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Fearing persecution upon their return to Turkey, a group of Kurds facing deportation have visited the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau to reapply for refugee status. Besides the 34 Kurds applying for refugee status a second time after their first applications were dismissed, six others filed their first applications Wednesday. According to their lawyers, they decided to reapply for refugee status because they recently heard that Kurdish asylum-seekers in Japan are likely to be targeted for persecution upon their return to Turkey. Takeshi Ohashi, who recently visited Turkey to track down a Kurdish refugee whom he had supported in Japan, said he learned from informed sources that two of them, Halil Chikan and Hasan Chikan, were arrested and jailed by Turkish authorities after returning in September. They were held on grounds that they supported the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as PKK, with activities that included sending cash from Japan, he added. A newspaper also reported in October that Turkish authorities obtained information on a dissident Kurdish group in Japan. “It is very much likely or certain that the Kurdish asylum-seekers who remain in Japan would face the same danger (if they are sent back home),” Ohashi said. One of the asylum-seekers said they are not members of PKK. However, he added, “We regard PKK as representative of all Kurdish people.” “The Japanese government cannot deport them home as long as the fact exists that they are to be persecuted for political reasons,” Ohashi said, adding that having them return home is against the international convention on refugees. Another Kurd said, “We want the Japanese people to open their eyes and look at the situation Kurds are facing,” and criticized the media in general as regarding PKK as mere terrorists. According to lawyers, most of the 34 Kurdish asylum-seekers applied for refugee status in 1996, but all of them were turned down between 1997 and earlier this year. Kurds, who comprise about a quarter of the population of Turkey, have long been in conflict with the Turkish government.

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