Japan deports dozens of Sri Lankan, Vietnamese asylum seekers

by

Staff Writer

In a move lawyers and activists denounced as “inhumane,” Japan deported 26 Sri Lankans and six Vietnamese on Thursday, including a “sizable” number of denied applicants.

It was the third round of mass deportations conducted using a specially chartered plane, the Justice Ministry and a support group said Friday.

It is believed to be the first time the government has deported asylum seekers and visa overstayers using the same flight, the immigrants’ lobby group Provisional Release Association in Japan (PRAJ) said.

The program of mass deportations began in July 2013 as a cost-cutting initiative.

Lawyers blasted the move as dangerous for the individuals involved because some of them, including at least one political dissident, presented a “fairly believable” story of persecution.

The 32 people deported Thursday were mostly men and ranged in age from 25 to 64.

The former asylum seekers were deported after the government, notorious for its conservative assessment of cases, determined they did not qualify for refugee status, rejecting each individual’s application twice.

After being notified of their second rejection, asylum seekers are usually given six months to consider filing a lawsuit aimed at getting the state to reverse its decision. But the deportation Thursday deprived them of any chance to even resort to the judiciary: At least one individual was notified that the second application had failedonly a few days previously.

This, although not illegal, is sufficiently problematic to raise concerns about abuse of power by the government, the lawyers said.

PRAJ’s investigations revealed that at least some of the deported individuals had made convincing cases for being recognized as refugees. They included an anti-government activist who has mounted protests outside the Sri Lankan Embassy in Tokyo, said the PRAJ.

“Even though these people were deemed ineligible for refugee status by the government and deporting them is not illegal, the fact remains that they face great danger of persecution by their government back home — for reasons such as their political activities,” said Hiromi Takahashi, a lawyer and adviser to PRAJ.

In that sense, compared with the past two rounds of mass deportations, Thursday’s move posed a “significantly higher” threat to the wellbeing of the deportees, Takahashi said.

The previous rounds saw Filipinos and Thais sent home, the majority of whom were believed to be visa overstayers.

An immigration official declined to comment on individual cases, only adding: “Since those people were officially found ineligible to claim refugee status by (our process), we believe there is no problem in sending them back home.”

A 38-year-old Filipino woman, who cohabited with and has an 11-month daughter with a Sri Lankan man she is not married to, said the sudden repatriation had torn the family asunder.

“Our daughter will be in trouble without him,” she told reporters Friday, before being overcome by tears.

The group asked that the exact number of former asylum seekers in the group not be reported, citing privacy concerns. The ministry did not confirm the information.

  • AndrewMD

    It is sad news but without all the facts and information a decision at the public level is irrelevant. As for the supposed tear-jerk bit at the end of the article, why didn’t the couple marry since they had a child together? Not the Japanese government problem that they are now separated.

  • Barry Rosenfeld

    Hey, as AndrewMD has said and to add more, each country has it’s sovereign right to decide who has the right to allow who it wants in and who it doesn’t. Its only normal. It wasn’t like these unfortunates were found off the coast in a sinking boat and the Japanese tossed back into the sea.

    • http://www.turning-japanese.info/ Eido INOUE

      That is theoretically true. However, Japan is a signatory to the UNHCR 1951 Refugee Convention; if Japan did not want to agree to accept refugees / asylum seekers, it shouldn’t have agreed to that UN Convention. The Japanese Constitution, Article 98, paragraph 2, says, “The treaties concluded by Japan and established laws of nations shall be faithfully observed.”

      The argument Japan makes, of course, if that they are much more diligent about following the letter of the law regarding the definition of a refugee / asylum seeker and are actually compliant, whereas other countries are much more relaxed and recognize almost anybody who claims to be a refugee on the theory that consequences of accidentally doubting a true refugee and sending them back is too dire (from a humanitarian and/or a PR point of view).

      With respect to people who are not refugees, your statement is 100% correct.

      • Barry Rosenfeld

        I’m a 100% with you on what you’ve mentioned and am pretty alive to base abuses of the asylum system. As cold as it sounds, the Japanese approach despite being a signatory, is very strict and correct. The western nations, particulary the immigrant nations of the US Canada and perhaps Australia have been rather liberal by Japanese standards in having high numbers of entry. My father was Asia head for UNICEF for East and SE Asia during the 70’s and 80’s and fully remember his agonizing over the quotas being set by member nations.

  • disqus_Gvs3G32z1K

    As unfortunate as this is, I wonder if it’s not for the best. This may be a more humane decision than keeping them confined to a detention center where they could die due to negligence and indifference.

  • Btd

    Right thing to do.

  • juvus

    japan will rather have robots then people. That is amazing. Earth to Japan, your people are old and dying and your women are just not into giving birth. so you need new blood. These asylum seekers could have been great future Japanese citizens, but now you will be stuck with roby the robot dog as your friend.

  • Alessandro

    When will you learn this, Europe ?

    • Shaul

      Right.You should have told this to Obama before he signed the amnesty to let 5 million illegal Alessandro and Gonzales to stay in the U.S.

  • jimbo jones

    at least they survived long enough to be deported

    • Shaul

      Reminds me of the Bataan death march of the Filipino POW by the Japanese Imperial Army.

  • Shaul

    Japs are neo nationalists who want to maintain a homogenous Japanese population. Unlike other countries children born out of mixed marriages are scorned upon by the Japs. They don’t like any others nationals other than Japs There are thousands of Korean immigrants who were brought there at the end of the second world war to rebuild the war torn Japan are still languishing in limbo without permanent residency papers. Japanj could care less about what the U.N. refugee agency is saying about the dangers faced by some of these genuine asylum seekers just as Japan had been ignoring the protest of Western nations about Japan’s whale hunting using explosive- laden harpoons to blow up the insides of these majestic sea mammals.

    • Hanah Chu

      I wonder what choice is better? Japan wants a homogenous non-growing population or Korea (also non-growing) allows their poor and old men to marry young Vietnamese brides only to divorce (make them illegal) or kill them if they can’t reproduce!

      • Shaul

        How Japan plans to manage it’s population growth is it’s prerogative. The subject is how Japan treats or rather mistreats asylum seekers.

    • Oliver Mackie

      “Japs are neo nationalists who want to maintain a homogenous Japanese population.”

      So it’s a recent phenomenon? Please elaborate.

      “…children born out of mixed marriages are scorned upon by the Japs.”

      Depends which mixed marriages you are talking about, but this comment is mostly rubbish.

      “Unlike other countries…”

      Don’t be so naive.

      “are thousands of Korean immigrants who were brought there at the end of the second world war to rebuild the war torn Japan are still languishing in limbo without permanent residency papers.”

      No, they have Special Permanent Residency status and can acquire citizenship more easily than any other group of non-citizens, should they so choose. Even without doing so, any child born from marriage to a Japanese national results in the child acquiring Japanese citizenship automatically. As of 2006, 91% of them were marrying outside of the Zainichi community.

      “Japanj (sic) could care less about what the U.N. refugee agency is saying about the dangers faced by some of these genuine asylum seekers just as Japan had been ignoring the protest of Western nations about Japan’s whale hunting using explosive- laden harpoons to blow up the insides of these majestic sea mammals.”

      Don’t get mixed up between the U.N., the I.W.C. and the opinions of ‘Western nations.’

  • http://www.turning-japanese.info/ Eido INOUE

    “[Some of the deported individuals] included an anti-government activist who has mounted protests outside the Sri Lankan Embassy in Tokyo, ….”

    So let me get this straight: he committed activities which might cause retribution — intentionally — after he arrived in Japan (and without legal status), not before he “fled” the country? Sounds like a clever way to ensure that immigration can’t send you home!

  • Kailas Pillai

    Sri Lanka has 65 years experience in the asylum seekers industry. Up to about 2010 the victims were from the minority Tamil community but recently progressive thinkers from the majority Sinhalese community are fleeing. The Japanese repatriation involved victims from the majority Sinhalese community. As to why the refugee production industry continues to flourish in Sri Lanka needs to be addressed.

  • Toolonggone

    Why in the world are asylum seekers being put into the same category with those labeled as “over-stayers”? They are not even synonymous. Oh well, Orwellian.

  • Toolonggone

    Why in the world are asylum seekers being put into the same category with those labeled as “over-stayers”? They are not even synonymous. Oh well, Orwellian.