Japan to Limit Refugee Status Applications

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The Japanese government Tuesday adopted a bill designed to limit the number of times a foreigner could submit applications seeking refugee status to two in principle.

The bill to revise the immigration control and refugee recognition law is aimed at preventing foreign nationals who have been ordered to leave Japan from staying at immigration facilities in the country for a long time.

The bill seeks to create an exception to a provision of the law that allows people who have applied for refugee status to stay in Japan.

Foreigners overstaying their visas or those who have committed serious crimes are detained at immigration facilities until they are deported. Some foreigners repeatedly submit applications for refugee status to avoid deportation.

As an alternative to detention, the bill calls for allowing such foreigners to stay outside of immigration facilities on condition that they have relatives or friends responsible for overseeing them. When necessary, security deposits will be required.

Penalties would be imposed on those who run away during their stay outside immigration facilities.

During detention, authorities will examine every three months whether a detainee needs to remain at an immigration facility.

The bill also seeks to create quasi-refugee status to accept evacuees fleeing armed conflicts who do not fall under the definition of refugee under the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Those recognized as quasi-refugees will be given permanent residency and allowed to work and join Japan’s national health insurance program. Possible quasi-refugees likely include people fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the civil war in Syria.

The government submitted a similar bill to parliament in 2021. But it was scrapped after the government came under fire from opposition lawmakers over the death of a Sri Lankan woman at an immigration facility in the central city of Nagoya.