Japan’s Justice Ministry said it received a record 7,586 asylum applications in 2015, up 50 percent compared to the year before…but only accepted 27 refugees including 6 from Afghanistan, 3 from Syria, 3 Ethiopians, and 3 Sri Lankans.
al-Jazeera (h/t Maurice) Japan is the world’s third largest economy and runs the tightest refugee recognition system among industrialised economies. The country has long been nervous about an influx of refugees into its homogeneous society and has tightly restricted the number it accepts.
The ministry said number of refugees accepted last year was a jump from 11 in 2014 and six in 2013. Human rights activists, lawyers and migrant communities in Japan have complained for years about harsh treatment by immigration officials and about conditions at detention centres.
In 2014, it granted refugee status to just 11 people, out of 5,000 applicants.
Saori Fujita, an official for the Immigration Bureau of Japan, was quoted by the Japan Times website as saying that 2015’s increase was due to a rise in the number of Indonesian Muslim applicants. Fujita said 17 Indonesians applied in 2014, compared to 969 last year.
The Japan Association for Refugees said despite the progress in recent years, more applicants should be accepted. “We hope that (Japan) will hold discussions with UNHCR and NGOs and swiftly consider measures to certify refugees in line with international standards,” it said.
Japan’s Refugee Recognition Act does not include war refugees in its narrow interpretation of the International Refugee Convention.
On Wednesday, Japan’s parliament approved $350m in humanitarian aid for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, which is to complement a $810m package approved last year, according to Deutsche Welle.
Asked by reporters at the UN General Assembly last September whether Japan would join other countries in accepting Syrian refugees, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe replied that his country needed to boost its own workforce first by empowering more women and older people to work.
“As an issue of demography, I would say that before accepting immigrants or refugees, we need to have more activities by women, by elderly people and we must raise [the] birthrate,” he said, according to the official translation of his comments.
“There are many things that we should do before accepting immigrants.”
But for those who are under the mistaken impression that Japan has no Muslims, think again, there are at least 10,000+ Muslims living in Japan, as you can see by the large mosques, Muslim associations, and Islamic schools that are there.