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Japan wrestles with immigration and asylum laws

23 April 20210 comments

Protests have broken out in Japan over moves to change Japan’s asylum laws to make it easier to deport failed applicants for refugee status.

Protestors took to the streets of Tokyo while lawyers, lawmakers and human rights groups said the reforms were counter to international norms.

The demonstrators held up signs with messages such as “Long detention is torture!” and, “We oppose revising the immigration law for the worse.”

The Japanese government has introduced the changes to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act in current Diet, or parliamentary, session.

It says the new laws are aimed at solving issues around long-term detention at immigration facilities of foreign nationals served with deportation orders.

While the bill would establish a “supervisory measure” system permitting people to live outside detention centres, individuals who don’t obey expulsion orders would be subject to penalties, and people who apply for refugee status three times or more could be forcibly deported.

But because the bill does not introduce a cap on detentions or judicial reviews of cases, human rights experts have slammed it.

Currently in Japan, some asylum seekers are granted provisional release during the process, meaning they can live relatively freely although they cannot work, but others are held in government detention centres where they spend months or even years.

Japanese governments and society have long wrestled with the issue of immigration.

Despite the problem of an ageing population and shrinking workforce, that economists say could be alleviated by allowing more immigrants in, there has been widespread opposition to allowing foreigners to settle permanently.

In 2019, just 0.4 per cent of asylum applications were successful in Japan, as opposed to 25.9 per cent in Germany and 29.6 per cent in the United States.

Japan’s Justice Ministry says the reform is aimed at stopping the abuse of the asylum system and preventing long-term detentions, but critics at the event said it would violate human rights and in some cases even endanger lives.