Foreign students and workers desperate over Japan’s border closures

The new closure of the borders of Japan, at the end of November, after the discovery of the Omicron variant – of which 17 cases were identified on Monday, December 13 -, has despaired foreign students and workers, separated families and international travelers.

“I am disappointed with Japan. The Omicron has arrived, he pressed the panic button “, deplores a French student wishing to remain anonymous. Registered since September for a master’s degree in computer science at a Japanese public university, he has still not been able to enter Japan. “I have to take the courses online. Because of the time difference, I have to log in at 12:50 am every day. “ He doesn’t know if he will last two years like this. “I hope to be able to leave for the April semester. Otherwise, I will advise “, he specifies.

Japan had closed its borders in the spring of 2020 and had more or less maintained this policy until October 2021, with an exception for the 80,000 people who came for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2021. Result: more than 200 000 students and workers are currently waiting for their visas to come to Japan. The short periods of flexibility did not allow the demands to be absorbed.

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This is the case for the relaxation of November, abruptly interrupted on November 30 by a restriction of entries into the territory to Japanese and permanent residents – a tragedy for some families. Melek Ortabasi, professor of Japanese literature at Simon Fraser University of Canada, was able to enter Japanese territory in October for ten months of research sponsored by the Japan Foundation, but without her children. The latter were to join it on December 23, which seems impossible in view of the new measures.

“I am told that they could join me in February”, explains the researcher, who judges “Cruel and disheartening the lack of consideration of a country to which [elle a] consecrated [sa] career “. Very active on Twitter, Mme Ortabasi supports the petition for the end of measures preventing families from reuniting, signed by nearly 9,500 people on as of December 15.

Ubuesque fortnights

In addition to the strict entry conditions, there are complex rules on arrival in the Archipelago. All travelers must have a negative PCR test signed by a doctor, retake a test at the airport, then undergo an isolation period, ranging from three to fourteen days depending on the source (three days for France), in a hotel room – usually small, sometimes windowless – requisitioned by the government.

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Foreign students and workers desperate over Japan’s border closures

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