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Foreign trainee program 'like human trafficking'

The Daily Yumiyuri - June 29, 2011. The U.S. State Department said in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report that some conditions faced by participants in Japan's foreign trainee program were similar to those seen in human trafficking operations.

"According to criteria set under the U.S. trafficking victims protection act, enacted in 2000, the report released Monday classified 184 countries and territories into four categories: Tier 3, the worst rating; Tier 2 Watch List; Tier 2; and Tier 1.

Japan was rated Tier 2 for the seventh consecutive year. Tier 2 indicates countries and territories whose governments do not fully meet the act's minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to do so.

Twenty-three countries, including North Korea, were classified as Tier 3.

Regarding conditions for foreign trainees in Japan, the report noted "the media and NGOs continued to report abuses including debt bondage, restrictions on movement, unpaid wages, overtime, fraud and contracting workers out to different employers--elements which contribute to situations of trafficking."

The Japanese government has not officially recognized the existence of such problems, the report said.

It also said Japan "did not identify or provide protection to any victims of forced labor."

The foreign trainee program, run by a government-related organization, is designed to help foreign nationals, mainly from China and Southeast Asian nations, who want to learn technology and other skills by working for Japanese companies.

The majority of trainees are Chinese, who according to the report "pay fees of more than 1,400 dollars to Chinese brokers to apply for the program and deposits of up to 4,000 dollars and a lien on their home."

The report said a NGO survey of Chinese trainees in Japan found "some trainees reported having their passports and other travel documents taken from them and their movements controlled to prevent escape or communication.""

This article was published in The Daily Yomiuri

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