It was learned that the Justice Ministry will adopt new measures to deal with “fake” asylum seekers, the number of whom have increased sharply under the “refugee status certification system.” Under present rules, asylum seekers are allowed to work six months after they apply for refugee status. The new rules call for sending applicants with technical intern or student visas to immigration centers promptly once their authorized stay expires. The idea is to make it physically impossible for them to work in order to control the sharp increase in refugee status applications.
According to a senior Justice Ministry official, the new regulations will apply to applicants with mid- or long-term visas, such as technical interns or students, while those with short-term tourist visas will not be affected.
At present, asylum seekers obtain a “designated activities” visa after they file their application and are allowed to work after six months. The new rules will not allow technical interns and students to change visa status. Even if they have applied for refugee status, they will be considered illegal residents and detained at immigration centers promptly after their authorized stay expires. However, the rules will not be implemented uniformly and flexible consideration will be given to individual cases.
Since the government allowed asylum seekers to work from six months after they apply for refugee status in March 2010, the number of applications has set a new record for six consecutive years from 2011, reaching 10,901 in 2016.
Technical interns with permission to stay a maximum of three years and students made up over 20% of the applicants. However, it is questionable that interns who came to Japan with endorsements from government agencies should apply for refugee status and that some students came only for the purpose of working.
The new measures will help reduce the overall number of applications, which will also help shorten the screening period, allowing the government to give timely assistance to refugees who are truly in need. (Abridged)