• Kyodo News


The Foreign Ministry terminated living allowances for repeat asylum-seeker applicants this month as there’s not enough money for them all.

The move has been blasted by refugee support groups because submitting multiple applications is sometimes the only way one can win legal recognition as a refugee.

“Because of our limited budget, we have no choice but to narrow down the subjects in order to assist those truly in need,” an official in the ministry’s Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Division said Thursday.

To help the applicants, many of whom often arrive indigent, the ministry was providing allowances of about ¥85,000 a month, which is below the national welfare level.

Beginning this month, however, allowances are only being provided to first-time applicants, who will be able to draw on the money until their applications are judged. Multiple applicants will be denied the allowance.

The number of people seeking asylum in Japan is constant and shows no signs of letting up, according the ministry. The number seeking refugee status doubled to 1,599 in 2008 from the previous year, mostly because of deteriorating political conditions in Myanmar, and has been steady ever since.

The ministry said it earmarked about ¥260 million for the allowances in the fiscal year ending next March, or nearly 40 percent more than the previous year. If it hadn’t changed the conditions for doling out the money, the funds would be gone by the end of the fiscal year, the officials said.

The ministry temporarily restricted allowances to some applicants last year as part of government austerity measures, forcing those without other income to become homeless.

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