Important Things to Know About Japan’s Refugee Policy

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  • According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, a refugee is someone who is living outside of one’s home country in fear of being persecuted on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, or social or political affiliation and is unable to return home. This can happen for a number of reasons, such as war, and regular people have to pack up and flee their homes, leaving everything behind. The government of Japan issues refugee status to those people who live in constant fear on the basis of humanitarian grounds. Here are some things you need to know about the refugee policy of Japan.

    The Procedure for Application


    A refugee in Japan can enjoy benefits including healthcare and education and is allowed to work and stay long term. The requirements for permanent residence are also relaxed for refugees. He or she will not be sent back to his or her home country or to a country of risk. However, the refugee is expected to have a rightful residence and is not violating any rules by providing false information or overstaying without proper residence status. It takes about six months to gain refugee status after the application is made. Here is the procedure for obtaining asylum.

    1. The application for refugee status should be made within six months of your landing in Japan. It is better to fill the application within the residence duration granted as soon as you possibly can. You can request for an extension of stay in case your application is taking too long.
    2. After your application is accepted, you have to face a one-on-one interview with a refugee inquirer from the Immigration Bureau once or in some cases, several times. You should not bring friends or lawyers to the interview, and of course be as honest as you can when presented with questions. You are requested to sign at the end of each interview.
    3. If your application is rejected, you can appeal to Ministry of Justice by filing an appeal application. You should appeal within seven days of your application result.
    4. Then, you can request for another interview of oral hearing with refugee examination counselors. The hearing might last for two hours and is usually done only once. After the hearing, you will be notified about the decision.
    5. Even if the appeal is rejected, you can later ask for a judicial review within six months of your learning of dismissal. The court will charge some basic fees in order to process the case.
    Refugee Recognition

    A refugee should have a “proof of persecution” in order to be recognized by the Immigration Bureau as a refugee. Unstable reasons like vague freedom of expression violations cannot be taken into account. A solid threat of violence or danger should be present in the case. Attacks on you or your family, arrests, disappearance, confiscation of property, deprivation of employment and education, torture, ethnic cleansing, forced conversion, and so on can usually stand as examples of valid cases. The more evidence the refugee has, the more likely it is he or she can be recognized.

    Most of the applications to Japan come from Asian countries and not many come from the Middle East or Africa. Japan is located in the far east and its majority non-English speaking population are the main reasons for its low popularity among refugees. Here are the top six countries which are seeking asylum in Japan as per the 2013 census:

    1. Turkey
    2. Nepal
    3. Myanmar
    4. Sri Lanka
    5. Pakistan
    6. India

    However, despite a rising number of applications year by year, Japan is accepting fewer refugees. In 2016, according to Reuters, Japan only accepted 28 people (out of a total of 8,193 applications) under refugee status.

    Japan is a global human rights custodian. It is the second largest donor to UNHCR after the United States. It is, in fact, the only Asian country to join the UNHCR resettlement program. Despite this, Japan however remains a country that does not accept many refugees at all. According to the Telegraph, Japan refuses more than 99 percent of its applicants and those who do achieve refugee status struggle to adapt to life in Japan.

    If you would still like to apply for refugee status, contact the Japan Association for Refugees or the Immigration Bureau of Japan for more information.

    Here are some documents to find more relevant information:
    To Those Who Wish to Apply for Refugee Status

    Ministry of Justice Applications (in several languages)

    General Information

    If you are ever unfortunate enough to find yourself applying for refugee status, be sure to follow all the instructions to the letter to maximize your likelihood of being accepted. Even if you cannot be officially recognized as a refugee, there are other ways to enter the country legally, such as with a work visa. Japan is, comparably, a very strict country when it comes to accepting asylum seekers, but with the ever-decreasing population size, it may need to start accepting more migrants. Perhaps, in the future, Japan’s policy on refugees will change and it will become easier for seekers of safety to come here.