Refugees in Japan

by Maho Machida

Japan signed the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1982 and the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1983. However, we cannot say that Japan has put it into practice, because it accepts very few refugees. In class discussion, I was surprised when I learned that just only 21 people out of 1800 asylum-seekers were accepted as refugees in 2010. This figure is too small for Japan which is obliged to protect their human rights, I think.

It is certain that Japan cannot afford to support them because of a recent recession. The percentage of graduates finding employment has been declining year by year. In addition to it, admitting more refugees may confuse domestic situation. It is because Japanese existing system does not fit them and few ordinary Japanese know them and media rarely reports them. Therefore, refugees have more difficulty adjusting to life in such society than immigrant countries such as the US. They may suffer from prejudice. I don’t hope such situation both Japanese and refugees live uncomfortably and confront each other in Japan. However, that doesn’t mean to agree with keeping Japan’s closed policy toward refugees.

In the world, there are still many people who are subjected to persecution because of racial, religious, and political conflicts. Not all people can choose a host country and some of asylum-seekers in Japan have no way but to come to Japan. However, the receiving organization in Japan is not clear and on neutral ground. The certification standard for refugees is high. Moreover, it takes a lot of time to admit them. During that period, they cannot receive social security and work in Japan. This is far from humanitarian and protecting human rights, I think.

Therefore, in my opinion, we should be open to them even step by step. As we discuss in class last week, we could revitalize our economy by receiving more refugees. For example, they can work in agriculture and the fishing industry where labor shortage has been serious problem in Japan. Actually, women refugees who came from Asia are engaged in nursing care, supporting more and more the old in Japan. The group of Myanmar refugees went to the disaster-stricken area, Tohoku, to help people as volunteers. I think we should not consider refugees are a burden for us, but expecting their possibility. This way of thinking may be more necessary as globalization progresses.

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