To date, the Ministry of Justice has adjudicated all applications for refugee status at the Immigration Bureau [in Tokyo]. The ministry has decided, however, to allow Japan’s eight Regional Immigration Bureaus to also perform this function. The number of applicants is estimated to have exceeded 10,000 for the first time ever in 2016. Apparently, the ministry aims to reduce the application screening time by having the regional bureaus dismiss those applications that are clearly not appropriate for refugee status.
Under Ministry of Justice regulations, only the minister of justice can adjudicate applications for refugee status. The number of applications has continued to increase, and the screening period required for each application has lengthened. In the Jan.–Mar. 2016 period, screening took an average of 5.8 months, but the period had lengthened to an average of 10.1 months in the Jul.–Sep. period. In light of this, the ministry will revise its regulations to allow the heads of Regional Immigration Bureaus to also handle applications for refugee status.