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SOCIETY > Human Rights

Revised immigration law a far cry from solution to human rights issues

  • March 16, 2021
  • , Mainichi , p. 2
  • JMH Translation

By Takakazu Murakami and Asako Takeuchi


The revised immigration law will be deliberated in the current session of the Diet. The revision aims to resolve the issue of foreign nationals ordered to leave Japan being detained for long periods in immigration detention centers. The revised law will establish a new system where detainees will be able to live outside detention centers until deportation. The revision will impose a limit on the number of times a person may apply for refugee status, indicating that the law aims for early deportation. The revision is criticized for “not being a solution to the issue and paying little attention to the rights of foreign nationals.”


The detention period of foreign nationals illegally in Japan who refuse to leave and wish to live in Japan is becoming protracted. Such foreign nationals are in Japan for reasons including persecution in their home countries or having family members in Japan. According to the Immigration Services Agency, 232 out of 527 detainees have been detained for more than six months and 47 have been detained for over 3 years.


The revised law does not respond to the criticism that detention reviews should be transparent. Opposition parties jointly submitted a counterproposal before the revised law was approved by the Cabinet. In the counterproposal, court approval is needed for detention and the maximum detention period is six months. Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan’s Michihiro Ishibashi says that the opposition parties discussed the “shape of a law that does not cause embarrassment internationally” based on the view that “the international trend is to not detain [illegal aliens] in principle.” Opposition parties are expected to confront the ruling parties during Diet deliberations. (Abridged)


The main points in the revised immigration law


Current law

Planned revision

Control measures

Foreign nationals illegally residing in Japan must be detained in detention centers in principle.

Illegal residents may be allowed to live outside a detention center until deportation, upon selection of a private-sector “supervisor.”

Treatment at detention center

No regulation that permits forcible treatment of detainees.

Allows forcible treatment in such cases as hunger strikes.

Deportation order

No penalties for those who do not follow deportation orders.

Deportation with deadline in case of someone detained after acting violently onboard an aircraft. Liable to penalty.

Time limit for re- entry

Five years after deportation, in principle.

Time limit may be shortened to one year in some cases such as if person exited Japan at their own expense.

Application for refugee status

Deportation order suspended during application for refugee status.

Deportation allowed during third application for refugee status.

Target of subsidiary protection

If a person is not recognized as a refugee, she/he is considered for special permission to stay in Japan.

Category of “conflict refugee,” separate from refugee, established as target for protection.

Special permission to stay in Japan

Minister of Justice hands down ruling on objection raised during deportation review.

Creates application system. Law will have provisions to consider such circumstances as “familial relationship.”


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