TOKYO: Japan on Friday released the first handbook on its criteria for determining refugee status under the UN convention on refugees, giving clarification to its refugee policy often criticized as too rigid.
The handbook, released by the Immigration Services Agency of Japan, says that applicants need to be facing a “realistic” danger to get refugee status. Gender-related persecution is also cited as a reason for granting the status.
The refugee convention defines a refugee as a person facing fears of being persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
While the interpretation of this stipulation is left to each signatory nation, Japan is often criticized for being too strict in granting refugee status.
The handbook defines persecution as “violation of the life, body or freedom, oppression, or any other grave violation of human rights,” saying that Japan decides whether to grant refugee status by examining specific circumstances of each applicant.
People in danger of being persecuted for reasons linked to gender or sexuality may also be granted the status, as well as those facing persecution by nonstate entities, such as political, religious or ethnic groups, local communities, or families, according to the handbook.
The agency created the handbook apparently to smooth the way for parliamentary deliberations on a bill to revise the immigration control and refugee law, which the government submitted to the current Diet session.
The revision would create an exception to the rule that refugee applicants be not deported while in the application process, in order to limit the number of times such an application can be made to two per applicant in principle.
In December 2014, a panel advising the justice minister proposed that the criteria for determining refugee status be clarified as much as possible.
In line with the proposal, the agency worked to create the handbook, referring to legal decisions in Japan and abroad as well as opinions from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.