Afghan asylum-seeker Abdul Aziz says he is tired of fighting.
After being recognized in court as a refugee three times, the Justice Ministry refuses to grant Aziz refugee status.
“Isn’t it enough?” he asked. “It has been proved three times by the court that I am a refugee. I am hoping that the Japanese government will believe it this time.”
The first two times that Aziz, 33, was recognized as a refugee were when he was tried for illegally entering Japan on a fake passport.
In June 2002, the Hiroshima District Court ruled he should not be punished because he was a refugee. Although the Hiroshima High Court overturned this ruling and fined Aziz 300,000 yen in September that same year, it also recognized him as a refugee.
On March 29, the district court revoked a Justice Ministry decision from 2002 that had denied Aziz refugee status.
“Of course, I was happy that I won,” Aziz said. “But winning was not the end of my problems, because my status is still unclear.”
Aziz, a member of the Hazara minority, arrived in Japan in June 2001 via Fukuoka Airport using a forged passport. He applied for refugee status in November that year, citing fear of persecution by the Taliban regime due to his ethnicity.
“I have seen Hazaras who have done nothing wrong dragged out of their homes and tortured” by the Taliban, he said.
The Justice Ministry denied him refugee status in February 2002, stating that there was no fear of persecution because the Taliban regime collapsed in December 2001.
“I am still in need of protection,” Aziz said. “The situation (in Afghanistan) is still insecure and unstable. There is no guarantee for (my) safety.”
Nathalie Karsenty, a senior legal officer at the Tokyo office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, agrees that while progress has been made in Afghanistan, parts of the country remain insecure.
Afghanistan “is a country that has faced an enormous strain. First a conflict and then a great deal of destruction,” Karsenty said. “It is on the way to reconstruction, but is still facing enormous difficulties.”
Data from the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau show that three Afghans were recognized as refugees in Japan in 2000, and six in 2002. The total number of Afghan asylum-seekers recognized as refugees in Japan was not available.
None has been recognized in the Tokyo area, said Koichi Kodama, one of the lawyers representing Afghan asylum-seekers in the capital.
Kodama estimates that about 20 Afghans are currently seeking asylum in Japan. Many others have given up hope and left Japan to third countries, including the United Arab Emirates, he said.
“In many cases, asylum-seekers could not tolerate the lengthy detention or fear of being detained any longer and withdrew their lawsuits,” Kodama said.
Trauma cause by months of detention has also affected Aziz, who said he is seeing a psychiatrist to deal with his depression and memory loss.
Aziz was detained by immigration authorities between June and October 2002.
He is now terrified that the government might appeal his case to the high court, again questioning his refugee status.
“I came here to save my life and to secure my fundamental human rights. But instead, I faced harsh treatment” like what I was trying to escape, he said. “I am asking the Japanese government to please stop making me suffer and to give me legal status so I can finally gain my freedom.” (M.I.)
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