Extra security checks at Schiphol to prevent child abduction

NL Times



A Marechaussee border agent checks a passport at Schiphol (photo: Marechaussee). A Marechaussee border agent checks a passport at Schiphol (photo: Marechaussee)

A parent or grandparent traveling with a minor child through Schiphol Airport this summer, should take extra time for an additional security check into account. The Koninklijke Marechaussee implemented an additional check in the fight against child abduction, ANP reports.

If you are a family member traveling alone with an underage child, you need the permission from both parents to do so. In this additional check, the Koninklijke Marechaussee will check whether this permission is in place for each child not traveling with both parents. This check could take some time.

“If the permission is not clear, the Koninklijke Marechaussee does additional research, which happens dozens of times a day. This can not be done at the desk. We therefore advise people to leave on time, otherwise there is a chance that the flight will be missed.” Coskun Coruz, director of the International Child Abduction Center, said to the news wire.

Travelers can avoid delays by completing  the center developed with the Ministry of Security and Justice and the Koninklijke Marechaussee – a policing force that works as part of the Dutch military and is responsible for border security, including airports and harbors.

Source:  “Extra security checks at Schiphol to prevent child abduction”, NL Times, 9 June 2017


JT: Japan’s shelters provide little comfort to abused children

The Japan Times


Japan’s shelters provide little comfort to abused children



Every year, more than 20,000 abused, delinquent, developmentally challenged or otherwise troubled Japanese children needing emergency housing pass through a system of shelters.

But the conditions inside many of them are so regimented that children can find the experience harrowing, according to interviews with more than a dozen people who have stayed or worked in the facilities and with experts on child psychology who are familiar with the system.

The concerns have prompted government officials to suggest that reform is needed, though there is no indication of when that will occur. Government-sponsored committees aimed at improving child welfare policies have been established, and changes to the centers will be on their agenda.

“No one thinks it’s OK to keep these shelters exactly the way they are,” said Yu Hamada, an official at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. “There hasn’t been any discussion to date as to how exactly they should function, and that’s what we’re working on.”

Set up after World War II to provide food and shelter for wandering orphans and petty juvenile criminals, Japan’s 136 shelters haven’t evolved much in the past 70 years, experts say.

The children, who can be any age between 1 and 17, are usually kept indoors and away from school so they can’t run off and so abusive parents can’t grab them.

In many of the shelters, workers with little training impose strict rules and schedules, don’t allow cellphones or toys from home, and make isolation a common punishment for misbehaving, the sources said. Stricter shelters don’t allow chatting during meals or even making eye contact with other kids.

The shelters vary in age, size and quality. Some have gymnasiums or playgrounds and are well-stocked with DVDs and comic books; others are run-down with peeling wallpaper and old tatami mats, sleeping 10 to a room.

They are administered by child guidance centers that are part of prefectural and municipal governments and have gone largely unsupervised by the central government. They are funded with local and central government money.

Despite its child-friendly image, Japan lags behind other advanced nations in protecting the rights of youths in official care. A fundamental problem is a dearth of foster parents, which means that a greater percentage of kids end up in some kind of group care facility than in other developed countries.

Acknowledging problems in the system, Japan last year revised its child welfare law to spell out that children have rights, though experts say those are not fully enforced by welfare workers.

“These shelters should be a place for children to get the care they need,” said Yukiko Yamawaki, a psychotherapist who worked with children under care in Tokyo for nearly two decades until 2015 and often visited the facilities. “But the attitude is, ‘You’re lucky you have a place to sleep and you’re not getting killed.’ They don’t see their jobs as providing comfort and care.”

A nine-year-old girl who spent more than three months in a temporary shelter in Tokyo is pictured at her psychotherapist
A nine-year-old girl who spent more than three months in a temporary shelter in Tokyo is pictured at her psychotherapist’s office in Tokyo on March 17. | REUTERS

Defenders of the system say tight discipline is needed because the children have a wide range of backgrounds and needs, and chaos would reign without firm control.

“It’s communal living, so we do have to set some rules,” said Chikako Yoshikawa, who oversees a shelter in Tokyo. “With a limited number of workers caring for lots of children, a certain level of control is inevitable to prevent accidents.”

The average stay in the shelters is 30 days, though some children end up in staying for months before they return home, go into foster care or are moved to another residential facility.

Reuters was allowed to visit one of the 33 shelters in and around Tokyo. Requests to go to others were turned down on privacy grounds.

It was difficult to draw any conclusions about conditions during a recent visit to that one shelter in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Boys and girls streamed into a spacious lounge after a study time. One started playing ping-pong while several others slumped onto a couch to read comics. It was a scene that could have been in any dormitory except that almost every wall and door was patched up to cover damage from punching and kicking by the kids, according to one worker. Children weren’t allowed to whisper, making sure staffers could monitor their conversations.

One 9-year-old girl who spent more than three months at another shelter in Tokyo last year said she was scolded often, felt suffocated and longed to go home despite having been beaten by her mother.

“When it’s TV time, you have to watch TV. If you start talking, they’ll say, ‘Look straight ahead,’” she said.

An official at the girl’s shelter said occupancy sometimes exceeds capacity by a quarter, prompting stricter supervision.

Dr. Makiko Okuyama, head of psychosocial medicine at the National Center for Child Health and Development, said the shelter experience can verge on traumatic for many children. One teenage girl told her that acts of self-injury — common among victims of sexual abuse — brought punishment, not counsel or treatment, from workers.

Okuyama, who also chairs one of the government-commissioned panels seeking to improve welfare policies, said the real improvement will come when Japanese society becomes more open to fostering.

“We need to think about whether these shelters should continue to exist as they are,” she said.

“It’s not a normal place. It’s not a place where anyone should stay for more than a few days.”

Source:  “Japan’s shelters provide little comfort to abused children”, The Japan Times, 24 June 2017 

UK heatwave

Hello Hugo

Hope you are keeping well.

As the Telegraph article below relates, today was the hottest day in June since 1976 – the year before I was born.  It certainly felt it.  Ironically, the peak was recorded at Heathrow, the location where you last set foot in the UK in 2011.

The heat this week has been oppressive and reminds me of when I worked in Japan:  in the summer months, when walking to the station in the mornings, my shirt would be soaked through with sweat.  Similar experiences in London this week.

I imagine that the weather is similarly oppressive in Hiroshima so hope that you are coping with it better than I would be.

It would be great to hear from you some time…


The Telegraph

UK Weather: barristers remove wigs and gowns as Britain sizzles in hottest June day since 1976

Britain enjoyed the hottest June day for 40 years 
Britain enjoyed the hottest June day for 40 years  CREDIT: AMER GHAZZAL / BARCROFT IMAGES

Barristers and judges were allowed to ditch their traditional gowns and wigs and school sent pupils home as Britain experience the hottest day for 40 years yesterday.

Temperatures soared above 34C as the UK saw its hottest June day since 1976, the Met Office confirmed.

Heathrow in west London had recorded temperatures of 94.1F (34.5C) by 4pm, the highest for June since the 35.6C (96F) recorded in Southampton on June 28 1976.

Sweltering temperatures inside Croydon Crown Court forced Judge Deborah Charles to allow counsel to leave their heavy black gowns and horse-hair wigs to one side as they addressed a jury in the opening of a case.

Andover Church of England Primary School, Hants, closed its doors at 11.30am yesterday morning because of the increased heat.

Wednesday saw the hottest summer solstice on record as temperatures rose above 86F (30C) for the fifth consecutive day in a row.

A lady sunbathes as they enjoy the hot weather on the beach in Brighton, East Sussex
A lady sunbathes as they enjoy the hot weather on the beach in Brighton, East SussexCREDIT: GARETH FULLER PA 

But the hottest prolonged spell in June since the drought summer of 1976 is set to come to an end, as a cold front swept across the UK overnightt

There are also weather warnings in place for Wednesday afternoon and evening, with heavy rain and thunderstorms forecast for parts of southern Scotland, northern England, north Wales and the Midlands.

The Met Office warned of the potential for torrential downpours, frequent lightning, very large hailstones and strong gusts of wind, which could lead to localised flooding and temporary disruption of power supplies.

Chief meteorologist Steve Willington said: “The high pressure that has dominated our weather of late is starting to move away, allowing fresher air in from the west.

“A cold front that will pass through the UK will mark an end to the hot spell of weather in the south and bring cloudier skies and lower temperatures.”

 Large crowds of sun seekers pack Brighton beach to cool off on scorching day
 Large crowds of sun seekers pack Brighton beach to cool off on scorching day CREDIT: BARCROFT MEDIA

The sweltering temperatures have seen “unprecedented demand” for ambulance services in London, with people fainting, collapsing and becoming unconscious in the heat.

Patients calling for non-emergencies are likely to wait four hours for an ambulance, London Ambulance Service warned.

On Monday, London Ambulance Service call handlers answered 6,613 emergency calls, compared with 4,695 the week before – a 41 per cent increase – and the service warned this was expected to continue while the heatwave lasted.

Peter McKenna, deputy director of operations, said: “Our crews are extremely busy.

“On Monday we attended 20 per cent more seriously ill and injured patients than the same day last week and we’ve also been involved in a number of high-profile major incidents.”

Medical director Dr Fenella Wrigley said: “We see an increase in calls because people can forget to stay hydrated and the heat can exacerbate heart and breathing conditions.

“We are getting calls from people who do not need an ambulance – for minor sunburn, heat rash, hayfever.

“These can be dealt with by a pharmacist. If you call us for something minor, you may experience a long wait.”

Youngsters were urged not to go swimming in lakes, rivers and reservoirs during the hot weather, following the deaths of two teenagers in separate incidents.

A 16-year-old boy died at a reservoir in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, on Monday, while a 15-year-old boy died after going into a lake with friends in the Pelsall area of the Black Country, in the West Midlands, on Tuesday evening.

West Midlands Fire Service’s area commander Ben Brook, said: “We absolutely understand the temptation to swim, have fun and cool down during the heatwave, but we are asking people not to.

“It simply isn’t worth the risk nor the heartbreak for all involved when things go wrong.”

A pensioner also drowned off the Sussex coast on Monday.

Thousands of sun-worshippers witnessed a spectacular dawn as they gathered at Stonehenge for the summer solstice.

Approximately 13,000 people descended on the neolithic monument in Wiltshire to watch the sun rise at 4.52am – up from 12,000 last year.

Source:  “UK weather:  barristers remove wigs and gowns as Britain sizzles in hottest June day since 1976”, The Telegraph, 21 June 2017

JT: Justice seen hamstrung as experts warn court interpreters should be licensed

The Japan Times


Justice seen hamstrung as experts warn court interpreters should be licensed



Courts are supposed to be bastions of justice. But equal justice may be thwarted for some defendants owing to language barriers.

Despite all the various training seminars and guide books preparing newly registered court interpreters for the job, the current pool of interpreters are not sufficiently skilled to speak for defendants and may introduce miscommunications during trials, according to veterans in the field.

Of 59,462 defendants who received verdicts from district courts or summary courts in 2015, 2,694 were foreign nationals from 73 different countries who required translators to speak on their behalf during trials, the Supreme Court figures show. The law requires courts to hire and prepare translators for defendants who are not fluent in Japanese, at no cost to the accused.

As of April 2016, close to 3,840 available court interpreters were registered nationwide at courts, providing translations in 61 languages to and from Japanese.

Haeok Chung, an Osaka-based court interpreter with more than 20 years of experience, known for her book “Hotei Tsuyakunin” (“Court Interpreter”) published in 2015, claims that translators are insufficiently compensated given the high-level skills required for the job. As a result, there is little incentive for court interpreters to undergo professional development to improve their existing skills.

“If they are not able to make a living, it’s unavoidable” that they take on other jobs, said Chung. Courts do not disclose how much court-appointed interpreters are paid.

To supplement her income, Chung also teaches Korean as a high school teacher.

Chung stressed that while becoming a court interpreter is not hard, performing at a high level on the job is no easy task. On top of requisite legal knowledge and language skills, interpreters also need mental discipline to be able to maintain a neutral stand, she said.

While there are many who are fluent in multiple languages, “you have to have a specific personality to work properly as a court interpreter,” Chung said. “If you are too sympathetic toward other people,” you should rethink accepting the job, she added.

In 2016, several misinterpretations were found during the trial at the Tokyo District Court of Japanese Red Army member Tsutomu Shirosaki, then 68, who was later found guilty of launching a mortar attack against the Japanese Embassy in Jakarta in May 1986.

According to an Asahi Shimbun report, during the trial, the court summoned 11 Indonesians who testified as witnesses using two interpreters. Since there were discrepancies in the lengths when comparing the two translations, the court had doubts about their accuracy and brought on a third interpreter to weigh in. The third-party evaluation found close to 200 errors and omissions in the translated testimonies of three Indonesians given on Sept. 29 and 30.

Chung said the problems flagged by the court are only the tip of the iceberg.

“It has been debated for a long time that a public license is necessary and that there have been many misinterpretations,” said Chung.

The Japan Law Interpreter Association, a nonprofit organization launched in 2009, stresses the need for a public or private licensing system for legal translators, including court interpreters.

The organization annually conducts its own examinations to assess the skills of the law interpreters, whose language abilities span various levels. About 70 applicants take the exam every year.

“It’s true that skills vary among each interpreter. Not all interpreters are unskilled, but there is a problem in the system that operates them,” said Roman Amami, who was the former head of the association and has translated Chinese to and from Japanese in court since 1993.

“There is no guarantee for the amount of work the interpreters get and how much they will be rewarded,” she said.

Amami said that because of such a system, many skilled translators would rather pursue stints in nonjudicial fields, and most interpreters who are less skilled take up legal work on the side.

“That’s why, whether it’s a public license or a private license, we’d like to see that it’s made mandatory to have a license for interpreters to work in courts,” said Amami, explaining that public licenses are required to work as legal interpreters in the United States as well as in some European countries.

The organization is accepting applications for its next exam to be held in October, and also conducts training courses with help from lawyers from Kanae International Law Office and others that have expertise in international cases.

On top of issuing licenses and conducting professional training, JLIA also thinks ethics should be taught to legal interpreters.

“It would require some time to make licenses a requirement. But first of all, ethics should be instilled” in law interpreters, said Hiroaki Sugiyama, a lawyer at Kanae International Law Office.

“It’s questionable whether all law interpreters are providing fair translations. If everyone followed an ethics code, there wouldn’t be a problem, but some of them give inappropriate translations while knowing they lack ability,” said Sugiyama.

Sugiyama said some interpreters, like in the trial of Tsutomu Shirosaki, intentionally provide translations that would benefit prosecutors, putting their thumbs on the scale so the prosecution can win more cases in court.

“To develop ethics, we must research the situations in other countries, and present the results as an example” to the government, said Masanari Aoto, a lawyer also involved in JLIA, which will soon launch a study group on legal ethics.

“(Ethics) would include how one must prepare to become a law interpreter, and things they should avoid. They must be developed for interpreters to give fair translations,” he said.

Source:  “Justice seen hamstrung as experts warn court interpreters should be licensed”, The Japan Times, 2 June 2017