Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Japan

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Japan , 25 May 2004, available at: [accessed 18 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Some 7,900 refugees and asylum seekers were in Japan at the end of 2003. This included some 7,700 Indochinese refugees (Vietnamese and Cambodians) mostly admitted before 2000 who remained in Japan with temporary status. The Japanese government claims that the status of the Indochinese with one- to three-year permits is stable because the permits are normally extended and the holders can work, travel freely, own property, and obtain various benefits. Japan regularly renews such permits and allows holders to apply for permanent residence after five years following a lengthy period that takes as many as ten years. Both UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR) count the Indochinese as refugees because their legal status is not permanent.

During 2003 Japan granted ten persons granted asylum, 16 persons long-term residence permits based on humanitarian considerations, and some 190 claims were pending before the government at the end of the year.

There were almost 340 new asylum application submitted in 2003. The government recognized 10 asylum claims from Myanmar, Burundi, and Iran; 6 were recognized as refugees in the first instance and 4 in appeals. Japan rejected almost 300 claims, making its acceptance rate 2 percent. Two Afghans returned home from Japan in 2003 without UNHCR assistance.

Japan has an ongoing family-reunification program for close relatives of Indochinese refugees resettled in earlier years. During 2003, Japan admitted 147 refugees from overseas (138 Vietnamese and 9 Cambodians).

Asylum Seekers Japanese law requires asylum seekers to file applications within 60 days of arrival. Although a bill to amend the law was before the parliament in 2003, it had not passed by the end of the year. In September, the Nagoya District Court heard a case involving a Rohingya from Myanmar, who had failed meet the deadline and was ordered deported. The court upheld the 60-day rule but ruled that the man fit the definition of refugee and the Justice Ministry's deportation order violated the UN Refugee Convention's prohibition of refoulement. The court stated that the government should have considered giving him a special residence permit.

Japan did not detain asylum seekers without legal status, an improvement from past years' practice. However, officials continued to detain UNHCR recognized refugees, rejected asylum seekers who appealed their cases, and those who arrived at airports who claimed asylum. Even with the addition of an information booth for asylum seekers at Narita airport in 2003, access to the process was hampered by complex immigration regulations and a lack of training of immigration officers.

The government started a small-scale shelter program for needy asylum seekers. The government rents individual furnished rooms for the asylum seekers – only 3 in 2003. It was expected to continue to program in 2004.

Other Developments According to North Korean officials, a Japanese woman sought asylum in North Korea in October.

Ten North Koreans sough asylum at the Japanese Embassy in Bangkok in July. In August, South Korea agreed to resettle them.

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