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|Missionary Sisters of St Columban|
By Fr. Martin Dubuc
No Road to Escape
When I was assigned as a missionary to Japan a little over ten years ago, little did I think that I would also be working with Filipinos, but for the past five years, besides my work with the Japanese, I have also been involved with migrant workers from other Asian countries, mostly from the Philippines. Most of these migrant workers were women, and the vast majority would be in Japan officially as dancers or singers. But some who come to Japan with a dream of making much money for themselves and for their families find themselves forced into prostitution with no road of escape.
Locked into Rooms
Since I am diocesan director for foreigners in my diocese of Dita on the southern island of Kyushu, I am involved a lot in this problem.
Most of the women (or I say “girls”, because some are as young as 14 or 15?) in my area come with proper work visas: good for two months with a possibility of being renewed twice. Many come with only a tourist visa, and find themselves at the mercy of the Japanese Yakuza: forced into prostitution, locked into their rooms so they don’t run away.
Several years ago, two Filipinos died in their apartment in Okinawa. The building caught fire, but their room had been locked from the outside.
Beaten by the Employer
I could tell many stories, but allow me to share this one with you. A group of fifteen Filipinos were employed as singers and dancers at a club in southern Kyushu. According to Japanese law, they are not to be forced to cuddle up to customers or to ply them with drinks, but I know of no place in Japan where this law is enforced. These fifteen had their passport taken form them (probably illegal, but done everywhere), had not been paid at all, were being beaten up by their employer who was also supposedly threatening them with rape.
Contacted the Columbans
One of the girls mentioned their situation in a letter to her sister who in turn contacted a Japanese sister she knew in Tokyo who in turn contacted a Columban living not too far from the girls. He in turn contacted me.
To make a rather long and complicated story short, with the help of a Filipino priest and a representative of the Philippine consulate, the bar owner was made to return their passports, give them their back pay (even though much was deducted for various expenses), and release them into our custody.
$1,000 Taxi Bill
The girls did not want to spend one more night in their apartment so we hired five taxis to take them to a convent where we would hide them until their return to the Philippines could be arranged. The ride to this convent was roughly three hours and the taxi bill came to more than $1,000 which the bar owner was forced to pay.
Where are they Now?
Two days later, the girls were all on a plane back to the Philippines. What has happened to them since then? I wish I know. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of them found a different promoter and returned to Japan to make their fortune. I pray that they found a good promoter and a decent bar owner. I have to admit that some of the girls do get fairly good treatment, and are allowed by their ‘papa-san’ at the bar to come to church for Mass. Many are not allowed to go to the church at all. They are the ones I worry about and especially pray about.
What to Do?
Every diocese in Japan now has a director for the Apostolate to the migrant workers. If anyone you know should be in trouble, tell them they should try to go to, or contact, the closest Catholic Church or to call A. L. S. (Asian Laborer Solidarity) at 052-935-9448.