Foreigners in fear of Japan's immigration proposals

NHK -- May 02
Foreign communities in Japan, and their local supporters, are calling for lawmakers to scrap proposed changes to the country's immigration law. The revisions, which critics describe as inhumane, involve the forcible deportation of asylum-seekers who fail to prove a case to stay as refugees.

Public demonstrations started outside the Diet as lawmakers began debating the revisions on April 16. Protesters are staging daily sit-ins outside the House of Representatives. The Solidarity Network for Migrants Japan presented the government with a petition containing 106,792 signatures demanding the draft be scrapped.

The Japanese government says the changes currently being discussed are designed to tackle the problem of long-term detention of foreigners in immigration facilities.

As one of the new measures, authorities would be given the power to forcibly deport asylum seekers whose refugee status has been rejected three or more times. They would be sent back to their home countries.

Some experts – including United Nations panels – claim that would violate international law, which forbids asylum seekers being sent to a country where they are likely to face persecution.

Japan accepts very few refugees. In 2020, it took in only around one percent of applicants, one of the lowest rates in the world. Many applicants fear for their lives if they are forced to return to their home countries.

An advisor to the Japan Immigration Service Agency, international law expert Abe Kohki, explains that if a bid for refugee status is rejected after thorough consideration, the applicant can be deported as they are not considered to be in any danger. But the Meiji Gakuin University professor adds that under the current Japanese system it is difficult for people to prove what kind of threats they face and the applicants are often not believed.

Abe, who has advised the government for a decade, says the screening system needs an overhaul. He and other experts are calling for an independent, specialized panel to evaluate cases.