Nearly 11,000 asylum seekers caught in red tape in Japan in 2015

Kyodo

A surge in applications for refugee status in Japan saw some 10,830 applicants left waiting for results as of the end of June last year, according to figures released by the Justice Ministry.

The record figure is likely to add fuel to calls for Japan to reform its system for dealing with refugees amid criticism of both lengthy processing times and the extremely small proportion of applicants ultimately granted asylum.

The ministry blamed the backlog on a rising trend of people seeking to use refugee status to find work in Japan. A 2010 reform allows asylum seekers to work in the country once their applications have been under consideration for longer than six months.

Despite the surge in applications, just 27 people, or 0.4 percent of applicants, were granted asylum last year.

According to the ministry, 4,590 people were waiting for the results of their applications, while a further 6,240 were awaiting the outcomes of appeals they had filed after initially being rejected.

Fewer than 3,000 people were waiting for processing in 2010, when about 1,200 new applications were filed.

The number of applicants has swelled with each passing year, hitting a record 7,586 people last year, mainly from Nepal, Indonesia, Turkey and Myanmar.

The average processing time for initial applications has sped up from nearly 14 months in 2010 to just over eight months in the first half of last year.

But appeals following rejected applications have become more time-consuming, with processing times stretching from one year and eight months on average in 2010 to two years and five months in the first half of 2015.

Most of the applicants were awaiting results from the Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka regional immigration bureaus, the ministry said.