TOKYO — The great escape of former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn and his tirade against Japan’s system of “hostage justice” may have grabbed the global spotlight, but there are many more foreign workers trapped in Japan who cannot find a way to leave.

A legal case brought by a ­30-year-old Filipina woman is drawing attention to a disquieting practice in Japan: Many employers confiscate the passports of foreign workers, especially Asians in low-status jobs, and refuse to return them even if the employee wants to leave the company, lawyers and labor rights activists say.

Effectively, the workers are trapped in low-paying jobs where they may be bullied or abused but are unable to seek employment elsewhere because their passports are held hostage.

“The fact that the company keeps the employees’ passports in their custody and makes them work corresponds to forced labor, which is not allowed in Japanese law,” lawyer Shoichi Ibusuki said at a news conference Thursday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ).