Only six asylum seekers accepted by Japan in 2013


Staff Writer

Just six asylum seekers were granted refugee status by the government last year, the lowest number in 15 years, the Justice Ministry said Thursday, as experts and refugee supporters expressed outrage over what they say is yet another testament to Japan’s insularity.

Out of the six, three were turned down in the initial interview process and had to re-apply. By nationality, three of the six were identified as coming from Myanmar.

Immigration authorities dealt with 3,777 cases in 2013, including re-applications. The refugee recognition rate stood at a meager 0.16 percent. This compares with the 0.6 percent in 2012.

Meanwhile, the number of asylum seekers shot to a record 3,260, the most since 1982, when the current refugee system was established. By nationality, Turks were the most common at 658, followed by Nepalese at 544 and Myanmarese at 380. Out of the total, 2,404 applied for refugee status as legitimate visa holders.

Though the number of asylum seekers has continued to rise over the past few years, the exact reason for the surge is not known. An immigration official offered the explanation Thursday that the rise is perhaps because Japan’s refugee system has grown increasingly known worldwide.

Of the recognition rate, the official said: “We just did what we were supposed to do in scrutinizing applicants and deciding whether they would qualify for the standard criteria. Nothing more.”

Eri Ishikawa, secretary-general of the Japan Association for Refugees, described the rate as “much lower than we expected,” suggesting it even posed a threat to the legitimacy of her organization’s existence.

“Seeing how determined the government looks to turn down the asylum seekers, I’m not even sure if we could tell the world Japan accepts them at all,” said Ishikawa, adding it was the first time since her group’s 1999 founding that the number of recognized refugees had fallen below 10.

“It just makes us feel powerless and speechless,” she said, noting the group intends to officially express its “stronger than ever” disappointment over the issue.

The number of foreign residents in Japan, meanwhile, hit 2.06 million in 2013, up 1.6 percent from a year earlier, turning upward for the first time since 2008, at the outbreak of the global financial crisis. The number had trended downward, particularly in the wake of the 2011 triple disasters that devastated the Tohoku region.

  • Ron NJ

    Just enough to pay lip service to the idea without actually having to do anything which may have a real impact, like so many of Japan’s “international” policies, such as the proposed legal changes to “support” the Hague convention on child abduction.

  • Christopher Johnson

    At the same time, Japan “welcomed” record numbers of tourists. (Give us your money, then go home.) And Japan also won the right to host the Olympics, because it’s such a civilized, advanced country that can guarantee everything will work.

  • Franz Pichler

    Better to take 6 you can afford than take hunderts of thousands as in Europe! At least in this country asylum and immigration isn’t a joke as in Europe ! Europe should long ago have switched to a more restrictive asylum policy. I think apan is doing the right thing!

  • Paul Rudholm

    Japan has every right to accept or deny entry to anyone into their country. Many outsiders don’t seem to understand that. I agree that Japan is doing the right thing to say the least. Hail to Japan, may she never let outsiders tell her what to do, again, not since WWII, especially when it comes to immigration. I sincerely hope that Japan has learned from the European States over the years that have been corrupted by immigration problems; and the USA as well. That country lets just anybody in…and look at the problems that they have to deal with, not a pretty picture.

  • Eido INOUE

    A lot of people forget that immigration policy is really a matter of environmentalism/conservationism: a country is not an unlimited resource, with unlimited resources (especially Japan), that can let in (or reproduce) unlimited amounts of people.

    Supply-side economics would like you to think that immigration causes this wonderful virtuous circle where immigration increases consumption, which increases jobs, which increases consumption, ad infinitum. What these people fail to tell you though, is what happens when you’re a small island with few natural resources and you CAN’T consume anymore because you’ve exhausted your resources: either food, energy (a big problem in Japan right now), or jobs. With modern robots and computers, for better or worse, it takes far fewer humans to produce more than ever. And there’s a physical limit to how much you can both produce and consume.

    You do the math: the immigration-creates-jobs-which-need-immigration infinite circle theory is a Ponzi scheme. It hits a real limit in the real world. And in today’s world of high-tech automation (which replaces humans), ever increasing human efficiency (one human can produce far more than the past) and limited resources and ability to consume, that limit is lower than what the pro-open immigration people would have you believe.

    The supply-side people don’t care, of course, because they’re usually part of the so-called 1%, and they make money from any situation that depresses wages (such as having too many workers) or increases consumers (even if those consumers must go into debt or go on welfare). There’s an unholy alliance between big-corp and open-immigration advocates: open immigration advocates think everything’s kumbaya and say “just let them all in, because it’s the right thing to do, and everything will be all right.” Big-corp eggs on and encourages these advocates—not because they care about immigrants, but rather because they like keeping costs low and cheap consumption high. They are cynically just looking at their short term profits. They could care less about the long-term consequences of poorly regulated immigration, because they can pass that problem on to the government, and they know the government will try — usually unsuccessfully — to solve it by taxing the citizens more than the corporations. In the end, both the immigrants and citizens will suffer, while big-corp will win.

    The supply-side people will point to false examples: they will point to how immigration helped the New World (America) and/or the Old World (Western Europe) in the 20th century. But this is an obsolete economic example of open immigration. The 21st century advanced developed world is not one where nations have unlimited resources (jobs that can be done by uneducated or non-fluent foreigners); it is no longer a world where low and middle-class manufacturing jobs are plentiful like they once were in America and Europe. The industrial revolution is over and the information/knowledge age is here, with far fewer jobs and much higher qualifications.

    A person can’t hop off a boat/plane and expect a good stable job with a living wage attaching parts on an assembly line. Most of the jobs these days require a higher education and language skills appropriate to the country (in Japan, that’s Japanese, not English, for 99+% of the domestic , non-STEM, service & business/finance jobs). The immigration strategies of yesteryear to deal with labor are not appropriate for the economy of today.

    The supply-side people will point to the upcoming 2020 Olympics, etc., as a “reason for more foreign labor”, but they will stay silent as to what will happen to these people AFTER the Olympics is over and there’s nothing left to build. What will happen to these people that can’t speak Japanese who are now in Japan and can’t get easy low skilled work anymore? They naively assume that huge amounts of people brought in will almost instantaneously assimilate and become highly educated and speak Japanese and migrate to other jobs in Japan. But those jobs aren’t there. Not even for Japanese. That won’t stop people from saying how cruel the Japanese are for suggesting they go home to where it’s easier for them to get employment.

    As an immigrant myself, I’m all for immigration to Japan. But I’m for controlled, conservative immigration that gives new immigrants the best chance to assimilate and integrate and become productive, permanent, members of society relatively quickly—within one generation. I am for this not just because it is the best thing for Japan. I am for this also because it is the best thing for its immigrants: controlled immigration gives those non-Japanese that are accepted the best chance to succeed and be happy in Japan.

  • BLL

    The pro-immigration stance of the Japan Times is a kind of boring.

    Every effort is made to promote this agenda, but none of those multiculturalist explain the consequences of such policies, always promoted following the humanitarian whining propaganda guidelines.

    70% of total inmates in France are foreigners. Do they represent 70% of overall population ? No.

    Japan, until now, has been wise but rejecting those western liberal policies which led, everywhere, to social disasters. Japanese government has to stick to this policy in order to preserve the japanese people from such threats.