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Aged Japan emigrants to Dominican Rep suing govt

Written by: Staff
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TOKYO, June 5 (Reuters) Fifty years ago, Toru Takegama joined hundreds of Japanese farmers on a one-way voyage to the Dominican Republic in search of fortune on a promised ''paradise in the Caribbean Sea''. But his dreams, he says, perished in barren soil and his hopes turned into a ''hellish nightmare.'' Takegama, 68, was among 1,320 Japanese who took part in a project between 1956 and 1959 to migrate to the Caribbean island to engage in large-scale farming.

Japan at the time was agonising over intense population pressure and double-digit unemployment rates after millions of citizens and war veterans returned from abroad following Tokyo's defeat in World War Two.

''Japan's government advertised its immigration project with the phrase 'A paradise in the Caribbean Sea','' Takegama told Reuters.

''That's why we all decided to go there to realise our dreams of farming on vast, rich land.'' Takegama heads a group of 177 ageing Japanese settlers who filed a lawsuit in July 2000 demanding the Japanese government pay a total of 3.1 billion yen (28 million dollars) in damages.

The Tokyo District Court is to hand down its ruling on Wednesday.

''In search of a vent for population pressure, the government had crafted plans to send off a large number of settlers abroad,'' the plaintiffs said in their lawsuit.

The plaintiffs say Japan's Foreign Ministry had told applicants they would receive fertile farmland and houses free of charge, along with other daily necessities.

But the settlers said the land provided was less than one-third of what was promised in the immigration guidelines prepared by the Japanese government, and the land was not suited for farming as it was filled with rocks, salt or limestone.

In addition, they were not given ownership of the land but only the right to cultivate it, the plaintiffs said.

MORE REUTERS SI VA RN1331

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