Japan’s Revised Immigration Law Sparks Deportation Worries

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Japanese Government building in Kasumigaseki district in Tokyo, where the Immigration Services Agency is based.

Tokyo (Jiji Press)—Japan’s revised immigration control and refugee recognition law, put into full effect Monday, has raised alarms among those facing potential deportation under the new regulations.

Marking a major change in the rules on detention and repatriation of foreigners without resident status, the revised law allows the government to deport individuals who have applied for refugee status three times or more even while their applications are being processed, unless they have a valid reason.

“There will be no guarantee of life if I return,” said Myo Kyaw Kyaw, 38, a member of Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority who is seeking refugee status in Japan after fleeing the Southeast Asian country. “It’s a law that doesn’t protect lives.”

He joined the democratization movement in Myanmar after becoming aware of problems with the country’s military regime when he was a high school student.. He said he literally risked his life on the movement. His family also faced danger.

After arriving in Japan in 2006, he applied for refugee status three times, but all his applications have been rejected. Dissatisfied with the conclusion, he has appealed to an organization related to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan for refugee recognition, but it is uncertain whether he will gain such recognition.

He is wondering what he can do. If he is deported and goes back to Myanmar, there will be no guarantee of his life.

Myo Kyaw Kyaw said that an acquaintance who is applying for refugee recognition for the third time is in despair at the enactment of the “strict” law, going so far as indicating a wish to die in a telephone conversation.

A man from Cameroon, 61, who came to Japan in 2012, said that applying for refugee status is part of the human rights.

The man was involved in a labor movement in the African country, where he confronted the government as he called for the elimination of unpaid labor. His colleague was killed, and he himself fled to Japan to escape from persecution by the government.

His two applications for refugee status were both rejected. He was held in an immigration detention facility for two years from 2018, when he applied for the second time. Recalling his time in the facility, he said he was mentally cornered in a place like a prison.

In November 2018, while in detention, he filed a lawsuit with Tokyo District Court demanding the cancellation of the decision not to recognize him as refugee.

The district court ruled in his favor, but Tokyo High Court overturned the decision in February this year. Currently, he is on provisional release from detention. He has appealed to the Supreme Court for refugee recognition.

Refugee applicants should not be treated like animals, the man said. “Please stop forcefully deporting us and killing us.”