Japan's asylum children fight for recognition

Gursewak Singh, 17, is one of hundreds of children who were born and raised in Japan but are still seeking legal recognition to permanently live there.

MATSUDO (REUTERS) - Gursewak Singh composed his first letter to Japan's justice minister when he was 10 years old. Almost seven years later, he is still writing.

In all, he has written more than 50 letters.

He has yet to get a reply.

The letters, all written in Japanese, have become more eloquent as Gursewak has grown up. But the message is unchanged - a plea to the Japanese authorities to recognize him and his family as residents in a country where he and his younger twin siblings were born and his parents, natives of India, have lived since the 1990s.

"My family loves Japan," Gursewak wrote to then-Justice Minister Keiko Chiba on March 6, 2010.

"We really don't want to go back to India. Please give us visas."

In his most recent letter, composed in August to the immigration authorities, he wrote: "The Immigration Bureau tells us to go back to India. Why do the three of us have to go back to our parents' country, even though we were born and raised in Japan?"

Gursewak's parents, who are Sikhs, fled to Japan from India in the 1990s. For several years, they lived without visas under the radar of the authorities until they were put on a status known as "provisional release" in 2001. It means they can stay in Japan as long as their asylum application is under review.

But it also means they can't work, they don't have health insurance and they need permission to travel outside the prefecture where they live.

They are also subject to unannounced inspections by immigration officers at their home and they face detention at any time.

There are currently some 4,700 people with this status living in Japan.