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Agency barred over foreign intern abuse
Sat, Jul 24, 2010
The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network

A corporation that acts as a placement agency for foreign trainee positions was in April ordered by immigration authorities to halt such operations for three years, after it turned a blind eye to trainees being made to work long hours, it has been learned.

Japan Institute of Management Labor Science Inc. assigns foreign interns to different companies for training through the government-initiated Industrial Training and Technical Internship Program.

The institute, an incorporated body, is supervised by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

According to the Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo-based corporation, three Chinese trainees whom it placed at a sewing factory in Aichi Prefecture were forced to work overtime, including on their scheduled days off, over a long period last year.

Alerted by a group that supports exploited foreign trainees in the prefecture, the Justice Ministry investigated and found the factory violated government guidelines by making the three Chinese trainees work on their scheduled days off.

Japan Institute of Management Labor Science is headed by Hirokazu Shibata, a former director of the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau, and another former senior immigration officer has served there as an executive.

These postings bear the hallmarks of amakudari, the practice by which former government officials land lucrative jobs at public entities.

It is rare for a corporation that appears to conduct amakudari to receive an administrative punishment.

Criticism in recent years of aspects of the training program prompted the government to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law to provide foreign trainees with greater legal protection. The legislative revision took effect this month.

That Japan Institute of Management Labor Science--an organization led by a former top immigration official--was punished suggests generally sloppy supervision of companies involved in the foreign intern scheme.

Agencies such as Japan Institute of Management Labor Science are required to regularly inspect companies participating in the foreign trainee program.

In 2008, the institute received a directive from the Nagoya Regional Immigration Bureau to improve its administration after it was found to have placed Chinese illegal overstayers in trainee positions.

Shibata admitted the organization's failures to The Yomiuri Shimbun.

"We've received a punishment because the company that accepted the interns made them work overtime," he said.

"We've asked former immigration officers to supervise [participating companies]. But we've become unable to keep an eye on all trainees because there are too many. I feel responsible," he said. -The Yomiuri Shimbun/ANN

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