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The government plans to scrap a widely criticized rule that says refugee applications can only be accepted within 60 days of an individual’s arrival, according to a draft bill.

The 60-day rule makes it easy for the government to withhold refugee status from tardy applicants. The rule has been said to symbolize Japan’s reluctance to accept asylum seekers.

Experts have pointed out that many of the people who have come to Japan seeking asylum have failed to meet the deadline without even knowing it exists.

The Justice Ministry has been working to amend the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law since May, when five North Koreans sought asylum at a Japanese Consulate in northeastern China.

Japan was criticized for how it dealt with the refugees, who were removed by Chinese police from the consulate in Shenyang. They are now in South Korea.

The ministry-drafted bill calls for abolishing the 60-day rule and introducing a system under which the justice minister can grant “temporary stays” if certain conditions are met.

The government plans to submit the bill to the Diet after presenting it to the ruling coalition and having it endorsed at a Cabinet meeting early next month.

Under the new system, the justice minister would grant temporary stays to those who apply for refugee status within six months, arrive directly from regions where they face persecution and pose no risk of disappearing.

The bill also calls for delaying deportation procedures, which are currently conducted at the same time as refugee-status screening.

Even if a temporary stay is not granted, refuge hopefuls would not be deported while their applications are being processed.

The bill would allow the justice minister to give “permanent stay permission” to those who meet the requirements of refugee status and to give “special stay permission” even to those who fail to meet the requirements for permanent stay or refugee status.

But the government would deport those who enter the country illegally or continue to stay without “good reason.”

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