Japan, the country that turns its back on refugees

japan refugees

A twenty-something Kurdish woman has been detained in Tokyo for three months. He arrived in the country 16 years ago with his family and his request for asylum was never approved, as the vast majority of the 20,000 people who sought refuge in Japan in 2017.

Despite being one of the most developed countries in the world, Japan has gained notoriety in recent years for its refusal to accept the arrival of refugees, a situation that local NGOs define as a “violation of human rights.”

“Japan has an express policy against refugees, I do not understand why we are so backward, what are they afraid of?” Complains the Tokyo lawyer Takeshi Ohashi, who is dedicated to assisting asylum seekers during a conference at the Foreign Press Club of Tokyo (FCCJ).

Her work is to deal with cases such as those of Dursun, who was arrested after the local authorities refused to continue renewing her temporary residence visa, which pushed her into illegality and ended up in an immigration detention center, according to her complaint. mother.

“My daughter came to Japan when she was just six years old, she married a Kurdish asylum seeker eleven months later and was arrested for no reason,” explains Dursun’s mother, Hartje Toma, who defines the situation in the immigration centers as “inhuman.”

Requests for asylum in Japan have multiplied in recent years to reach 20,000 in 2017, while the number of applications approved has continued to fall and stood last year at only 20 (0.2 percent), According to data from the Japanese Ministry of Justice.

In 2012, of 2,545 people who requested asylum in Japan, 18 received it – 0.8 percent – a percentage that has fallen in the following years to 0.3 and 0.2 percent, which translates to in 110 refugee status granted in a period of six years, details the same source.

For Japanese organizations in favor of refugees, what is really serious is the “arbitrariness with which arrests occur” and also the fact that many of these people start a new life in the Asian country without knowing when they will be expelled.

“The law in Japan allows immigration authorities to detain foreign residents who are under a deportation order, which does not establish is for how long,” denounces the organization tokiota Friends of the Detained Immigrants (SYI).

Families separated by indefinite detention and “inhuman” sanitary conditions are some of the situations that they accuse the Japanese Government. This, and the passivity of Japanese society, according to an SYI report.

For the volunteer Sayaka Iwakawa, what is really serious is the circumstance in which the children of those refugees face that, before the arrest of one of their parents, they must start working at an early age and in an irregular manner, and in the case of staying in school, they suffer bullying from their classmates.

“Children have to work with only 10 or 11 years to help their families and in the case of girls, most end up getting married very young,” Iwakawa told Efe, who works with immigrants and refugees in peripheral areas of Tokyo. as Kawaguchi or Warabi, the latter known as “Warabistan”.

These two neighborhoods located in Saitama (north of Tokyo) host many immigrants, including some 2,000 people of Kurdish origin, who after fleeing from Turkey, Syria and Iraq, went to Japan to seek asylum, none of them successfully.

For Ohashi, this is because Japan does not want to risk its good relations with Turkey by granting refugee status to any person of Kurdish origin, a situation that has even starred in the documentary “Backdrop Kurdistan” by the Japanese Masaru Nomoto.

Unable to endure indefinite detention, some of the refugees end up giving in and accepting deportation under their own means. During 2016, according to the Japanese Ministry of Justice, 6,575 immigrants accepted to pay for their return to their country of origin, 93.7% of the total.

“It is a humiliation for her to be locked up and this causes her panic attacks, sometimes she even spits blood,” says Toma about the situation of her daughter, who has been in the immigration center of Shinagawa (south of Tokyo) for three months.

Organizations in favor of refugees in Tokyo estimate that half of the detainees in this type of facility are in fact asylum seekers who do not have any legal status, figures that they expect to increase in the future.