National

New criteria in works for granting refugee status

Kyodo

The government is considering adding new criteria to its process for recognizing refugees, including fear of persecution over gender, a source said Saturday.

However, it remains to be seen whether the change will boost the number of those granted refugee status in Japan. Although a record 5,000 applications were filed last year, just 11 won recognition, bolstering criticism that Japan’s standards are too strict.

Tokyo screens applicants based on the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which defines refugees as people outside the country of their nationality who are facing fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

With the new criteria, women who have faced physical abuse due to gender prejudice in some African nations are expected to fall under the new framework, the source said.

Meanwhile, the government is planning to introduce tougher screening for those who have repeatedly applied for refugee status for inappropriate reasons in order to work in Japan.

Under the present system, those who file for refugee status are allowed to begin working in Japan after six months, irrespective of whether the status has been granted. An increasing number applicants have recently been petitioning for the status for such reasons as “being in debt.”

The new policy is scheduled to be incorporated into the Justice Ministry’s incoming basic immigration control plan, the source said.