The company has about 3,800 employees, including part-time workers, and 500 technical interns were working there as of the end of June 2021. These trainees support the production of inexpensive, high-quality food products.


In May 2004, while A was spending time at the dormitory after her night shift, several people from Zenkoku Chushou Jigyou Kyoudou Kumi Ai (全国中小事業協同組合), the supervisory organization for trainees, and JCI Co., the sending organization, showed up and told her that she had failed the exam and should return to Cambodia. Then, she was taken to the Narita Airport by car. At the airport, they escorted her to the boarding gate and put her on the plane. When they arrived in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, A was at a loss as to what to do and saying, "I cannot face my family."

On the way to the airport, her passport and residence card were taken away, and she says, "I was not told that the car was going to the airport, and I was lied to and forced into the car."

If A and the General Support Union are correct in their claims, then this was indeed a "forced repatriation." There were eight trainees who were sent home at the same time, and seven of them have joined the Union and are continuing collective bargaining with Tookatsu Foods and other companies.