NAGOYA – Maho Hadano, a 23-year-old student of the Graduate School of International Development at Nagoya University, is busy offering asylum seekers advice on everything from how to fill in application forms and where to receive medical treatment to finding a place to live.
She is the first and the only full-time coordinator at a refugee support office established last July in Nagoya.
According to the Justice Ministry, 1,867 people applied for refugee status in Japan in 2011, the largest number since the system to grant asylum started in 1982. The total included 225 who filed in Nagoya, approximately three times as many as in the previous year.
The Tokai region, with Nagoya at the center, is a major industrial base and has a large number of foreign workers.
As the numbers rose, the Japan Association for Refugees, a Tokyo-based nongovernmental group, and the Japan Lawyers Network established the refugee support office, which has so far helped some 20 asylum seekers.
As the first coordinator, Hadano advises asylum seekers on how to provide evidence they were persecuted in their home countries and translates their application forms into Japanese.
Hadano uses what she has learned at school to understand the latest rulings in lawsuits for refugee status. She shares information with U.N. High Commission for Refugees and carries out public relations activities.
She opened a Japanese-language class for asylum seekers at her university as well.