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New justice minister has no plans to boost Japan’s refugee intake

by

Staff Writer

Newly appointed Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa says she has no specific plan to increase Japan’s intake of refugees despite the number of applicants hitting a record high last year.

“Whether seekers are applicable for refugee (status) is judged based on the international treaty on refugees. Therefore, acceptance of refugees does not increase or decrease based on (our) policy,” Kamikawa said Thursday during a group interview with media outlets including The Japan Times.

Last year, Japan accepted just 28 refugees, a tiny fraction of the 10,901 people who applied. The number of applications jumped 44 percent from the previous year, but the number of refugees accepted increased by just one.

Kamikawa said the appropriateness of refugee examination can not be judged just by looking at numbers, adding the ministry will continue examinations in the current manner.

“Even if (applicants) were not approved as refugees … we allow them to stay in our country if it is considered necessary to provide them humane consideration, based on the social condition of their home country,” she said.

Regarding crackdowns on hate speech, Kamikawa said she plans to improve monitoring methods and strengthen restriction on discriminatory speech ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Kamikawa said the ministry will continue to conduct educational programs on hate speech in an effort to increase awareness of discrimination before an estimated 40 million foreign visitors arrive in 2020.

Kamikawa’s home prefecture of Shizuoka has been chosen as one of the non-Tokyo sites for the games.

As for improving immigration inspections at international airports, Kamikawa discussed the ministry’s plan to install unmanned gates using facial recognition technology. The ministry announced in July a plan to introduce such gates to fast-track Japanese citizens, allowing more immigration officials to screen foreign nationals as a measure to counter terrorism and block illegal entries.

The immigration bureau announced that three such units are scheduled to be installed at Haneda airport in Tokyo as early as October, followed by Narita, Chubu and Kansai airports by the end of 2018.