Japanese Peruvian Brief History

I came across Keiko Fujimori (pictured above) in another class when a student was presenting on the controversy surrounding the current presidential election in Peru. I was surprised by Fujimori’s name because, I did not realize that there was even a population of Japanese people living in Peru. According to journal of “East Asian Migration to Latin America,” the population of Japanese Peruvians is about 0.3% of the Peruvian population.

However, when Alberto Fujimori was became president of Peru in 1990, Japanese Peruvians were thrust into the spotlight and are one of the most influential groups in Peru today.

Japanese Peruvians came to Peru starting in the 1800s at the encouragement of the Japanese government as a way to control the “rapidly growing Japanese population” at the time. There was also a rumor that Peru was “filled with gold” which encouraged even more migration from Japan to Peru. The migration didn’t really help reduce the population of Japan.

Fast forward to 1903, the Japanese were heavily persecuted against. The Japanese Exclusion Act of 1903was passed in Peru on the basis that “the Japanese were “racially” and “culturally” different” from the rest of the Peruvian population and therefore “were ‘naturally’ unfit to adapt to Peruvian society…pointing to the high Japanese death toll on the plantations” (88). However, despite this, the Japanese were the most successful merchants in Peru at the time.

In 1940, a student-led riot of Japanese businesses and residential areas Lima left the community completely destroyed. This was the first riot in Peru motivated by race.

After the riot and the defeat of Japan in WWII, the Japanese population living in Peru realized that they could no longer return home and started making efforts to assimilate into the Peruvian population–something they had been unwilling to do previously. However, despite the effort to assimilate, the riots enforced a fear and even more distrust of people outside of the Japanese race.

According to the journal, the “radicalization [of Japanese-Peruvians] has increased as they have become economically successful; in a country where the majority of the population are poor Indian-mestizos, economically advantaged Japanese- Peruvians have a reason to want to remain a distinct racial minority.”

Throughout history, the group immigrating to a country remains economically and socially disadvantaged. However, with the case of the Japanese-Peruvians, while they remain socially disadvantaged in having experienced racism from the majority population living in Peru, their economic advantage has allowed them to prosper in their non-native country despite previous systematic racism.


Poland Opens its Gates

Poland isn’t a country known for much racism or violence, but their rhetoric has been quite anti-immigration throughout the recent refugee crisis. The wider mood in Poland is undoubtedly one of anger against migrants and refusal to open borders. The leader of the country’s ruling party went so far as to say the Trump-esque phrase “migrants bring all sorts of parasites and protozoa”. Polish cities have seen people burning effigies of even non Polish European leaders who are pro immigration, Angela Merkel being one of the more frequent victims. There are even petitions circulating within Poland demanding the reversal of a Polish pledge to resettle a modest 7,500 refugees. More “moderate voices” are going the Jeb Bush route, and calling for the Polish government to select only Syrian Christians for entrance. A trend seen in almost every other country, it is as depressing in this case as in every other. And there is no ray of hope.

Or is there? In the midst of such rampant prejudice, this constant refusal to extend what could be considered a basic human right to other humans on the basis of their religion, and this constant paranoia about refugees, a city in Poland is trying to be different. Gdansk, a tiny Polish city with a notorious reputation for virulent racism and football hooliganism is one of the first cities in the country to have an official position welcoming multiculturalism and as an extension, refugees. The mayor, Mayor Adamoqicz, has called for his city to embrace the European nature to be open and welcoming. While at odds with most of his country, his attempt to make his city more open to refugees is evident. The city has regular support networking between Muslim league, police, landlords, support centers etc. The city is even holding fact finding trips to places like Bremen (Germany) and Oslo (Noway).

This is not to say the city is a haven for refugees yet. Racism is still present, and inescapable. African immigrants are said to be misunderstood and have real trouble getting jobs. The people are paranoid about losing money and jobs, the usual fears taking over the more conservative.

All this despite compelling statistics suggesting that Poland could only benefit by taking in refugees, such as the giant gap between the birth and death rates of the country. Perhaps all the paranoid about Islamic ghettoization is really making them blind to the more real problems they face. The mayor of this city is aware of the problems he faces, he is aware he might be fired. He is aware most of his country doesn’t see things his way, with recent rises in the rates of religiousness etc. in Poland (it being the only European country still building churches). But he’s still proceeding with his work. He is also said to have befriended mayors of nearby cities Wroclaw and Walbryzch, and converted them to his pro refugee cause. In this class, we have been exposed to some truly depressing instances of humans turning a blind eye to people in need of desperate help. In the middle of that sea of sadness and callous behavior, it is genuinely a breath of fresh air to remember that there are still people in this world that will fight for principle despite the consequences.

Mediterranean Crisis

Desperate people can resort to some rather desperate things. Sadly this past week in the Mediterranean Sea disaster struck some of these people when nearly 500 immigrants drowned attempting to cross from Eastern Libya to Italy. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, who spoke to the 41 survivors, a group of one to two hundred began the journey on a 30-meter long boat. Several hours into the voyage, the smugglers who were in charge attempted to transfer the passengers to another ship, which was already overcrowded and carrying hundreds of passengers. Under such excess weight the larger ship sank. The 41 survivors managed to swim back to the smaller boat, where they then drifted for three days before being rescued and taken to Kalamata, Greece. As the EU has no settled agreement with Libya, where the survivors came from, they will now be deported to Turkey.

I wrote last week about how European ships were rescuing hundreds, if not thousands of people making the crossing from Africa to Sicily. Sadly it seems that due to the dangerous methods used by smugglers, this is not enough to prevent tragedies such as these. Currently roughly 25,000 refugess have made it across the Mediterranean to Europe from Libya, and overall around 130,000 refugees have crossed to Europe (in 2016).

With such utter lack of economic opportunity and civil unrest in Libya and nearby countries it is unlikely that even events such as this will stem the massive flow of refugees. I believe it will be necessary to offer aid to the governments of these countries to stimulate job growth and stability before the situation truly improves. While I of course realize this is unlikely in todays climate (the EU isn’t exactly looking for more countries to give aid to) I believe in the long run it will actually save them resources, and of course save many lives.

Using Social Media to Fight Prejudice

Today in Germany there is a constantly growing amount of resentment towards immigrants, which, as I’ve discussed in earlier blog posts, has manifested in attacks on immigrant shelters and increased membership to various right-wing anti-immigrant groups. Today, in what I believe is a truly admirable effort, an organization called Refugees Welcome has started a Youtube ad campaign aimed at exposing people in Germany to the stories of refugees. The main focus of the organization is finding flatshares for refugees, but I think this expansion shows great potential and creativity for them to play a larger role in assisting refugees in Germany.

More specifically, the ads are targeted at people searching for “terms associated with far right content and anti-immigration groups.” The ads are 30 seconds long, cannot be skipped, and if somebody does click on it they’re redirected to a page with more information about the stories of refugees. The hope is that if people who hold or are considering anti-immigrant views see a real person speaking about their refugee experience they will feel some compassion towards them, building a more close-knit community in one on the verge of tearing itself apart

One of the nine refugees featured in the ads is Firas Alshater. Firas is a Syrian actor who migrated to Germany around 3 years ago. Since then, he has become a Youtube sensation posting videos describing his daily life as a refugee from a comedic angle, helping to personalize refugees to hundreds, maybe even thousands of people.

I believe that creative, modern day efforts such as this are absolutely essential building healthy diverse communities, especially today when there is so much divisiveness.

Council of Europe condemns EU-Turkey Deal

The EU’s deal with Turkey to trade Syrian refugees living in Greece with Syrian asylum seekers in Turkey has come under fire by the Council of Europe, the leading human rights organization in Europe. Unlike the EU, the Council of Europe cannot make laws, but it can enforce agreements reached by European member states.

In a previously published article on this WordPress referenced a Guardian article published in March explaining the deal in further detail. Even when the deal was first announced, there was no clear way as to how it would be implemented, and it also appeared to violate parts of the 1951 refugee convention because the refugees were not considered on an individual basis–a prevision of the convention.

After conducting their own review, the Council of Europe has found even more problematic measures of the deal. Detailed in a 12 page report, the Council of Europe has found evidence that raises  “many serious questions of compatibility with basic norms on refugees’ and migrants’ rights.” This included, according to the article, “keeping migrants in overcrowded and insanitary detention centers on the Greek islands to inadequate legal protection for people seeking to appeal against rejection of an asylum claim.”

However, the possibility for Turkey to gain visa-free access to Europe to the Schengen zone (aka the part of Europe you can travel without a visa) remains a huge draw for Ankara who has been fighting to be apart of the European union for a while now.

According to the article, “in the last two years, Ankara has met more than half of 72 EU benchmarks, including introducing security chips in passports, stepping up border controls and outlawing discrimination against minority groups.” However, Turkey has only 10 more days to fulfill the rest of the requirements set forth by the EU to ensure that Turkish citizens can travel visa-free to the Schengen zone  by their preset deadline of June.

Again, I ask the same question I asked in the previous article: is this even ethical? Is it right to use the lives of Syrian refugees to secure visa-free travel? Also, the evidence of human rights violations found in the report conducted by the Council of Europe also raises even more ethical concerns because even on paper, there are problems with the deal, and there is still no mention as to how it will be implemented.

Should this deal be completely scrapped and should European leaders go back to the drawing board to figure out a plan that puts the safety and rights of Syrian refugees first rather than visa-free travel?

Trading Spaces: Refugee Edition

In March, the Guardian published an article explaining the controversial deal reached between Turkey and the European Union that will allow “one Syrian refugee on the Greek islands [to] be returned to Turkey and, in exchange, a Syrian asylum seeker in Turkey will be found a home in Europe.”

At the time the article was published, specifics regarding how the deal was to be implemented were not yet revealed, however, according to the article, the UN Refugee agency has already said that the deal was “unworkable” because it violates the “basic aspects of the 1951 refugee convention.”

According to the UNHCR website, the 1951 refugee convention laid out the definition for “who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligations of states.” It was created as a way to prevent another refugee disaster like that experienced during the Holocaust. (The entire copy of the refugee convention can be found here.) This deal, according to the article violates the rule laid out in the convention that refugees be evaluated on an individual basis. Also, the article states that this new deal would encourage more Syrian refugees to make the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to Greece while also encouraging Turkey not to stop them.

So what does Turkey get out of taking back the Syrian refugees–a less strict visa policy for Turkish citizens trying to go to Europe.

Not only does this deal appear to violate the 1951 refugee convention, it also raises several ethical concerns in relation to the refugees–what if a refugee is selected to return back to Turkey but does not want to? What are the social structural implications of trading one Syrian for another? How will the choice be decided? Is any of this even ethical?

Hundreds of Possible Fatalities in Shipwreck off of Libya’s Coast

Approximately 500 people are feared to have drowned after an overcrowded boat sank in the Mediterranean Sea a few miles off the coast of Libya. According to a survivor’s report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The repurposed fishing boat capsized when passengers from smaller boats were trying to board the vessel due to being overloaded with upwards of 500 migrants of mostly Northern African descent hoping to reach Italy from eastern Libya.

After the boat sank, the survivors were left stranded on the Mediterranean in a smaller boat until they were rescued on April 16th and transported to the Greek mainland. It is unclear how long ago the actual sinking took place. Under the new immigration deal between Turkey and the EU the survivors will not be deported to Turkey due to the fact they originally deported from Libya. Despite the turmoil in Libya and the 350,000 Libyan refugees that have fled to Europe since 2014, the EU has yet to negotiate a similar agreement with Libya. As a result, their arrivals highlight the limits of the EU-Turkey immigration agreement as a means of preventing migration to Europe. While the deal has made it harder for people to reach Greece, it highlights the fact that there are other ways to get to Europe.

As I have previously mentioned in regards to the EU-Turkey agreement, desperate times call for desperate measures. Legal limits won’t keep people from fleeing to Europe, it will only make the journey to get there more lethal. Keeping people out and forcing those  who made it into Europe to return to war-torn areas benefits no one, it’s a toxic policy that perpetuates hate and violence toward migrants and towards the people of the host country that is forcing the migrants to leave.