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Donations for Japan’s Catholic aid groups dwindle due to COVID-19

Catholic aid groups in Japan are faced with dwindling donations, putting at risk its charity work for refugees and other foreigners in vulnerable situations.

Sinapis, a Catholic aid agency established by the Archdiocese of Osaka for distressed immigrants, told The Japan Times that a lack of donations due to the pandemic has severely affected its operations.

“If we continue like this, foreigners who depend on donations will have nowhere to turn,” said Atsuko de Vizcardo Matsuura, a 56-year-old who works at Sinapis.

The organization has been helping immigrants facing issues such as domestic violence or difficulties stemming from not having residency status since 2002.

The Archdiocese of Osaka covers Osaka and the neighboring prefectures of Hyogo and Wakayama.

Sharp drops in contributions forced Sinapis to close its doors in early April, said a report from The Japan Times. The organization, however, continues to conduct phone consultations to support people.

But it’s not easy for those who rely on the Church’s generosity.

“I can’t work. How can I live?” the newspaper report quoted a 51-year-old Vietnamese man who fled to Japan in 1992.

He said he depends on aid from church-based humanitarian agencies to survive.

In the Archdiocese of Tokyo, the Catholic Tokyo International Center is also facing a similar situation. Its monthly deliveries of food to needy families had to stop due to the pandemic.

Japan’s Justice Ministry estimated 83,000 illegal residents in the country who have no health insurance and have no access to medical care.

“There will be more and more foreigners in distress due to the coronavirus,” said Masataka Nagasawa, director of Amigos, a non-government group in Gunma Prefecture.

There are at least 1.66 million foreign workers in Japan.

The Japanese government has recently allocated financial aid but only to foreign nationals who are registered as residents.

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