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Half of foreigners imprisoned for overstaying visas applying for refugee status

  • May 19, 2021
  • , Sankei , p. 1
  • JMH Translation

Among illegal aliens who have been detained for a long period due to their refusal to be repatriated, the number of those who had been sentenced to prison terms of three years or longer rose to about 310 as of the end of last year. Of the 310 foreigners, about 150, nearly half, are in the process of applying for refugee status, the Sankei Shimbun learned on May 18. Some detainees repeatedly applied for refugee status, apparently for the purpose of delaying their repatriation, because repatriation is suspended during the process of applying for refugee status. As the government and the ruling parties decided not to pass a bill to amend the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, which was designed to put a cap on applications for refugee status, this issue will be left unaddressed. 

 

The immigration authorities detain foreigners who remain in Japan for illegal employment, etc. in facilities until their deportation. About 10,000 aliens are deported annually, but as of the end of last year, the number of foreigners who refuse to leave Japan or whose countries refuse to accept them reached 3,100. Of the 3,100, about 2,440 have been “temporarily released” from detention facilities due to illness or other reasons. About 310 of the 3,100 aliens committed crimes other than staying in Japan illegally and have been sentenced to three years or longer in prison. About 150 of them are currently applying for refugee status. About 90 of the 180 foreigners who were given prison sentences of five years or longer are applying for refugee status, and about 50 of 90 foreigners given sentences of seven years or longer are doing likewise. 

 

For example, one Asian man was sentenced to four years in prison for forcible indecency causing injury. While on parole, the man was sentenced to six years in prison for rape (now forcible sexual intercourse). He is now applying for refugee status for the second time. An African man was sentenced to two years and six months in prison for extortion and other crimes. While on parole, he committed two more crimes including rape (now forcible sexual intercourse) and was sentenced to five years in prison. The man is now applying for refugee status for the fourth time. 

 

The suspension of repatriation is stipulated in the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, and if an application for refugee status is submitted by an applicant, the applicant cannot be repatriated while the application is being examined. As there is no limit to the number of applications that can be submitted, the government has been unable to deal with malicious cases in which applicants repeatedly apply for refugee status even when they have no chance of gaining the status.

 

The proposed bill to amend the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act sets a limit on the number of applications for refugee status. The bill also includes the stipulation that if an applicant was sentenced to three years or longer in prison, the applicant can be repatriated. In addition, the bill is designed to allow an applicant to apply for “Special Permission to Stay in Japan,” which is currently granted only as an exceptional case at the discretion of the justice minister, as a relief measure in cases where the refugee application is rejected.

 

Opposition parties, including the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, are opposed to putting a cap on the number of applications for refugee status, citing concerns that it would undermine the refugee protection function. Failure to pass the amendment bill in the current Diet session, however, will apparently prevent the eradication of malicious applications for refugee status.

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