Refugee requests soar, approvals dip

Kyodo

A record-high 1,867 foreign nationals applied for refugee status last year but only 21 applicants were approved, down from 39 in 2010, the Justice Ministry said.

The number of applications filed was the highest since the refugee recognition system was created in 1982, and about 1.6 times the number received the previous year, the ministry’s Immigration Bureau said Friday.

The bureau attributed the surge partly to an increase in repeat applications, but denied that the decline in approvals was due to a more stringent screening process.

In 2011, those who applied for refugee status included 491 from Myanmar, 251 from Nepal and 234 from Turkey. One individual applied for a fifth time, the bureau noted, although there is no limit on the number of times one can apply.

The number of foreigners who were allowed to stay in Japan on humanitarian grounds totaled 248 last year, down 115 from 2010.