Four asylum seekers from strife-riven Syria sued the central government at the Tokyo District Court on Tuesday, demanding that they be recognized as refugees.

The move, the first of its kind by Syrians in Japan, represents a direct challenge to the government's persistent reluctance to grant refugee status to people who have fled from the Middle Eastern nation torn apart by civil war.

It is also a dig at Japan's notoriously rigid, conservative scrutiny of applications from would-be refugees, which critics say runs counter to its participation in a 1951 multinational refugee treaty, lawyers said.