Refugees in Japan: Problems and Solutions

by Tomoka Otani

When we started to learn about refugees in Japan, I did not have any idea what their problems are or I did not care much about them because I have never met refugees in Japan. However, as I studied the situations of refugees in Japan, I came to think that we needed to improve the Japanese system of accepting refugees in order to provide them with better lives in terms of supporting them economically and mentally.

As we talked about the current situation of accepting refugees in Japan, I came to realize that the process which refugees are going through in order to become officially accepted refugees is quite tough. For example, from 1981 to 2005, Japan accepted only 376 people as refugees though it received 3928 applications from all over the world, and it is extremely few numbers compare to other developed countries. Why does Japan accept many fewer refugees than other developed nations? The biggest reason is that there are still discrimination and prejudice against foreigners in Japan especially in terms of immigrants and refugees who are thought to be unstable in Japanese society. They may have been discriminated against at work, daily lives, or school just by their looks or their status that they are immigrants or refugees. However, it is not surprising for me because I have never met people who are immigrants or refugees from other countries. I think, in generally, Japanese people are not familiar with living with foreigner, immigrants and refugees in the same society.

As I mentioned the biggest problem of accepting refugees in Japan, I am going to state solutions for the current situation of accepting refugees. Firstly, I think Japanese people have to be aware of the existence of refugees in Japan, we may have heard about them on the news or in the newspapers but we naturally think it is the problem of other countries because there are not many refugees around us. We need to change our educational system in order to introduce the existence of refugees and what they have been though in their home countries. Secondly, we need to change the governmental economical support for the refugees because their lives are not stable at first and they might not have enough money to support themselves.

As I mentioned above, changing people’s attitude toward refugees and economical support are the two main solutions that I think it is important in order to improve the current situation of accepting refugees and to provide refugees with better lives after their struggles. I know it is extremely difficult for Japanese people to accept foreign refugees because of our cultures and prejudice against them, however, refugees do not have any choice but to live in another society because of various threats from their home countries, and I personally think we need to reconsider the reasons why they had to escape from their home countries and we must treat them with some kind of respect.

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