Help Zilan and uphold the rights of migrants and refugees to establish own family in JapanLast January 28, 2004 the Justice Ministry issued a deportation order to a Turkish Kurd, his Filipino wife and their now 6-year-old daughter a deportation order for overstaying their visas. Taskin, his wife, Beltran, and their daughter, Zilan, were asking for special residency permits as the couple has lived here for more than a decade and the girl was born and raised here. The family has asked that their full names not be used as it could negatively affect their request for asylum.
The deportation order means Taskin must return to Turkey, while Beltran and Zilan have to go back to the Philippines and the family is appealing in court to stop the family separation that could psychologically damage the 6-year-old daughter, Zilan. Taskin is also waiting for a decision on his fourth appeal for refugee status, saying he faces arrest or torture if sent back to Turkey.
Taskin came to Japan in 1993 to evade military service because he did not want to fight against his own people, and Beltran arrived in 1996. The couple began living together in 1999 and married in 2001. Taskin, Beltran and Zilan were detained in January 2004 but the daughter was immediately released and left alone at a child welfare center for two days before Beltran’s relatives could retrieve her. Zilan suffered from depression after being separated from her parents and lost 7 kg. The three were given provisional releases, which must be renewed monthly. They face the threat of detention every time they show up for a renewal.
The Taskin-Beltran Family background
Taskin was born in Kurdish community located in the South eastern area of Turkish territory in 1975, and was raised as a Muslim. In Turkey, Kurdish people have been oppressed for long period of time like prohibition to use their own language and culture. As a result there were internal conflicts between the armed Kurdish group and the Turkish army that started in the mid 1980’s. In the 90’s, the Turkish army bombed over 3000 Kurdish communities making over 30,000 people as refugees in and out of Turkey.
Taskin and his family were evacuated from their community at that time. Taskin was 17 years old. In Turkey, boys have to go to military service when they become 18 years old. Once he becomes a soldier, he too may oppress the Kurdish people and for this reason Taskin decided to run into Japan.
Beltran was raised in the community strictly professing Christianity and she is deeply afraid that her family and community will never accept her anymore for being married with a Muslim. Beltran is deeply involved and currently the chairperson of KAFIN prefectural chapter, a Filipino organization affiliated with the global alliances of Filipinos the Migrante International. Beltran and her led organization is actively campaigning against the political killings and in stopping the Japanese ODA to the Philippine government.
So the family considers that Japan is the only place where they can safely live together.
Last March 23, 2007 the District Court dismissed the lawsuit filed by Taskin-Beltran family. The court acknowledged that the family had resided in Japan for a long time and that they became used to Japanese society, but it ruled that those factors alone did not entitle them to protection under the law, since they had overstayed their visas. The court claimed that even if the mother and daughter are separated from the father, the child will not suffer serious physical or emotional damage as long as she lives with her mother. Zilan finished kindergarten in Saitama Prefecture and now enrolled in local elementary school.
The March 23, 2007 court decision saying that “even if the mother and daughter are separated from the father, the child will not suffer serious physical or emotional damage as long as she lives with her mother” is in complete disregard and disrespect to the UN Convention on Child’s Rights Article 9, Section 1 that says: States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child.
Japan is a signatory to the UN Convention on Child’s Rights and therefore is duty bound to observe and to enact laws to protect the interest of children. The case of the Taskin-Beltran family goes beyond the problem of Kurdish asylum seekers alone and touches on children’s rights as protected by international agreements.
Since 1982, when Japan began accepting asylum-seekers after ratifying the U.N. convention on refugees in 1981, no Turk -- hence no Kurd with Turkish citizenship -- has been granted refugee status here. The ministry only classifies people applying for refugee status by their nationality and Japan does not want to recognize a Kurd as meriting refugee status because that would be tantamount to recognizing the Turkish government’s human rights violations against Kurds. Besides, in 2006, 954 people applied for refugee status, more than double the number of applications received the previous year. But the Justice Ministry recognized only 34 as refugees in 2006, down from 46 in 2005.
The appeal of Zilan and the Taskin-Beltran family is a cause for the recognition of child’s rights and a call for better treatment to refugees addressed to the Japan’s Justice Ministry. The public opinion especially the international appeal is an important wake-up call for Japan who is an economic giant needing to nurture more laws and policies protecting child, migrants and refugees.
We need your support by affixing your name or your organization’s name and addresses in the enclosed or send in our email, firstname.lastname@example.org for our submission to the Justice Ministry before November 18, 2007. Together let us say to stop tearing apart the Taskin-Beltran family; Respect the rights of Zilan as guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Rights of Child; Respect the rights of the Kurds to and other refugees; Grant special permit residency to the Taskin-Beltran family.
Rev. Toshifumi Aso
Help Zilan and the Taskin-Beltran Family Support Network
c/o Center for Japanese-Filipino Families (CJFF)
Room 32 Japan Christian Center, Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Nishiwaseda 2-3-18, 169-0051 Japan
Phone/fax (81) 3 3209 2439, Email: email@example.com