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Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012

Tokyo Public Law Office opens consultancy designed for foreigners


Staff writer

To meet growing demand, the Tokyo Public Law Office on Monday opened the nation's first legal advisory service specifically for foreigners.

The office is near the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau.

While there are numerous private law firms that can help foreigners, this is the first public office to provide legal services to non-Japanese, according to the organization, an affiliate of the Tokyo Bar Association.

The Tokyo Public Law Office, originally launched for Tokyo residents, started a section for foreigners at its Ikebukuro branch in November 2010. Although Japan has more than 2 million foreigners with proper visas, they have limited access to legal services due to language barriers, lack of information and cultural differences.

The new office is in response to an increasing number of foreigners requesting legal assistance. The organization has handled about 600 cases involving people from more than 40 countries since 2010. Most consultations pertain to immigration issues, divorce cases and layoffs.

The new office has six lawyers, conversant in English, Spanish and Korean, but legal services can be provided to foreigners of any nationality via interpreters.

The expanded operations will cover people overstaying their visas and asylum seekers who are denied public assistance. The organization will provide services to such clients with financial assistance from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.

"We worry that illegal immigrants and refugees are excluded from the public (legal) system. Our goal is also to help those people," said Masako Suzuki, head of the Tokyo Public Law Office's foreigners and international service section.



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