TOKYO — Japan clamped down on hundreds of immigration law violators late last year, including those applying for refugee status to seek employment rather than protection in the country, the Justice Ministry said Tuesday.
Immigration authorities in Tokyo and Nagoya took action against a total of 341 foreign nationals for immigration violations, including overstays, between Nov. 6 and Dec. 1, according to the ministry.
They included 94 asylum seekers, with 80 of them withdrawing by the end of January their applications or appeals against decisions not recognizing them as refugees.
“Most of the 94 people applied (for refugee status) with the aim of seeking employment,” said a ministry official.
From 2010 until mid-January, Japan had been granting work permits to all asylum seekers six months after they filed for refugee status to assist their lives during the screening process, which takes 9.9 months on average.
But in the face of a surge in the number of applicants believed to be seeking jobs, the country stopped offering the blanket work permit and introduced a stricter screening system.
Among the 94 asylum seekers were three Filipino women who were working as bar hostesses in central Japan’s Aichi Prefecture less than six months after filing for refugee status in violation of immigration law.
The ministry said the three admitted to applying for refugee status to land a job and left Japan at their own expenses. Of the 94, 81 violated the law by working before the permitted period.
The number of refugee applicants in Japan, which stood at 1,202 in 2010, soared to 19,628 in 2017. Only 20 were actually recognized as refugees last year.
By nationality, the largest group of asylum seekers was from the Philippines, totaling 4,895 last year, followed by people from Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.