The situation of refugees in Japan

by Akisato Fujita

According to Japan Association for Refugees, the number of people who come to Japan as refugees has increased rapidly. From 1999 to 2009, the number of the people has been more than 5,594, which is more than 6 times compared to 889 from 1989 to 1999. However, in fact, Japan does not take a positive attitude toward recognizing them as refugees and accepting them. For example, in 2009, 1,388 people made the application to refugees of Japan, but the Japanese Government recognized only 30 people as refugees. In addition, even though the government decides to accept refugees, there are not enough systems and laws for them in Japan. It is natural that they know nothing about Japanese language, society and custom. Therefore, the government has a duty to support them, but now, it cannot be said that the support is sufficient.

It is thought that Japan should improve this situation considering the international and national issues. First, Japan could be criticized by other countries because of not contributing to the international society as one of the developed countries. Japan is one of the countries which signed the 1951 UN Conventions Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. Therefore, Japan has an obligation to save refugees actively. Japan Association for Refugees reports that about 34 percent of the world’s refugees (3.82 million people) are in the Asia-Pacific Ocean region. It is considered that accepting these people could show Japan’s affirmative attitude toward the problem of refugees, and it would connect to enhancing the status of the international community. Second, the number of people in Japan has been decreasing today. Now, the population of Japan is about 120 million. However, according to Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, it is estimated that the total population would decrease to 90 million people, and the rate of aging would become close to 40% by 2060. It means that the working population in Japan would become smaller and the economy should become weak in the future. In order to solve this problem, accepting refugees as the work force could be an effective way. They would work in Japan and sustain Japanese economy and society.

There are some negative opinions about admitting more refugees in Japan, but refugees could have positive influences on Japan. In short, Japan should get ready for the laws and systems for refugees which guarantee their status as refugees and make their life in Japan comfortable, and accept more refugees.

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