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Summary

While Japan has not adopted the UN Convention and Protocols related to combatting human trafficking, all acts that fall within the definitions provided in the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol are criminal offenses under its domestic law.  Law enforcement agencies in Japan provide classes and courses regarding trafficking in persons for their employees.  They also regularly cooperate with nongovernmental organizations.

I.  Introduction

Japan has not ratified the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime or its Protocols, including the Trafficking in Persons Protocol.[1]  However, under domestic legislation, all acts that fall within the definitions laid out in the Trafficking in Persons Protocol are criminal offenses in Japan.[2]

Currently, the Council for the Promotion of Measures to Combat Trafficking in Persons is in charge of national human trafficking policies and measures.  The Council is chaired by the Chief Cabinet Secretary and is placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministerial Meeting Concerning Measures Against Crime.  The Ministerial Meeting adopted the 2014 Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons on December 16, 2014,[3] which established the following as the Council’s goals:

  • An accurate understanding of the human trafficking situation 
  • The prevention of human trafficking by strict immigration and illegal alien controls
  • The promotion of awareness of human trafficking victims
  • The eradication of human trafficking by strict law enforcement
  • The protection and support of human trafficking victims[4]

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II.  Roles and Responsibilities of Government Agencies to Combat Human Trafficking

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) makes efforts to prevent foreigners from being trafficked into Japan.  MOFA conducts a careful examination of visa applications at overseas diplomatic missions located in the home countries of trafficking victims, keeping an especially close eye on applications for types of visas that are prone to exploitation involving trafficking in persons, such as entertainment visas, temporary visitor visas, and visas for the spouses or children of Japanese nationals.[5]

The Immigration Bureau of Japan controls the entry of people at Japan’s air and sea ports.  It utilizes various types of information, such as passenger biometric information, ticket reservation records, and the International Criminal Police Organization’s (ICPO’s) database on lost and stolen passports.  The Immigration Bureau of Japan has also installed devices to detect forged or altered documents and has trained its officials at air and sea ports to use those devices.  Immigration control officers carry out organizational patrols in transit areas of airports and ports in order to detect suspicious persons and brokers.[6]

The police strictly enforce laws against foreigners staying in the country on a fraudulent basis, including on the basis of fake marriages, and also hold accountable the brokers related to such cases.  The Immigration Bureau of Japan also investigates foreigners’ illegal stays in Japan and may conduct joint raids with the police.[7]  

The police and the Immigration Bureau of Japan investigate illegal employment activities.  The Prefectural Labour Bureaus and the Labour Standard Inspection Offices also participate in joint inspections and investigations into cases of suspected human rights infringements by employers who have accepted technical intern trainees and other laborers.[8]

In June 2014, the Law Enforcement Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons was established.  The Task Force is comprised of members from the National Police Agency; the Ministry of Justice; the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office; the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare; and the Japan Coast Guard.[9]

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III.  Training Programs for Law Enforcement

The Council for the Promotion of Measures to Combat Trafficking in Persons has published manuals titled Regarding Dealing with Human Trafficking Cases/ Recognizing Victims[10] and Regarding Dealing with Human Trafficking Cases/ Protection of Victims.[11]

Law enforcement agencies also provide classes or courses for their employees.  They invite lecturers from the International Organization for Migration and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).[12]  

The National Police Agency (NPA) provides classes on measures to combat trafficking in persons for new employees at the Prefectural Police Academy.  The NPA also provides training courses at the time of an employee’s promotion at the National Police Academy.  Two instructors who specialize in trafficking in persons have been designated by the NPA[13] and conduct lectures at police training courses at every opportunity.  The NPA further provides courses regarding trafficking in persons with top-level staff across Japan who have jurisdiction over adult entertainment-related offenses.[14]

The Immigration Bureau of Japan provides lectures on trafficking in persons during its human rights education programs, which are provided at various stages of Bureau employees’ careers.  In addition, in cooperation with external instructors from the relevant ministries and agencies, the International Organization for Migration and NGOs, the Bureau provides training on human rights and measures to combat trafficking in persons for mid-level officials who deal directly with such trafficking cases.[15]

The Japan Coast Guard provides lectures on the actual situation of trafficking in persons with practitioners during annual training programs.[16]

The Courts of Japan provide lectures by university professors and other speakers specializing in international human rights during training programs for judges.  The lectures cover various problems related to the international regulation of human rights issues, including trafficking in persons.[17]

Law enforcement agencies regularly exchange views and information on human trafficking with NGOs and the International Organization for Migration and also hold a meeting, the Contact Point Meeting for Trafficking in Persons, that NGOs and others are invited to attend.[18]

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Prepared by Sayuri Umeda
Foreign Law Specialist
February 2016



[1] Measures to Combat Trafficking in Persons 4 (May 2015), https://www.kantei.go.jp/jp/singi/jinsintorihiki/ pdf/eigoban.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/H779-53E9.

[2] Id; Amendment to Penal Code (Act No. 66 of 2005).

[3] Ministerial Meeting Concerning Measures Against Crime, Japan’s 2014 Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons (Action Plan) (Dec. 16, 2014), https://www.kantei.go.jp/jp/singi/jinsintorihiki/pdf/ english-ver.pdf (provisional English translation), archived at https://perma.cc/D8ET-QAE6

[4] Summary of 2014 Action Plan, Prime Minister and His Cabinet’s Office, https://www.kantei.go.jp/jp/singi/ jinsintorihiki/pdf/gaiyou2.pdf (in Japanese; last visited Feb. 14, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/3UY8-S3KP.  

[5] Measures to Combat Trafficking in Persons, supra note 1, at 12.

[6] Id.

[7] Id. at 13.

[8] Id. at 13–14.

[9] Id. at 18–19.

[10] Council for the Promotion of Measures to Combat Trafficking in Persons Agreement, Regarding Dealing with Human Trafficking Cases/ Identifying Victims (June 23, 2010), https://www.kantei.go.jp/jp/ singi/jinsintorihiki/pdf/ninchi.pdf (in Japanese), archived at https://perma.cc/G2TZ-XUTU.  

[11] Council for the Promotion of Measures to Combat Trafficking in Persons Agreement, Regarding Dealing with Human Trafficking Cases/ Protection of Victims (July 1, 2011), https://www.kantei.go. jp/jp/singi/jinsintorihiki/pdf/hogo.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/V66Y-4WWN.  

[12] Action Plan, supra note 3, at 15.

[13] One instructor was on the local news.  Human Trafficking Investigation Professional, Captain at Prefecture Living Environment Department, Hiroyasu Yokobayashi/ Nagano Prefecture, Mainichi Shinbun (Nagano ed., July 6, 2015), http://mainichi.jp/articles/20150706/ddl/k20/070/024000c (in Japanese), archived at https://perma.cc/7AXG-ES7M.

[14] Measures to Combat Trafficking in Persons, supra note 1, at 29.

[15] Id.

[16] Id. at 30.

[17] Id.

[18] 人身取引事犯に係るコンタクトポイント連絡会議 [Contact Point Meeting for Trafficking in Persons], Nikkan Keisatsu [Police Daily] (July 23, 2015), http://www.nikkankeisatsu.co.jp/news/1507/0723/news.html, archived at https://perma.cc/LKL8-4FHC.     

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Last Updated: 03/18/2016