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SOCIETY > Human Rights

Japan to drastically tighten screening of refugee applicants, ban them from working

  • October 31, 2017
  • , Yomiuri , Lead story
  • JMH Translation

In light of numerous fake applications being filed under Japan’s refugee recognition system for the purpose of working in Japan, the Justice Ministry has decided to implement a new process that will abolish the blanket permission for applicants to work in Japan from six months after filing of application. The new regulations will take effect as early as November. It is reckoned that most of the over 10,000 applicants each year will no longer be able to work, and it is hoped that this will reduce the number of applications drastically.


According to a source at the ministry, processing of one application takes an average of 10 months. Under the new procedures, all applications will be subject to “preliminary screening” and classified into four categories within two months. Applicants deemed to be “highly possible” to be refugees will be allowed to work without having to wait six months. It is estimated that less than 1% of the total applicants will belong to this category.


On the other hand, applicants judged to be “obviously not refugees” will not be allowed to stay and will be detained at the 17 immigration facilities nationwide after their authorized period of stay is over. This category will mostly consist of applicants who came to Japan with “student,” “technical intern,” or other short-stay visas whose reason for applying for refugee status is that “they will have to face debt collectors back home,” for instance.


People who reapply after their applications were rejected will basically not be allowed to work and will be detained after their authorized period of stay is over.


Meanwhile, the cases of applicants whose qualifications to be recognized as refugees are “not immediately apparent” will continue to be examined and permission to work will be decided on a case-by-case basis.


Since regulations under the refugee recognition system were changed in March 2010 to allow applicants to work six months after they file their applications and due to the government’s easing of visa requirements in 2013 to attract more tourists, there has been a record number of refugee applications for six consecutive years from 2011. The Justice Ministry reckons that a majority of them were fake applications filed for the purpose of working in Japan.


The ministry had planned to start detaining from July applicants who are students or technical interns once they are judged not to qualify as refugees. However, these two types of applicants make up only around 20% of the total number, so it was thought that a real solution needs to include short-stay visa holders, who comprise nearly half of the applicants. In light of the fact that the number of applicants in the first half of this year (January-June) was 8,561, or 1.7 times that of the same period last year, it has decided to apply to short-stay visa holders the same regulations for students and technical interns. (Slightly abridged)

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