Refugees in Japan

by Yui Matsushita

In 2010, Japan started a new program of reception of refugees called “a third state settlement”. It is the system that a third state receives refugees who can’t be protected by the first receiving country. Refugees do training in language and culture before leaving a country, and after arriving in Japan, they do training again for a half year and get support to obtain a job. After that, refugees will reside permanently in a local community. The Japanese government ranks this system as a principal program to increase the number of reception of refugees in Japan.

However, the number of recognition of refugees in Japan is very small compared with other countries. According to the Ministry of Justice, only 21 refugees were recognized in 2011 although 1,867 people applied for it. One of problems of Japan’s reception of refugees is that a reception setup and its contents are not enough. After a half-year training, support for refugees will be reduced drastically. Following this, local communities taking over support for refugees have to be burdened heavily. Also, Japan’s system of recognition of refugees lacks fairness because it is carried out by an Immigration Bureau which also cracks down on illegal immigrants. In addition, refugees have to prepare data establishing the status as a refugee, but it is almost impossible for them. Recognition of refugees takes a long time, and meanwhile, they have to suffer physically and mentally because the foundations of their livelihood and legal status are unstable. They also have to become frightened of deportation.

Furthermore, Japanese society still has a deep-rooted and stereotyped prejudice against foreigners that increase in immigrants will cause deterioration in security; however, there is not such fact in reality. The ratio of crimes committed by foreigners remains on the same level, while the number of foreigners in Japan is increasing. Also, there is research showing that crimes committed by foreigners are apt to be reported five times as many as those committed by Japanese people. It is obvious that there is a responsibility of media as well.

The most important thing is that originally Japan has already joined the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and has duty to international society to accept refugees. The present situation makes a shameful image of Japan as a state which does not carry out an international responsibility. Also, Japanese society should pay attention to merit accepting refugees, for example, they can be great working force in rural areas where depopulation is a serious problem. Under the present conditions, Japan is violating fundamental human rights. It has to reconsider the present policy toward refugees, and Japanese society has to be aware of this issue more.

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