Japan will grant special permission to stay to certain foreign minors born and raised in the country without residence status, with more than 140 children expected to fall into the category, the justice minister said Friday, adding that the measures are "for this time only."
Calls have been growing for support for such children as they have been unable to access adequate medical care due to their non-resident status. Many of them attend Japanese schools and mostly speak Japanese.
The justice minister will also consider taking a similar step for their family members.
Issuance of special residence permission is granted in special cases to those who would otherwise face deportation and is left up to the discretion of the justice minister. While its criteria are unclear, whether the applicant is married to a Japanese or has a child at school in Japan are among factors given consideration.
Based on the announcement by Saito, the grants of special permission will apply to foreign nationals under the age of 18. They should be born in Japan and attending school and also have expressed a desire to continue living in the country. Children whose parents have criminal records will not be eligible.
According to data from the Immigration Services Agency as of the end of last year, a total of 4,233 foreign nationals have refused to leave Japan even though they were given deportation orders due to illegal overstays and other reasons. Of them, 201 were born in Japan and aged below 18.
The measure will mean that special permission will be granted to at least 70 percent of such children, excluding those who have returned to their home country at their own volition.
During the five years through 2020, the permission was granted annually to about 1,400 people on average, according to the agency.
While noting that the swift repatriation of foreign nationals who resist deportation is necessary, Saito also said the government has been considering measures to help children living in Japan "who have done no wrong themselves" but face hurdles in their lives.
"We will appropriately manage immigration while protecting children," he said.