Japan and Refugees

by Ryoma Kagawa

Today, there are a great number of refugees in the world because of some factors such as conflicts, religion, and their political thoughts. While developing countries receive many of them, developed countries arrange for them to evacuate from their home countries as well. Among the developed countries, the U.S., France, and Germany accept more refugees than Japan does. In fact, the number of refugees which Japan has received is very tiny; according to the Ministry of Justice (2012), 1,867 people sought asylum, and 21 were accepted in 2011, which is the source of the criticism of Japan. It has been argued for a long time whether Japan should accept more refugees or not. In my opinion, Japan should do it, and there is a reason for it.

The biggest reason is that the acceptance of refugees is a matter of human rights. All people have the rights to live human lives, and so do refugees. I think that not accepting refugees means the denial of their human rights. Practically, however, it may be difficult for a country to receive refugees who are forced to escape from their homelands by the government for political reasons when their homelands are its friendly countries. The acceptance of refugees has the possibility to deteriorate the relationships between both of the countries. Actually, a Kurdish man living in Japan seeks asylum many times, yet it may be difficult because Japan has a good relationship with Turkey (Ito, 2012). To receive refugees allows a country to gain the prestige from the international society, but might lead it to the loss of trust from its friendly countries.

Still, it does not mean that Japan should be strict about the acceptance of refugees. If it is the concern for Japan that the relationships will go sour, I believe that Japan does not need to officially recognize refugees and grant them asylum. Actually, the Ministry of Justice (2012) also reports that it accepted 248 people of all the asylum seekers in 2011 to keep staying in Japan from the humanitarian point of view, although they had no certifications to prove them refugees. In such a way, Japan can accept refugees without officially recognizing them so that the relationships with other countries do not deteriorate; I believe that Japan should establish laws to increase the number of such people and to grant them more rights.

Refugees have human rights as well as non-refugees, so it is nonsense that, in spite of hard experiences in the homelands and refuge in Japan, they gain no asylum like insurances. Thus, in order to secure their human rights, Japan should be more open to refugees.


Ito, M. (2012, May 26). Desperate Kurd plays final asylum card. The Japan Times News. Retrieved May 30, 2013, from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2012/05/26/news/desperate-kurd-plays-final-asylum-card/

Ministry of Justice. (2012). Heisei 23nen ni okeru nanminninteishasuto ni tsuite [On the number of refugees recognized by Japan in 2011]. Ministry of Justice. Retrieved May 30, 2013, from http://www.moj.go.jp/nyuukokukanri/kouhou/nyuukokukanri03_00085.html

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