• Kyodo

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The Foreign Ministry plans to investigate the circumstances surrounding the underutilization of government-affiliated emergency shelters by foreign nationals seeking refugee status after none used the facilities in the 12 months through this March, sources said Monday.

Under the Emergency Shelter for Refugee Applicants program, delegated by the ministry to be run by the public-interest group Refugee Assistance Headquarters, those seeking refugee status with no place to stay can live in leased facilities for a fixed period of time without charge.

However, in fiscal 2015, no one was recorded as having used the service. This stood in sharp contrast to similar facilities run by a nongovernmental group that saw a record number of people use them over roughly the same time frame.

This may have been because people seeking refugee status were receiving help from compatriots in Japan, an official with the Refugee Assistance Headquarters speculated.

In fiscal 2011, 48 refugee applicants used Refugee Assistance Headquarters facilities. This number plummeted in the ensuing years to just a single person in fiscal 2014. In the current fiscal year from April, two people had used the facilities by the end of October.

Meanwhile, the Japan Association for Refugees, an NGO that offers a similar shelter program, accommodated 46 people over each of the 12-month periods from July 2013 and July 2014. In the year from July 2015, it saw those figures jump to a record 71 people seeking refugee status.

Between 2010 and 2015, the number of people who applied for refugee status in Japan skyrocketed from 1,202 to 7,586.

Kenji Arikawa, who handles refugee matters at the nongovernmental group Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, says few people seeking refugee status are aware of the government-affiliated emergency shelters.

“Only a limited number of people can depend on their communities (in Japan),” he said. “The government should take responsibility for applicants and help them make better use of the accommodations until they can find some stability in their lives.”

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