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  RAFIQ’s 14th General Meeting


* 25th October 2015 Shiminkai Kaikan, Takatsuki City

[Contents] Report

Our General Meeting Assistant Professor Ando's Lecture
Sharing Opinions at the World Cafe Enjoying dishes prepared by
refugees and supporters at the
assembly following the meeting.

32 people took part in the General Meeting, and 30 people took part in the gathering that followed. RAFIQ's report on our activities and RAFIQ's objectives were accepted by those who were present. A new set of rules for RAFIQ were also created and agreed upon.

Most of those present were people who are already active within RAFIQ, people who are involved with refugees, people who assist with our legal support services by providing translation and interpretation, and people who offer medical and employment support for refugees. There were also people present who wish to help provide support for refugees in the future and people who are interested in recent problems related to the acceptance of refugees. We believe that these people gained an understanding of what RAFIQ do, and were able to mix with some of our members.

Ms. Yukari Ando gave a presentation entitled "Recent Changes in the Conditions of Refugees all Over the World, and What We Can Do". In this presentation, she explained some of the basic issues concerning refugee-related matters, such as what it means to offer protection to refugees, and the kinds of people that UNHCR deem to be in need of protection. She reminded us of how the definition of what a refugee is has changed since the Refugee Convention was first created in 1951. She also gave an easy-to-understand overview of the current status of refugees around the world, and provided an insight into the status of refugees in the EU - the kind of information that is not provided in our newspapers.

Ms. Ando also gave an introduction to Japan's refugee recognition system. At the end of September, 14 organisations including RAFIQ issued a statement on the acceptance of Syrian refugees to the Prime Minister Abe ahead of his visit to the UN. Of course, Prime Minister Abe announced that Japan would accept no Syrian refugees, instead preferring to send money to the countries affected by the refugee crisis. Ms. Ando showed us how this was interpreted outside Japan as the Prime Minister prioritising domestic issues over the fate of refugees.

Ms. Ando also provided some hints about what we could do. She explained how refugees had been given welcome parties in Germany, and that people were given opportunities to mix with refugees including at events where dishes and movies from their home countries were prepared. These are just some examples of the kinds of things we can do.

Following the presentation, Ms. Ando invited everyone present to take part in a "World Cafe" session in which participants formed groups and briefly discussed the question of "What we can do about refugees and refugee-related issues?" We hope to be able to use some of the ideas that were produced in our future activities.

The main ideas put forward during the World Cafe session were as follows:
  • Setting up a multi-cultural restaurant that serves cuisine from refugees' countries of origin.
  • Setting up shops selling ethnic clothes.
  • Setting up cookery classes for food from refugees' countries of origin.
  • Preparing maps of Osaka that are easy for refugees to use.
  • Setting up a language exchange in which Japanese lessons are exchanged for lessons in refugees' mother tongues.
  • RAFIQ members becoming lecturers in various subjects and providing lectures at Nanmin Cafe events.
  • Finding shops and restaurants where a donation box can be set up permanently.
  • Finding shops and restaurants where RAFIQ recruitment posters can be permanently displayed.
  • Setting up a "grass-roots exchange" with local people.
  • Finding empty properties in which refugees can be housed.
  • Increasing income by running a lottery.
  • Increasing awareness of RAFIQ via word of mouth by running cookery classes etc.
And so on. There were many good ideas that we should certainly be able to implement.

At the gathering which followed the general meeting, participants were served jollof rice, prepared by an African refugee. We also ate bread spread with "pre", a Persian dish prepared by an Iranian refugee. We also enjoyed lassi, paella, and home made jam, prepared for us by a supporter. Refugees and supporters enjoyed discussing mixing while sampling these delicious foods.
A student who attended the event said that "it was great fun, and I learned a lot". We believe that these sentiments were shared by everyone who took part.
With everyone's support, we hope to become even more active in future.

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  Summary of Activities September 2014 - August 2015


Key Information Concerning Refugees

[The Situation in Japan and Worldwide]
  • Refugee numbers are increasing worldwide. In Japan, 5,000 asylum applications were made in 2014 (according to the MoJ). In January-June 2015, 3,015 applications were made (according to UNHCR). We predict that there will be over 6,000 applications in total this year.
  • Relatively few of these applications are made at the Osaka Immigration Bureau (73 in 2013; 70 in 2014; 62 in January - September 2015). In comparison, around 3,500 applications were made in Tokyo in 2014, and around 700 in Nagoya.
  • Support for refugees is increasing around the world, but Japan refuses to be proactive in accepting refugees. The law for accepting refugees is rapidly turning into a law for rejecting refugees. Many questions have been raised about Japan's refugee policy.
[Changes in the Support RAFIQ Offers]
  • The Western Japan Immigration Centre closed in September 2015. As such, we now visit detainees at the Osaka Immigration Bureau. Long-term detainees, including some refugees, are transferred to Omura (in Nagasaki prefecture). We cannot meet directly with those who've been transferred to Omura. Furthermore, there are costs (e.g. transport) incurred when they are provisionally released which makes life difficult.
  • We support both refugees who've been provisionally released from detention centres and those who have permission to remain in Japan.
  • There has been an increase in asylum applications by refugees from southern Asia (Burma, Sri Lanka etc.), as well as the Middle East and Africa.
Summary of Activities

[Lifestyle Support]

Beneficiaries: We mainly support refugees who've been provisionally released and do not have the right to work, as well as those who have the right to reside in Japan during their first six months (when they are not allowed to work).
  • Shelters: We have 3 rooms. Five people live there. We supply their living expenses.
  • Shelters: We were able to provide shelters for refugees with support from the Minna no Ie group and the Amanto Group
  • Food Support from Food Bank Osaka: 62 visits in total. A twice-weekly trip to Costco and 12 additional visits
  • Educational Support: 2 people
  • Employment Support: 1 person
  • Other Inquiries etc.: We receive inquiries from people who have nowhere to live, who are struggling to make ends meet, and who are injured. We also receive inquiries from people who want to go to school or university, or who don't have a job.
  • Post-Provisional Release Support: 1 person. We organised an emergency collection to pay for his transport from Omura, and his shelter expenses. We were able to collect 80,000 to this end.
  • Subsidies: We receive subsidies for shelters from the Japan Association for Refugees. We receive emergency funds for struggling refugees from the FRJ.
  • Social Integration of Refugees: We take part in local activities and initiatives in Nakazaki-cho and Takatsuki-shi, where our shelters are located. We were also able to help refugees get into education and employment.
[Legal Support]

<Support with the Application Process>
  • This year, we offered ongoing support for six refugees. We started supporting seven refugees for the first time.
  • Two refugees had an interview for the refugee application process. Two refugees appealed against the rejection of their application. We searched for evidence to support the application of 9 refugees, and translated materials for 9 refugees
  • We found lawyers for 6 of the 7 new refugees we are supporting.
  • Three refugees took their cases to court to request for the rejection of their appeal to be rescinded.
  • We appealed for supporters to attend refugees' court hearings six times.
  • We attended 52 meetings between refugees and their lawyers.
  • We have become able to support an asylum applicant through the entire process, from the initial application to the final court case.
  • RAFIQ members and supporters are able to assist refugees and their lawyers in seeking support for their claims. Members and volunteers also offer translation and interpretation services. Despite all this, none of the refugees we support have been accepted, which means our continued support is required.
  • The number of refugees whose appeals were rejected and whose cases needed to be taken to court increased to three. This trend is likely to continue, and as such, court case support will become increasingly important.
  • Other Inquiries: We were asked about the asylum application process in Malaysia. We were asked about a Chinese person and a Pakistani person in the Omura detention centre who wish to make asylum applications. We were asked about two female refugees from Sudan, and so on.
<Provisional Release / Immigration Bureau Support>

Asylum seekers who are deemed to have broken immigration law are held in the Immigration Bureau's detention centre. Those who are detained are also issued with deportation orders and are told to return to their countries. This is a breach of the non-refoulment principle (which deems that asylum seekers cannot be returned to their countries of origin). Since refugees cannot return to their home countries, they end up in detention for long periods. They are simultaneously asked to prove that they are refugees while being put in a situation where it is impossible for them to do so. As such, they need our support.
  • Visits: We made 12 regularly scheduled visits (and saw 71 detainees in total). We also made 52 other separate, individual visits.
  • The Application Process: We supported two detained refugees through the application process. One of these was a Cameroonian refugee who applied for provisional release once in Osaka and once in Omura. We wrote to the Osaka Immigration Bureau to object to this refugee's transfer from Osaka to Omura. We also wrote to the Osaka Bar Association to issue an objection on human rights grounds.
  • Charter Plane Deportations: On the 18th December 2014, a Sri Lankan refugee that RAFIQ had been supporting was forcibly deported by charter plane. We lodged our objection with the Osaka Immigration Bureau. We also held an emergency lecture about this topic, at which Mr. Junpei Yamamura spoke.
  • Others: We provided support to detainees regarding health issues, the application process, and the provisional release process. We also provided support to those without an income, dealt with inquiries about making visits to a home country, and held discussions with a detained Vietnamese woman. We also had an inquiry from a person who was looking for their Vietnamese mother in the USA. etc.
[Public Education]
  • Introductory Lectures on Refugees: 10 times (43 participants)
  • Introductory Meetings for Volunteers: 8 times (around 40 people signed up as volunteers)
  • Introductory Lectures on the Immigration Bureau: 12 times (31 participants)
  • Lectures for Supporters: 1 time
  • Guest Lectures: 6 times
  • Study Events: 2 times
  • Took part in the Western Japan World Refugee Day Committee
  • Participated in Events: Nanmin Day, Nanmin Cafe
  • Had a Stall at an Event: 2 times
  • Web Activities: Our Homepage, Mail Magazine, Twitter
  • Media Appearances: We appeared on two TV specials concerning refugees. We contributed to two publications concerning refugees.
[Policy Proposals / Research / Study etc.]

Since 2009, RAFIQ has been engaged in attempting to reform the refugee recognition law, in order to make it more humane. Since 2012, we have been part of the Refugee Forum, where we work together with other organisations who support refugees. This means that, along with providing support for refugees directly, we're also engaged in attempting to reform the law. We're also actively engaging in research and study.
  • Attended meetings of the Refugee Forum (in Tokyo)
  • Attended meetings of the Osaka Lawyer Network for Refugees.
  • Attended 7 events and lectures concerning refugees.
  • Issued 5 statements and opinions:
    January: Issued an objection to the forced deportation of refugees via charter plane.
    March: Issued an request that the planned transfer of a refugee from the Osaka Immigration Bureau to the Omura detention centre be cancelled, and appealed for his provisional release.
    April: Issued an appeal on human rights grounds to the Osaka Bar Association, protesting against a refugee's transfer from the Osaka Immigration Bureau to the Omura detention centre.
    July: Issued a public comment on the 5th Immigration Control Basic Plan.
    August: Issued an objection to Japan's new security policy.
[RAFIQ Management; Membership Increases etc.]

While we continue to provide legal and lifestyle support, the structures and funding that allow us to do so are becoming increasingly important. There are not many other organisations which support refugees, and as such there are few examples to follow. However, we are committed to improving our organisation.
  • Members (Fee-Paying): Increased from 36 to 48. 18 new members.
  • A monthly operational meeting is held, in which we decide on our activities for the month. There is also a monthly Debriefing Meeting.
  • The Debriefing Meeting was previously known as the Regular Meeting. The name has changed, but the content hasn't, which means there are no additional participants.
  • We have updated our leaflets to better represent the image of "creating a town where we co-exist with refugees!"

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  Planned Activities September 2015 - August 2016


Expected Issues Involving Refugees

It seems that Japan's stance regarding the acceptance of refugees is set to become increasingly problematic as refugee numbers increase globally. We hope that as the public's awareness of the issue grows, Japan's policy of non-acceptance will become clear, and that more and more people will become compelled to work with organisations that call for a humane refugee policy.

From this year onwards, Alternatives to Detention (ATD) will be used with regards to refugees applying for asylum at Kansai airport. RAFIQ will offer our support to refugees who are dealt with using ATD. This is a new form of support for us, and as such the developments need to be followed closely. Kansai airport have also agreed to put up posters for the Refugee Forum. We will be paying close attention to see whether this leads to an increase in asylum applications at Kansai airport.

One of RAFIQ's aims is to provide comprehensive legal support for refugees. We also want to make it possible for volunteers to help refugees where possible. In order to do so, we need to consider ways of increasing our membership and funding.

RAFIQ's Planned Activities for this Period

[Legal Support]

Last year, we supported three refugees whose cases went to court. This is just part of the support we provide for refugees as we seek to have their asylum applications accepted.

<Support During the Application Process>
  • We will support refugees' applications, from the initial application itself to the final stage, where their case goes to court.
  • We will speak to the Osaka Bar Association on the phone, and consult with them in order to assign lawyers to refugees. We will also attend refugees' meetings with their lawyers and follow their cases closely.
  • We will help refugees and their lawyers to search for evidence to support their case, and translate these materials where necessary. We will aim to increase our efforts in this field by improving the translation and interpretation skills of our members and volunteers.
  • We will discuss with the Refugee Forum and the Japan Lawyers Network for Refugees how best to deal with refugees who are subject to ATD.
<Provisional Release / Immigration Bureau Support>

There are not many people at the Immigration Bureau who require our support, but we will continue to support them.
  • We will visit the Osaka Immigration Bureau on a monthly basis, and we will make additional visits if necessary
  • Long-term detainees are likely to be transferred to Omura, so we will liaise with supporters in Omura.
  • Regardless of whether we are supporting them or not, we will meet with refugees and detainees as necessary, whenever they wish to meet us.
  • We will engage with issues concerning treatment at detention centres, forced deportation, etc.
[Lifestyle Support]

For the first time this year, we will provide lifestyle support for refugees subject to ATD.
  • Our lifestyle support will continue to be focused around our three shelters. We will also cooperate with the Minna no Ie group and the Amanto group in order to offer lifestyle support for refugees.
  • Our support will be focused on refugees who've been provisionally released, and refugees who've just entered the country and therefore do not have the right to work.
  • We will continue to work with Foodbank Osaka and the Saiseikai Hospital.
  • We will provide education and employment support for refugees who desire it.
  • The number of refugees in Kanto is increasing, and the funding for our shelters runs out in December. We must therefore think about our funding. We will apply for more subsidies.
  • We need to consider how to pay for refugees' lifestyle costs. We will apply for more subsidies.
[Educating the Public]

Awareness of refugees is increasing. Through various public education initiatives, involving our members and volunteers, we can help to support this increased awareness.
  • We will continue to present our regular lecture, "Let's Know More About Refugees", on the third Saturday of each month. We will also host an introductory meeting for volunteers, who wish to learn more.
  • We will continue to present our lecture "What is the Immigration Bureau?" to those who choose to attend our regular visits to the Immigration Bureau on the 2nd Tuesday of each month.
  • We will update our introductory textbooks. In particular, the textbook on detention centres refers to the old Western Japan Immigration Centre, so it will need to be completely overhauled.
  • We will continue to publish refugee-related information on our home page, our Twitter account, our mail magazine and our mail news service.
  • We will continue to produce English pages to make access from overseas easier.
  • We will create a Facebook site.
  • We will set up a gathering for volunteers. We will follow through on volunteers' ideas for citizens in general.
  • We will plan events and study meetings for refugee-related issues.
  • We will publicise our guest lectures, and will train tutors.
  • We will continue to do anything else that we can to educate the public about refugee related matters.
[Policy Proposals / Research / Study etc.]

We will get involved in initiatives to bring about legal reform as well as practical benefits for refugees.
  • We will co-operate with the Refugee Forum in their attempts to reform the refugee recognition laws. We will co-operate with attempts to create a more humane refugee law.
  • We will participate in lecture events and research events relating to refugees.
  • We will make RAFIQ's opinions known whenever necessary.
  • We will continue to co-operate with the Refugee Forum, the Japan Lawyers Network for Refugees, the Osaka Lawyers Network for Refugees, the Japan Association for Refugees, Door-to-Door Asylum Nagoya, the UNHCR's representative in Japan, and more.
[RAFIQ's Operations and Growth]

While we continue to provide legal and lifestyle support, the structures and funding that allow us to do so are becoming increasingly important. In order to support our activities, we need more members. We would like to aim for 100 members.
  • We will create a set of rules.
  • We will be more proactive in asking for donations and in recruiting fee-paying members
  • We will consider all sorts of new means of funding.
  • We will decide on our activities at our monthly committee meetings. The minutes of these meetings will be distributed via email.
  • The current mailing list will be updated. A new mailing list that can be used by new members will be created.
  • We will continue to publish a monthly mail magazine, reporting on our activities.
  • We will stop having a monthly report meeting for members. We will make appropriate plans each month instead.
  • We will work towards creating a system which supports full time staff.

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RAFIQ JAPAN (The Network aiming at the Coexistence with the Refugees in Japan)
Nanmin-House 4-9-13 HigashiMikuni Yodogawa-ku Osaka-shi, 532-0002
TEL:06-6335-4440 / mailto: rafiqtomodati@yahoo.co.jp

http://rafiq.jp/eng/

Copyright of all contents (except for the part) will belong to their relationship and their RAFIQ.