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Majority of 10,000 refugee status applicants in Japan may be seeking work

  • January 26, 2017
  • , Yomiuri , p. 35
  • JMH Translation

The number of asylum seekers in Japan exceeded 10,000 for the first time last year since statistics started being taken in 1982. It is likely, however, that most of the applications were bogus ones filed by people seeking work and posing as refugees. This may be evidence of the inadequacy of the Justice Ministry’s countermeasures against fake applications for refugee status implemented in September 2015.


The Japanese refugee recognition system was revised in March, 2010 to enable all applicants to work legally for six months after they filing their applications. This change resulted in a large increase in the number of fake applications. The number of refugee status applications, which totaled 1,202 in 2010, has steadily grown and surpassed itself every year since 2011. By 2015, the number had risen to 7,586.


Last year, 7,926 foreigners had sought asylum in Japan as of the end of September. Since applications were still coming in at the end of the year, it is certain that  more than 10,000 applied for refugee status in 2016. Meanwhile, only six applicants  had received approval as of last September (27 approvals in 2015), and this number is not likely to increase. The surge in the number of applications seems to be delaying the refugee recognition process for applicants who truly qualify for asylum.


By nationality, applications from Indonesians, for whom a partial visa waiver system was introduced, and Filipinos, for whom visa conditions have been eased, have greatly increased. Many foreigners obtain short-term visas and apply for refugee status after arriving in Japan. A lot of technical trainees who have fled their training facilities and international students at language schools also apply for refugee status.


In September 2015, the Justice Ministry implemented measures for handling applications in which applicants who obviously do not qualify for refugee status, such as those citing “debt” as the reason, only receive a cursory screening before being rejected. The measures also stipulate that subsequent applications citing the same reason will result in the applicant being banned from working or residing in Japan. However, the number of applications has continued to rise and the screening has failed to keep pace with the influx of new applications.


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