• Kyodo

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The government has signed a memorandum with the nation’s main lawyers association and a nonprofit organization to work together on improving the treatment of asylum seekers while they await a decision on their refugee status, Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa said Friday.

By having lawyers act as guarantors for asylum seekers and Forum for Refugees Japan, a Tokyo-based NPO, provide them with housing, immigration authorities aim to give more applicants permission for provisional stays and shorten their detention.

The immigration authorities, long criticized internationally for the lengthy process of determining refugee status and prolonged detention of asylum seekers, acknowledge such problems in the memorandum and pledge to join hands with the private sector to bring about improvements.

With the signing of the memorandum, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations said in a statement it will do everything it can to promote protection for refugees and improve conditions related to the detention of foreigners.

Provisional release, allowed when the ministry judges there is no risk of a detainee running away, has been applied more widely since 2010 and contributed to shortening the detention period for foreigners without legal resident status. There were, however, still 47 foreigners who have been detained for more than a year as of last August.

Even after the U.N. recommended in 2007 that Japan improve the situation, such as by setting a detention limit, the lack of progress led some detainees to go on group hunger strikes or commit suicide over their treatment.

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