The debate over Japan's rock-bottom refugee recognition rate rages on. According to the Justice Ministry, out of 7,586 applicants in 2015 (up from 5,000 in 2014), Japan only recognized 27 as refugees (up from 11 the previous year). While supporters of asylum seekers condemn this high number of rejections, particularly of those applicants fleeing persecution or violence, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has argued that Japan needs to improve conditions for its own citizens — especially women and the elderly — before tackling the issue of refugees.

Fortunately for these vulnerable people, though, there are organizations here like the Japan Association for Refugees that exist to help meet the needs of refugees and asylum seekers, provide them with relevant legal and social assistance, and advocate for their rights in this country.

And then there are individuals who go the extra mile to help refugees in Japan — people like Alex Easley, an American expat who provides humanitarian support to recently released detainees via the prison ministry of Tokyo Baptist Church. A native of Pittsburgh, Easley originally came to Japan as a singer and fashion model more than 40 years ago.