• Kyodo

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Nanmin House, a community house in the city of Osaka run by Rafiq, the only citizens’ group in the Kansai region that supports refugees, is commemorating its first anniversary this month.

The two-story house in Yodogawa Ward, provided free of charge by one of the group’s supporters, is a temporary shelter for people seeking refugee status in Japan.

Established in 2002, Rafiq also holds workshops at the house to deepen understanding for refugees.

Rafiq, which means “friend” in Persian, has been supporting people from more than 20 countries, including Afghanistan and Myanmar, who are seeking refuge from political or religious persecution.

The group, with more than 100 members, is engaged in a variety of activities, including helping people apply for refugee status or file lawsuits, meeting people detained at immigration centers and giving them assistance to stabilize their lives.

Many foreign people obtain information on the application procedure for refugee status at Nanmin House, according to the group.

People seeking refugee status in Japan are increasing, topping 10,000 in 2016, expanding nearly six times in five years. However, only 28 people were granted the status last year.

“The procedure for granting refugee status in Japan is obscure. It is like a system designed not to grant the status,” said Keiko Tanaka, 63, one of Rafiq’s representatives.

Even those who receive refugee status continue to face difficulties obtaining jobs or getting accepted in the community. Rafiq organizes events in which refugees can meet and get acquainted with local residents.

“We believe making society a better place for refugees to live in means it will become a livable place for everyone in Japan,” Tanaka said.

For inquiries, call Nanmin House at 06-6335-4440.

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