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Japan Global Issues Series: "Paid to Leave: Remigration to Control Unwanted Immigration in the Netherlands and Japan 1985-2011"

Thursday, November 4, 2021 - 5:15pm

Michael Sharpe, York College

Virtual Event

This paper examines remigration policies for selected legally resident ethnic and unemployed immigrant communities in the Netherlands and Japan. They follow institutional patterns of historic emigration that legitimize boundaries of national belonging and shift with economic and societal pressures.  The “symbolic politics” and rhetoric surrounding remigration policies provide a litmus test for comparing reethnicization (reinforcing ties with emigrants across foreign born generations) in the Netherlands and a halting deethnicization (easing access for all immigrants) in Japan. While Dutch citizenship has become easier to obtain for overseas Dutch coethnics, a remigration program has been instituted for unemployed and ageing “ethnic minorities” and asylum seekers providing dual nationals renounce their Dutch nationality.The overseas Latin American Nikkeijin (Japanese descendants) that were since 1990 called “back” to Japan to essentially work as guest workers were recently being paid to repatriate. These remigration schemes are a symbolic attempt to control unwanted immigration and demonstrate address of critical “ethnic” social and economic problems, protection of national identity, and respect for international law.


Michael Orlando Sharpe is an Associate Professor of Political Science in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at York College of the City University of New York and an Adjunct Research Scholar at Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute. Dr. Sharpe’s areas of expertise are comparative politics and international relations and his research interests concern looking comparatively at the politics of migration, immigrant political incorporation, and political transnationalism in the Netherlands, Japan, and around the world. His first book entitled Postcolonial Citizens and Ethnic Migration: The Netherlands and Japan in the Age of Globalization (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) provides a cross-regional investigation of the role of citizenship and ethnicity in migration, exploring the political realities of Dutch Antilleans in the Netherlands and Latin American Nikkeijin in Japan. Some of his work has appeared in the scholarly peer reviewed journals Ethnopolitics, International Relations of the Asia- Pacific, Japanese Journal of Political Science, Policy and Society, Dialectical Anthropology, encyclopedias, and popular media. His current research concerns the politics of remigration or the paid voluntary return of migrants and their families (“pay to go schemes”) and implicit boundary making in liberal democracies.  He is interested in the role of racism in political processes. Dr. Sharpe has been a Mansfield Foundation and Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership U.S.-Japan Network for the Future Program Scholar.  He is currently a member of the Association of Asian Studies Northeast Asia Council Distinguished Speakers Bureau.