TOKYO: Japanese parliament’s passage Friday of a bill to revise the immigration control and refugee recognition law is fueling concerns over possible deportations of foreign citizens who need to be protected amid the low rate of refugee status given in the country.
“There are people who fear being forcibly sent back to their home countries, where persecution such as arrest, imprisonment, torture and slaughter awaits them,” Taiga Ishikawa, a member of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, told a meeting of the House of Councillors before the chamber approved the bill.
The revised law, which will take effect within one year of promulgation, will enable forcible repatriations of foreigners if they have applied for refugee status three or more times.
At present, deportation procedures are suspended for foreigners seeking refugee status. There is no limit to the number of times they can apply for refugee status.
The law revision is designed to prevent foreigners from abusing the system to avoid deportations by repeatedly seeking refugee status, according to the government.
As of the end of December 2021, 3,224 foreign citizens had refused to be repatriated even after their deportation was decided. Of them, 1,629 were seeking refugee status.
The revised law will grant quasi-refugee status to people displaced by conflict who are not recognized as refugees under the UN Refugee Convention. The government claims that the introduction of quasi-refugee status will allow Japan to take necessary humanitarian measures.
The refugee recognition rate in Japan is as low as only about 1 pct, far lower than international levels.
In response to criticism, the government cited parliamentary remarks in 2021 by refugee examination counsellor Fusako Yanase, who said that although she wanted to certify refugees overlooked by immigration officials, she could not find any such people.