Sunday, October 30, 2011

Life After Regularization

Is gaining legal status the ultimate goal of the Bilog?  While the lack of it completely defines the life of the Bilog, does finally securing a valid visa solve all their problems?

Let's take a closer look at the (now former) Bilog's life after regularization.

Living Freely, Moving Openly

A group of four former Bilogs achieved regularization between 2000-2005 through various means.  They now live freely and move about openly in Kamagasaki, the old, storied name (now officially renamed to Airin-Chiku since 1966) of one of Japan's biggest urban slums where day laborers and many homeless people can be found.

I first met this group in 2010 when I visited the Kamagasaki street market located right beside the Airin Labor Center at Shin-Imamiya.  They were peddling goods gathered from various sources: taken home from houses they had demolished; scavenged from trash piles; purchased also from the street market.

The street market then was a vibrant place of commerce where all kinds of goods, both new and nth-hand, were being peddled by all sorts of sellers.
Nishinari Street Market in 2010
Yesterday when I dropped by the street market to buy myself some stuff I needed to cook in my doya room, I was sad to see that the sellers were gone but not surprised that the commerce persisted, now just pushed to different methods of distribution and points of sale.  Sellers now keep their wares fully mobile (on bicycles, or pushcarts, vehicle trunks) and buyers gather around them.  The more daring ones spread out a mat and their goods on the street after the roving police pass by, and hurriedly keep them again when the police return.

Nishinari Street Market in October 30, 2011
Policemen were now driving away the street vendors since most had made makeshift, semi-permanent structures along the street sides so as not to let go of their coveted selling spots.  Residents in the area also complained of the increased congestion and general untidiness and uncleanliness as the street market now became a daily event, and not just on weekends.

Policemen in civilian clothes driving away street vendors
October 30, 2011
This group of four former Bilogs (who I shall henceforth collectively refer to as the "K Boys" - more below on why I treat them as one group) now live in their own apartments, and roam the streets without fear of arrest and deportation.

Riding bicycles is a no-no for overstayers as most of those eventually deported were arrested while riding their bicycles.  The K Boys explain that the police have a reason to stop a bicycle (to check its registration) but they have no reason to stop pedestrians.  Thus by riding a bicycle, the overstayer increases his visibility and thus his chances of arrest.

The K Boys all had bicycles, and most senior one had a vehicle.  These bicycles and vehicle were being used directly in the business of peddling goods in the street market.  Especially now that the sellers had to be able to pack up and leave in an instant, the K Boys would just sell their goods out of their bicycles and vehicle and not bother to unload them and display them on the street.

Wider Job Options

The legalized overstayer widens his job options but doesn't necessarily improve job conditions.

One of the K Boys narrated how he got laid off from a job in the hotel industry, but was able to transfer almost immediately to a job in a food preparation and packaging company.  Both jobs were blue collar in nature.  Both jobs required that the workers had the proper legal status.

The expansion of job options then happens only horizontally, that is, within the same band of blue collar work.

...[continuing story]

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