Japan, wary of outsiders, keeps doors closed to refugees
Japan Today -- Dec 29
For Mohammed, the perils of staying in Damascus crystalized when a sniper's bullet whizzed past his head while he and his cousins were on his rooftop, watching the Syrian air force bomb rebel forces.

The same roof where Mohammed and his lifelong friend Jamal used to sit in a tent and play video games. Now, instead of studying for a law degree, Mohammed is working as a fitness instructor in Tokyo, trying to squeeze in some language study and hoping that like Jamal, he'll beat the odds and win official status as a refugee in Japan.

The odds aren't good.

Out of the 7,533 people who applied for refugee status in 2014, or appealed earlier refusals, only 11 were approved. That includes Jamal, his mother and sister, whose approvals came after a year-and-a-half wait.

For most, the approval never comes: In the past five years, the proportion of applicants granted refugee status in Japan has dropped to below 1 percent - in 2014 it was just 0.2 percent. In contrast, Germany has accepted nearly 40,000 Syrian asylum-seekers since 2013, while the U.S. has pledged to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees and has resettled 2,234 since 2010.

Japan's hands-off response to the global refugee crisis, despite its generous humanitarian aid, reflects deep unease over allowing in outsiders given the insular customs of this island nation. Despite growing concerns over a shrinking labor force, the government has so far resisted calls to open the door wider, both for humanitarian and economic reasons.

Immigration officials say they suspect many applicants of being job seekers, not true refugees fleeing persecution or conflict.

News source: Japan Today
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