South Asia & Far East

Refugee Policy in Japan

Refugees are people who have to leave their countries to avoid war and not to be deprived of human rights. The issue of refugees is a problem that not only a single country but the whole world should take responsibility. The United Nations, the European Union and many other NGOs are pioneering on how the refugee crisis can be resolved. In particular, it is emphasized that all humanity should address and resolve this issue. Today, there are 70.8 million people fleeing their own country.[1] These numbers increase especially due to the crises and wars in the Middle East.

The United Nations has adopted three principles to address this rising refugee crisis. First is “Voluntary Repatriation”. It is a practice that is planned after the war in their country is over and restore order. But it takes time to get rid of the war or to restore the order of the country once it has achieved peace. Second is “Local Integration” and also third is “relocation to settle in another country” or “resettlement”. Although the second and third principles are tried to be applied in a healthy way, there are many problems in which the refugee may face adaptation problems such as rights, living conditions, language and culture in the country of destination. So let’s see what Japan’s policy is about refugees.

If we look at the first official refugee admission, history shows the 1970s. Japan has received many refugees fleeing the Vietnam war. In 1981, Japan became a member of the refugee agreement. Also in 2010, Japan established the Resettlement Program and began to recruit refugees. Today, there are many refugees in Japan from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and around the world. All refugee applications are handled by the Japan Immigration Office.

Japan wants to control the refugees rather than protect them. The reason for this is that critics think that the Japanese society behaves in this way because they have no knowledge about refugees. Many considerations regarding the security of the public as well as any risks to the community make it impossible for the Japanese community to accept refugees. The Refugee Camps said that they will provide the basic needs of refugees such as food and clothing, as well as the courses and support they need to understand Japan’s language and society. Recently, however, there have been different reports on the living conditions of refugees in Japan.

A hunger strike crisis has been on the agenda at the East Japan Immigration Center since May. Every year, many refugees apply for immigration to enter the country, but Japan only accepts as little as 30-40 refugees per year. In recent years, many refugees have their visas expired and have to go to their countries. But, because of continue the war in their country, none of them returned and tried to live illegally in Japan. Performed after the arrest, they began to make hunger strike.

Is there a chance the release of detainees refugees? If they pay bail at 1000-2000 US dollars, they will be able to be released, but this time there will be many restrictions. They cannot work, open a bank account, receive a phone call or leave their residence without permission. When we think that they have to work to continue their lives and that they are caught and imprisoned again, we see that this has become a vicious circle completely by Japan. I would like to underline once again that even if they are refugees, they also have the rights of International Law and these restrictions are completely against human rights.

Another point I want to underline is that although Japan needs foreign workers to eliminate labor shortages, it is completely contradictory to follow such a policy. Japan is experiencing shortage of labor with its rapidly aging population and decreasing birth rates. The unemployment rate in the country was 2.4 percent in December 2018.[2] For Japan, the third largest economy in the world, it is difficult to understand this contradictory situation. This policy is becoming more and more irrational when we think that Japan, which has the second largest economy after the USA in the early 2000s, has lost its place to China, which has a high young population.

[1] UNHCR. (2019, June 19). Forcibly displaced people worldwide. Retrieved from The UN Refugee Agency:

[2] EuroNews. (2019, February 1). Türk işçileri kabul etmeyen Japonya’da iş gücü eksikliği son 45 yılın zirvesinde. Retrieved from EuroNews:

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