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Tuesday, Sep. 4, 2012
Foreigners barred at Haneda can get legal aid
Lawyers in Tokyo started a pilot project Monday to provide legal services at Haneda airport to support foreign visitors who have trouble getting by immigration control but could be admitted with proper legal assistance.
One of about 60 lawyers in Tokyo listed for the services is available daily from Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but services will be unavailable on Sept. 17, Oct. 8 and Nov. 23, which are national holidays.
After receiving a call, the lawyer will get to the airport in about an hour. The project will continue through Nov. 30.
"There are some people every year who should be permitted to enter the country, but are not in reality," said Sosuke Seki, a lawyer at Ginza Prime Law Office who heads the project.
Last year, 379 foreign nationals arrived at Haneda airport but were barred by immigration authorities for various reasons.
Some were rejected because not enough time had passed after a previous denial of entry; others because they had criminal records stemming from drug abuse overseas.
But even in such cases, some could be permitted entry if they have special reasons, including having a Japanese spouse, Seki said.
Others hope to apply for refugee status, he added.
Bar associations in Tokyo have posted a leaflet at immigration control in four languages — Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean — explaining the legal services they offer and providing toll-free telephone numbers.
The numbers are 0120-918-501 (available from Monday to Oct. 13) and 0120-477-472 (available from Oct. 15 to Nov. 30).
The services are basically free and interpreters who can handle other languages are also available.
The lawyers also provide consulting services for foreign nationals who are actually detained by immigration authorities at Haneda.
"We want to consider starting the same services at Narita (airport), if the project works well," Seki said.
"But we are not sure if we can really start the same services at Narita because the number of foreigners who are rejected at immigration control is more than 10 times that of Haneda, and there are many more nationalities involved."