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Wednesday, July 8, 1998
Hospital sign threatens illegal immigrants
By TOMOKO OTAKE
A citizens' group demanded Wednesday that a sign put up by a Tokyo private hospital be removed because it implies illegal aliens will be reported to immigration authorities.
Six members of the Asian People's Friendship Society, based in Tokyo's Itabashi Ward, met with officials of Tokyo Women's Medical University Hospital in Shinjuku Ward to formally protest the sign mounted above the emergency room reception desk, calling it erroneous and discriminative. The group criticized the sign as something that may turn away foreigners who need treatment for life-threatening problems.
The sign, written in English and Chinese, reads: "This medical hospital is obligated to report to the Immigration Office" in English. It also refers to a "Japan Immigration Control Office" in Chinese, as if to imply authorization by immigration officials, although an office by such a name does not exist.
But Morihiro Honda of the Justice Ministry's Immigration Bureau said the offices referred to in the sign do not exist. He added that displaying a sign that could be mistaken as being authorized by the bureau is inappropriate.
Although the sign does not specify exactly who the hospital will turn in to immigration authorities, APFS President Katsuo Yoshinari said it is obvious the sign is intended to scare off foreigners who have overstayed their visas and are seeking treatment. A hospital spokesman declined comment on the sign.
The APFS members said that when the group contacted the hospital on July 1 to complain about the sign, a spokesman claimed it was put up about 10 years ago because there had been many cases of foreigners who had overstayed their visas and who had refused to pay after receiving emergency room treatment.
Under the Immigration Control and Refugees Recognition Law, central and municipal government officials are required to report illegal aliens to the authorities when they find them, but private hospitals are not. "This is unprecedented and malicious," Yoshinari said. "Some real estate agencies refuse to deal with foreign customers. That itself is problematic, but it is very problematic that a hospital, which deals with peoples' lives, carries a sign like this."
Yoshinari said after the meeting that the hospital acknowledged it is not in fact "obligated" to report illegal aliens and that the "Japan Immigration Control Office" is actually a bogus name.
The hospital officials said they will consider either removing the sign or rewording it, Yoshinari said, adding that they told him they require a month or more before taking any concrete action.