Sayaka Hirose is a Tokyo-based immigration lawyer specializing in assisting Indonesians coming to Japan. She says that in the past two years her clients have been seeking legal advice on an issue she had never encountered before.

In 2016, about 70 Indonesians asked her about matters related to work visas, and 20 of them brought up the same question: How do I obtain refugee status in Japan and legally work here?

"None of them was a refugee, in fact. For them, applying for refugee status is just a way to keep working in Japan," Hirose said in a recent interview with The Japan Times.