The government has waived fines imposed on war-displaced descendants of Japanese migrants, a move that will allow them to finally travel back to Japan after having been rendered stateless for decades and considered illegal residents in the Philippines.
The descendants, known as Nikkeijin, have been unable to obtain either Japanese or Philippine citizenship after losing their birth records during World War II.
The fines imposed by the Philippines have likewise accumulated from the time of their birth, making it difficult for them to obtain a passport or travel document to be able to return to Japan.
“The BI recognizes the needs of Filipinos who have the status of Nikkeijin under Japanese law. They are Filipinos who are likewise descendants of Japanese nationals,” Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco said in a statement.
Under the new immigration guideline, a Philippine Nikkeijin may travel abroad with or without a Philippine passport with a deferment of payment of immigration fees.
However, a Philippine Nikkeijin who departs the country without a Philippine passport “loses the presumption of being a Filipino for purposes of traveling outside the Philippines,” the Immigration Bureau said.
“In such cases, a Philippine Nikkeijin may travel abroad to and from Japan with a Japanese passport or travel document and a BI order recognizing him as Nikkei-Jin,” it said.
A Philippine Nikkeijin who will arrive in the Philippines without a passport must also present a BI order that recognizes him as a Nikkeijin.
Norihiro Inomata of the Philippine Nikkeijin Legal Support Center, the group helping Nikkeijin restore their Japanese nationality, told Kyodo News that around 100 Nikkeijin, who are mostly 80 years old and older, stand to benefit from the waiver.
“This is great news. We are delighted since time is running out [for the elderly Nikkeijin],” Inomata said.