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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thousands swamp immigration

Staff writer

Spooked by the radiation leak at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, thousands of people this week have been applying for re-entry permits in preparation for evacuation from Japan.

News photo
Safer at home: Foreign nationals line up at the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau in Minato Ward on Wednesday. Most sought a re-entry permit so they can go home and return to Japan when the situation is safe. SATOKO KAWASAKI PHOTO

On Wednesday, the number of applicants at the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau appeared to surpass the nearly 5,000 who lined up Tuesday, according to a bureau official.

"I arrived here at around 9:30 a.m. And there already was a long line," said a 20-something Chinese student who only gave his last name, Ouyang. "My friend told me it's going to take five or six hours to reach the application counter, so I came here expecting to wait that long."

Ouyang said he decided to head back to his home country at the urging of his worried parents back in China. He has no idea when he will return.

"I listened to Prime Minister Naoto Kan's speech yesterday, and also to other government officials' announcements, but nothing seems to be trustworthy," he said. "I'm not sure if they are telling the truth."

A 44-year-old Chinese woman also expressed concern about the disaster at the nuclear power plant.

"I can't go back to China because all the flights heading to China are fully booked. But just to prepare, I came here today," said Lin Qiuping, who arrived at the bureau at around 8:30 a.m. but still had no idea how much longer it would take after waiting already for four hours.

"Many want to go back (to their home countries), out of fear of radiation leakage," Qiuping said.

She also said she doesn't trust information from the government regarding the nuclear plant.

"I wonder if all the truth has been told in news reports. Watching TV these past couple of days, I just can't trust the news," said Qiuping, who was in line with her friend.

Syed H. Ahmed, an engineer from Bangladesh, said he also came to the bureau to get a re-entry permit in case the situation worsens.

"I don't have any plan so far to go back to Bangladesh. But all my friends from Bangladesh already got re-entry permits, so I decided to get one myself," said Ahmed, who has been living in Japan for 2 1/2 years.

"I'm not worrying about earthquakes. What worries me is about the Fukushima crisis," Ahmed said.

A South Korean family in line had already booked seats on a flight departing Narita on Thursday.

"We are afraid of radiation rather than aftershocks," said a 45-year-old South Korean, who only gave his last name, Yang.

"We hear about the Fukushima nuclear power plant every day. But I don't know if what we are hearing is the truth," said Yang, who was with his wife and a daughter.

The Justice Ministry's Immigration Bureau Wednesday also began accepting inquiries about whether foreigners registered in Disaster Relief Act-applicable areas in Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures are still in Japan.

To make an inquiry, the nationality, name, birth date, sex and address of both applicant and foreigner must be provided.

For more info, contact the Immigration Bureau at (03) 3592-8120. Inquiries are accepted Monday through Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Inquiries can also be sent by fax at (03) 3592-7368 or by e-mail: nyukan44@moj.go.jp

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