The government has decided to limit work permits for asylum seekers from 2018 on the back of a sharp rise in the number of applicants who are believed to be feigning a need for protection in order to find jobs, sources close to the matter said Wednesday.
The current system, introduced in 2010, grants work permits to all asylum seekers six months after they file for refugee status. Under the change, the Justice Ministry will allow only people to work if they are deemed to have a high likelihood of being recognized as refugees, the sources said.
Applicants clearly expected to be denied refugee status — such as those fleeing debts — will be denied the right to work in Japan and deported to their country of origin after the valid period of their stay expires, the sources said.
The number of applications for refugee status has soared since the 2010 revision of the system. The figure surged from 1,202 in 2010 to 10,901 in 2016, and is expected to reach 17,000 in 2017.
But only 28 people were recognized as refugees in 2016, sparking international criticism that Japan is closed to refugees.
The refugee screening process in Japan takes 10 months on average, and it can take years before a final conclusion is reached as an applicant can file appeals or resubmit an application.
Work permits are given to assist the lives of asylum seekers during the screening process, but many applicants are believed to have filed for refugee status just to work in Japan.
Under the new system, to be introduced next year, the ministry will conduct simplified screenings within two months for applicants who already have resident status in categories such as overseas study, technical training or short-term visit.
Then applicants will be classified into three groups — people with a high possibility of being recognized as a refugee, those considered to be clearly not genuinely seeking asylum, and those who have repeatedly submitted applications. People in the latter two groups could be deported.
If the ministry cannot immediately determine whether an applicant should be recognized as a refugee in the simplified process, it will continue an individual assessment, the sources said.
A senior ministry official said the new system will be introduced “so as to avoid making people with high chances of gaining refugee status wait unnecessarily.”