11 Chinese labourers arrested as Japan probes ‘human trafficking ring’
- Construction workers provided by a staffing agency reported to have disappeared
- Authorities searching for 46 missing workers, who may have exploited Japan’s visa-free entry for stays of up to 30 days
Japanese police are investigating a suspected labour trafficking ring after arresting 11 Chinese labourers with expired visas, one of whom told Chinese consulate officials they had been tricked by their agent, according to media reports.
The authorities began looking into the case in northern Japan when a Chinese man died after he was taken to a local clinic by four other men, also believed to be of Chinese descent, China’s consulate-general in Sapporo announced on its website on Tuesday. The four men have since gone missing.
The 11 workers were detained on Monday last week in the town of Kikonai in Hokkaido, where they had been working at a solar power station construction site, Japan’s NHK news reported on Monday. NHK reported that the Japanese authorities were searching for 46 other workers who went missing that day.
The Chinese workers had entered Japan through Nagasaki port or Tokyo’s Narita International Airport with short-term visas, according to NHK news, and had been taken to the construction site by a staffing agency in Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo.
NHK news quoted the construction contractor as saying that the staffing agency had provided the Chinese workers with documentation but that they had all disappeared from the work site.
Foreign tourists to Japan often vanish after entering through Nagasaki port, where more than half of cruises dock when stopping in Japan, NHK news reported. They take advantage of relaxed immigration rules allowing entry to the country without a visa or photo as long as they depart on the same vessel within 30 days and submit their fingerprints, the Nikkei Asian Review reported.
Japan’s justice ministry’s entry and status division has stated that most such disappearances happen when vessels dock at ports on the southwestern Japanese island of Kyushu after arriving from China.
According to government statistics, as of the end of June, an estimated 171 passengers had gone missing after entering this way and were believed to have become illegal labourers. Authorities suspect human traffickers are taking advantage of the system, and have stepped up security.
Japan has vowed to bring in 500,000 low-skilled labourers by 2025 to address a labour shortage caused by its ageing population.