|2015: December November June May April March February January
In December 2015 No. 128
- Junpei Yamamura to Give a Talk Marking the Publication of What Japan and
the World can Learn from Refugees
Dr. Junpei Yamamura will return to Japan for the end of the year. RAFIQ
will take this opportunity to talk to him about immigration policy and
refugee issues. In particular, we'd like him to talk about the book that
he published last month. We appreciate that the end of the year is a busy
time, but we would really appreciate your participation.
(Please feel free to share the following details
|"A Talk by Junpei Yamamura to Mark the Publication of What Japan and
the World can Learn from Refugees"
Dr. Junpei Yamamura published What Japan and the World can Learn from Refugees
on the 30th of October 2015. We have invited him to give a talk to mark
the publication of this book.
Junpei Yamamura is a doctor, working in Yokohama. Since 2000, he has been
involved with the medical care of immigrants and refugees in Japan. This
book describes some of the experiences Dr. Yamamura has had while dealing
with refugees over the course of many years.
The last Sunday of the year is sure to be a busy time, but we would be
delighted if you could join us to listen to Dr. Yamamura discussing his
Date and Time: 27th December 2015 (Sunday) 14:00-16:00
Location: Crosspal Takatsuki (Takatsuki Citizens Cultural Exchange Centre)
3F Conference Room
Cost: 800yen (500yen for RAFIQ members and students)
There are over 50 million refugees in the world, and yet Japan accepts
almost none. Dr. Yamamura's book discusses this current state of affairs
and the problems it entails, while also introducing us to the lives of
some of the refugees who already live here among us. What Japan and the
World can Learn from Refugees is a book that will teach us a lot, and will
make us think about what "support" really means. (Published by
- Another Deportation by Chartered Plane? 22 Bangladeshis Believed Deported
It seems that another mass deportation took place on the 25th of November
2015. This time, 22 Bangladeshis were deported. This would be the fourth
such mass deportation, following the deportation of 75 Filipinos in July
2013, 50 Thai people in December 2013, and 26 Sri Lankans and 6 Vietnamese
in December 2014.
There were many asylum applicants among the Sri Lankans and Vietnamese
people deported in December 2014. Five of these people were deported from
Kansai, and so RAFIQ lodged an objection via the Osaka Immigration Bureau.
It seems that a number of asylum seekers were deported this time as well.
None of the deportees appear to have come from Kansai.
We do not think that mass forced deportation of foreigners who have made
a life for themselves in Japan is acceptable, even if they have overstayed
their visas. If these people must be deported, then they must be given
time to prepare for a return to their country of origin. Furthermore, if
someone who has applied for asylum is to be deported, then some consideration
must be given to their asylum application, even if the application was
unsuccessful. Simply not being accepted as a refugee does not mean that
one is not a refugee. Deporting such people is a violation of the Non-Refoulement
Principle, which dictates that asylum seekers must not be deported to their
country of origin, where they may face persecution. However, the Basic
Plan for Immigration Control (5th Edition) notes that chartered aircraft
may be used for mass deportations.
Minister of Justice Mitsuhide Iwaki touched upon the issue of mass deportations
in a press conference following a cabinet meeting on November 27th 2015.
He said that deporting many people simultaneously was cost-effective. He
also said that if those who resisted deportation were to attempt to prevent
their deportation by causing trouble in the cabin, they would not be taken
off the flight, since chartered flight deportation was known to be a safe
and effective method.
Reuters have noted that an asylum seeker it had previously interviewed
was among those deported. The Japan Times also has an interview with one
of the deported people: here
- We Went to Court to Revoke a Deportation Orders: A Discretionary Exception
RAFIQ are currently supporting an Iranian refugee who faced persecution
after converting from Islam to Christianity. His asylum application was
denied, and so we are supporting him as he goes to court to attempt to
overturn this decision. At the same time, we attempted to revoke a deportation
order issued in his name. Once a deportation order has been issued, the
Immigration Bureau are able to act upon it. Repatriating people who have
applied for asylum is a violation of the Non-Refoulement Principle.
Our legal action was unsuccessful, and the high court did not revoke the
deportation order. However, since the refugee in question would be deported
to Iran, where there is a high risk that he would face the death penalty,
on the 27th of November a discretionary exception was made to prevent him
from being deported. This is an unprecedented step, and we consider it
a significant legal victory. Despite this, however, the deportation order
remains active. As such on December 11th, we appealed once again for it
to be revoked, this time to the Supreme Court. We expect to be able to
declare a total legal victory in this case.
- RAFIQ Needs Your Help!
We're Always Looking for Supporters and Volunteers!
RAFIQ is always looking for new supporters and volunteers to help our efforts.
Donations Always Welcome!
We are always grateful for any donations made. We will endeavour to make
the best possible use of any money received.
Please send donations to the following bank account:
|Via Post Office Bank (Yuucho):
Branch Number: 438
Account Number: 6677668
Account Name: RAFIQ
Volunteer With Us!
Please get in touch if you'd like to volunteer with RAFIQ! (Contact details
below.) Why not start by coming to one of our lectures?
Request a Guest Lecture
We are always happy to give guest lectures to spread the word about refugees
in Japan. We can give lectures to small groups, and can attend universities
and other institutions.
Become a Member
RAFIQ relies on membership fees in order to operate, so please become a
member! Get to know more about the world though meeting refugees, and make
the most of your ideas!
Please get in touch if you'd like to become a member!
|Annual Membership Fees (From September - August)
*Members enjoy discounted rates at some events.
Group Membership: 5,000yen
Supporting Member: 10,000yen
Address: 569-0078 Takatsuki-shi, Ootemachi 6-24
In November 2015 No. 127
- Over 5,000 Asylum Applications Already in 2015
On the 29th of October, the Asahi Shinbun published an article stating
that there had been 5,500 asylum applications made in Japan by mid-October.
This means that 2015 has already seen more asylum applications than any
other year on record, and that the total number of applications for the
whole year may exceed 7,000.
There were 5,000 asylum applications in 2014. The number for 2015 looks
set to be much higher than this. This year's increased figure is no doubt
an indicator that there are more and more regions of the world that are
becoming effectively uninhabitable.
How many of these applications will be accepted? Not many, judging by the
past few years. Most of the refugees we support have their applications
rejected. Furthermore, hardly anyone is given permission to stay because
of human rights considerations either.
If Japan does not change its refugee recognition system and proves incapable
of protecting human rights, then criticism from the rest of the world is
- Osaka Prefecture Establishes Guidelines for Creating a Society Without
On the 30th of October, Osaka prefecture established guidelines for creating
a society without discrimination. RAFIQ attended the hearing which took
place as the guidelines were established.
Refugees were not mentioned directly. However, article 14 of the Japanese
constitution, which holds that "all of the people are equal under
the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or
social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin"
was mentioned, and the issue of how day-to-day discrimination and the idea
of a sense of discrimination is dealt with in courts was introduced.
It is surely significant that a Japanese local government has decided to
establish guidelines relating to human rights at a time like this.
The gist of the guidelines are as follows:
1) When the actions of an employer lead to a court case in which they are
deemed illegal, the judgement will be made as easy to understand as possible.
Furthermore, such cases will be used as examples of how illegal discrimination
is handled. This will encourage understanding and action among the public
and businesses with regards to the elimination of discrimination, with
the aim of preventing discrimination before it happens.
2) Consultation services, including a human rights consultation service,
will be established by Osaka prefecture and various local government bodies.
These services will introduce people to Alternative Dispute Resolution
(ADR) bodies, and will give personalised advice on how to deal with individual
In June 2015 No.122
- World Refugee Day Events around Japan
We are informing you about World Refugee Day Events that will take place
around Japan after June,15.
There is also detailed information about events according to its location
and date on this web page devoted to World Refugee Day.
Please find a time to visit and learn more about Refugee issues.
For further information, please contact to the local organisers.
Meal for Refugees
Refugee Workshop 2015
- Kwansei Gakuin University 6/15-19 Nishinomiya Uegahara Campus (Kobe Sanda
- Meiji University 6/15-19、6/22-26 Izumi, Surugadai, Nakano Campus
- International Christian University 6/1-19(Mon, Wed, Fri)
- Ritsumeikan University 6/8-12
- University of the Sacred Heart 6/22-27
Nanmin SHOW -6.20-
Date：June, 10 2015 (Wed) - July, 22 (Wed)
Every second Wednesday 18:30 - 20:00
Location：Kobe city, Youth Center, Seminar room(Kobe-shi, Roudou-kaikan
Participants：40 Free of charge(Reservation in advance)
Organisers：Foundation for the Welfare and Education of the Asian People,
Refugee Assistance Headquaters、Young Men's Christian Association KOBE YMCA
UNHCR/ Japan-Platform Co-Organised Symposium
Date：June, 20 2015 (Sat) 12：00 - 17:00
Location：Ritsumeikan University, Kinugasa Campus Ryoyukan Hall B1 floor,
Program：Meal for Refugees (M4R) Menu degustation/ Try-on of traditional
clothes of Refugee's country of origin/ Workshop/ Movie
To Apply for the tickets：http://www.kokuchpro.com/event/refugees_620/
Organisers：Kwansei Gakuin University J-FUN Youth、Meal for Refugees(M4R)、Ritsumeikan
Contact：Nanmin SHOW - 6.20 - Executive Committee firstname.lastname@example.org
"Syria Crisis: It could be me, it could be you ‐What we can do"
The 10th anniversary of Seisen University Volunteer Center World Refugee
Date：19 June 2015 (Fri), 14:00-17:00 (Registration 13:30)
Location：U Thant International Conference Hall, United Nations University
Organisers：United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representation
in Japan / Japan-Platform (JPF)
Supporter: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, United Nations Office
for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP) (TBC)
Charge：Free(Reservation in advance)
What can we do as "global citizens" - Our multicultural coexistence
- Let's learn, think and connect
Date：6.20.2015 (Sat) 14：00 - 17：00
Multinational Cultural Festival 2015@Nakano
Location：Seisen University Auditorium http://www.seisen-u.ac.jp/access/index.php
Information：Seisen University Volunteer Center email@example.com
Organisers：Seisen University Volunteer Center / Global Citizen Faculty
Partners：Tokyo International Catholic Center / Arusha/Caritas Japan, Capital
Catholic University(Sirayuri University / Sophia University / University
of the Sacred Heart / Seisen University / Tokyo Junshin Women's College)
Sponsors：UNHCR / Japan Association for Refugees(JAR) / Forum for Refugees
Japan (FRJ) / Association for Aid and Relief Japan(AAR Japan) / Support
21 Social Welfare Foundation
Introductory lecture on refugees
Date：June, 21 2015 (Sun) 12:00 -
Location：Tokyo, The Square in front of the North Exit of Nakano Station
(30 sec walk from the North Exit, in the direction of Nakano Sun Plaza)
Organisers：Executive Committee of Multiple citizenship Festival
Date：June, 24 2015 (Wed) 18:15-19：45 (Opening 17：50)
Location：Meiji University Izumi Campus, Library Hall
Program：M4R representative, Thean Shankai will give a talk about his personal
experience and the process of organizing M4R
- Movie release in a support for Nepal Earthquake "OLO, The boy from
In a support of the Earthquake that occurred in Nepal on April, 25, RAFIQ
organized a movie release meeting.
25% of the collected money were donated to UNHCR、50% - to a local Radio
station in Nepal, and 25% - to a support of mountainous villages in Nepal.
The Movie "Olo", which was also shown at UNHCR Refugee Film Festival2012,
is a story of a boy who fled from Tibet at the age of six. (Director Hisaya
Iwasa, 2012, 108 min.)
19:00 - 22th 23th 25th 28th 29th 30th
14:00 - 24th 26th 27th
; After the evening session we are holding talks about Nepal and Nepali
Location：Salon De AManTo (Osaka-shi, Kita-ku, Nakazaki Nishi 1-1-18)
Organisers：RAFIQ (The Network aiming at the Coexistence with the Refugees
in Japan), Neo Nanmin Cafe Network, Amanto Genki-todoke group
Sponsors：P782Project、Sukoburo Kobo Co.
FAX：072-684-0231 MAIL： firstname.lastname@example.org
- 5/30 we participated in "The current state of Refugee support in Japan
- Looking into Syrian case - " Seminar
We are sharing our impression of the seminar「The current state of Refugee
support in Japan - Looking into Syrian case - 」which was held in Tokyo
Office of Amnesty International on May, 30 from 16-00 - 18-00.
It is a pity that there was not given an explanation of the domestic situation
in Syria or of the policies towards Syrian refugees in other countries.
||Tada Susumu (Japan Association for Refugees (JAR) Support Department)
Ishikawa Mieko (Forum for Refugees Japan (FRJ) Director)
||Amnesty International Japan (Host Yamaguchi Kaoru)
The lecture given by Tada Susumu mainly focused on explaining the Japanese
policies towards refugees and its current state, while lecture by Ishikawa
Mieko was about FRJ objectives and initiatives. Down below I will mainly
concentrate on issues of Syria.
In 2014, 5000 refuge applied for asylum in Japan, but only 11 of them were
recognised as refugee.
In case of Syrian asylum seekers, only 3 out of 61 applicants were granted
the refugee status (for references：The overall number of Syrian refugees
is 4 million people). Out of the rest 58 people, 57 were granted a special
residency status on humanitarian grounds (one apparently had a special
situation and didn't get that status).
Furthermore, 4 Syrian refugees, who got the special residency status on
humanitarian grounds, filed a lawsuit seeking a revocation of the denial
of refugee status recognition. On June, 16 they will have their first hearing
(11:30 -, Tokyo district Court N.703)
A recognition of a refugee status in Japan is an extremely difficult and
long process. From the initial application that requires a submitting of
numerous documents till the result announcement it may take a long time.
(In general it takes about 3 years from the moment of application till
the result of appellation)
For example the reason for a denial in refugee status recognition for one
of the Syrian refugees was stated as: "The applicant claims that the
government in the country doesn't function and security situation is worsening.
But it is nothing more than just a general situation, and doesn't apply
to the definition of refugee as it is determined by The Convention".
However, Japanese government continues to state that it doesn't repatriate
Syrian refugees back to Syria.
Special residency status on humanitarian grounds is a one year visa for
designated activities. If you compare this with the case when your status
as refugee is recognised there are following demerits:
(1)Family reunification is difficult, (2)Legal status is unstable, (3)Cannot
acquire refuge passport (cannot travel abroad), (4)Cannot participate in
the Settlement Support Program.
Judy Yousef is the rare example of those who succeeded in bringing their
family to Japan. This is the Interview that he gave to Amnesty International:
------- Some time ago I started to participate into anti-government demonstrations.
That made me a target of a police surveillance, and after paying 15000
dollars to a broker who I get in touch with through a friend, I fled the
country. I wanted to go to UK where my brother lived, but the broker arranged
going to Japan. Although it was not what I expected, at that point I just
had to flee Syria. In July of 2012 I came to Japan. The immigration worker
was kind and polite, so I felt safe. Now I do not think about going to
UK anymore. I like it here in Japan. I want to bring here my wife and children
who are still leaving in a refugee camp in Kurdish area of Iraq.
Judy was not recognised as refugee, and his appellation was denied, but
he got a special residency status on humanitarian grounds. Although as
a rule as a rule it is difficult to bring your family with that status,
with a help of different support groups I was allowed to reunite with my
family. And on January, 24 we met again after two and a half years apart.
We can assume that Judy probably was granted this permission because he
But we strongly believe that family reunification should be allowed to
anyone regardless of his country of origin.
In May 2015 No.121
- First recognition of a Nepali refugee
On April, 24 a married couple from Nepal were recognized as refugees. As
members of a political party, they were under the threat of possible prosecution
by opposing party in case they returned to Nepal. Given this circumstances,
after filing an objection and the following examination by councilors,
they were recognized as refugee.
Up until now Japan didn't recognize refugee status in cases of a possible
prosecution by government, or in similar cases of political opposition
between parties. That makes this event even more meaningful.
Again, although natural, the fact that the result of a councilors examination
hasn't been ruled out by the Minister of Justice makes it an important
- UNHCR representative for Japan, Obi Naoko is a guest at NHK program, talking
about what can be done for the support of Syrian refugees
On April, 28 UNHCR representative for Japan, Obi Naoko, came as a guest
to NHK program "Opinions and discussions" and discussed what
is necessary for the support of Syrian refugees.
This article was also published at NHK blog and we would like to share
it with you.
Japan has donated more than 5 hundred million dollars to UNHCR. However,
Japanese government doesn't recognize refugees seeking asylum in Japan,
and furthermore has avoided a direct support of refugees in neighboring
and other countries. UNHCR as well has been taking a position of silent
observer without issuing any statements concerning refugee issue in Japan.
Civil war in Syria, which is a three way struggle between Bashar Al-Assad
regime (Syrian Armed Forces), Oppositional forces (Free Syrian Army etc.)
and extremist movements as ISIS, continues to take lives of Syrian people
and forces them to seek an asylum in different countries with a help of
At the same time with the ISIS expansion there are refugees fleeing Middle
East and North Africa as well. However in the middle of this crisis, Japan
has given a refugee status only to 3 out of 60 Syrian asylum seekers. Many
of them have been granted only a residency status on humanitarian grounds.
Obi Naoko will discuss these issues as a main speaker at World Refugee
Day in Kansai Assembly on June, 28.
Here is the recap of her interview.
|...Although Syria seems as a far country that has no ties with Japan, in
reality there are few hundred Syrians living in Japan. Out of those who
originally came to Japan as exchange students or on business, there are
people who cannot go back home because of the ongoing Civil war. Some Syrian
students are struggling after their scholarships by Syrian government were
suddenly suspended. Although many people who applied for a refugee status
have been granted a special permission for residency on humanitarian grounds,
because they were not recognized as refugee, they cannot receive language
or career support necessary for integration into Japanese society. Again
because they face numerous difficulties with the procedures when they want
to bring their families left in a conflict torn country, they live everyday
worrying about their family's safety.
When will peace finally come to Syria? According to the recent statistics,
17 years is the average time that takes for a refugee to stop being refugee.
Probably many of us tend to think that there is little we can do in order
to improve this situation. But a support of refugees is not something that
is done only by those working in a field of humanitarian support. There
are many ways of support available at your municipality, workplace or school.
For example as a student one can help children with studying, as a medical
worker - provide a treatment in Japan for children who were injured but
do not receive necessary medical care in countries neighboring to Syria.
You can also provide a job hunting support for Syrians residing in Japan.
In fact there are companies that provide internship opportunities to refugees
as a part of the CSR (Corporate social responsibility) initiative.
We can also help to provide scholarships to refugee students or create
a community in a city with refugee residents in order to provide them with
useful information about city life etc.
In April 2015 No. 120
- It's Happening Again this Year! "World Refugee Day's Western Japan
World Refugee Day is observed on June 20th each year, a date determined
by the United Nations. This year will be the 10th year that we have held
an assembly, spreading the message that there are refugees in Japan who
are seeking our protection, drawing attention to their situation, and calling
for improvements in the way Japan deals with asylum seekers. This year,
we'd like everyone to join us in looking back over the past 10 years, and
reaffirming our commitment to fulfilling our goals.
The time and location of our assembly has now been decided ? be sure to
save the date!
|2015 World Refugee Day in Western Japan
- Date & Time: Sunday 28th June, 13:00-16:30
Location: Osaka University Nakanoshima Center 10th Floor, Saji Keizo Memorial
(Zip code)530-0005 Osaka City, Nakanoshima 4-3-53
- A lecture by Naoko Obi, an UNHCR legal representative in Japan: "The
UN's Efforts to Deal with Refugees All Over the World" (Provisional
Case Studies as Described by Refugees Themselves
Explanations of Court Cases for Refugees
Reports etc. on the Efforts of NGOs who Support Refugees
Photo Exhibitions, NGO Stalls etc.
Organised by: World Refugee Day 2015 Western Japan Action Committee
In Conjunction With: GLOCOL (Osaka University Global Action Centre)
With Support From: Amnesty International Japan, FRJ (Forum for Refugees Japan), Japan Lawyers
Network for Refugees (JLNR)
And Assistance From: Nanmin Now!
Contact Details: RAFIQ (The Network that Promotes Co-Existence with Refugees in Japan),
Osaka-fu, Takatsuki-shi, Otemachi 6-24 / Fax: 072-684-0231 Mail: email@example.com
Brand new flyers will be published towards the end of April.
- We Lodged a Petition to the Osaka Bar Association in Relation to the Transfer
of an African Refugee from Osaka to Omura. We Believe that his Human Rights
Since summer 2014, RAFIQ has been in contact with an African refugee who
had been detained in the Osaka Immigration Bureau. We visited him at the
bureau, and supported his application for provisional release. On the 12th
of March, this refugee was transferred to Omura. We lodged a formal objection
to this transfer.
Despite knowing that this refugee was in poor health, the Immigration Bureau
refused to grant him provisional release, instead transferring him all
the way to Nagasaki.
As a result of this decision, as well as a number of other factors, on
the 2nd of April we lodged a petition to the Osaka Bar Association on human
|The Main Points of the Petition:
(NOTE: The petitioners in this case were RAFIQ and the refugee in question,
Mr. J. The petition was directed at the people in charge of provisional
release and detainee transfers at the Osaka Immigration Bureau.)
Our petition was lodged on human rights grounds, and contained four demands,
made from the perspective of trying to protect those who apply for refugee
- The transfer of Mr. J from Osaka to Omura (which took place on the 12th
of March 2015) should be reconsidered. Mr. J should be brought back to
- In future, the recipients of this petition should do their utmost to ensure
that detainees in Immigration Bureau facilities have the opportunity to
interact with friends, family, supporters, representatives etc., either
via visits to the detention facilities, or via other means. They should
not transfer detainees to facilities where such interactions would be difficult
or impossible for them.
- The recipients of this petition should reconsider their decision to deny
Mr. J a provisional release (the decision was made on the 14th of January
2015). He should be granted provisional release.
- The recipients of this petition should respect the report produced by the
Ministry of Justice in November 2010, based on an agreement with the Japanese
Bar Association. If lawyers indicate a willingness to fulfil obligatory
appearances (e.g. by presenting a petition for assistance to the manager
of an immigration detention centre), then whenever a decision is made on
a request for provisional release, these decisions must be evaluated appropriately
and proactively, and the reasons behind the decisions must be provided.
Following Mr. J's transfer to Omura, he has been visited by some local
people. It seems that, after arriving in Omura, Mr. J collapsed and spent
a night in hospital. He was still in a wheelchair with his legs outstretched
in front of him when the visit took place.
He was transferred to Omura in a small car, and was handcuffed for the
entire journey. It therefore seems that he might be suffering from something
similar to Economy Class Syndrome. In his letters to RAFIQ, Mr. J has complained
of back pains.
Mr. J was also taken to an external hospital after collapsing while he
was detained at the Osaka Immigration Bureau. He wouldn't tell us the name
of the hospital, however, and his medical records cannot be released at
We remain in contact with a group of people in Omura who are visiting the
detention centre on a regular basis, and we are working with them to provide
support for Mr. J.
- In Newspapers and Elsewhere, Increasing Demands for Refugees to be Protected
On the 11th of March, the Ministry of Justice announced the number of refugees
who applied for asylum in Japan in 2014. 5000 applications were made, of
which 11 were accepted. 6 were accepted at the first stage. This is an
exceptionally low number for a country that is a signatory of the Convention
Relating to the Status of Refugees.
In response to these figures, a number of articles and editorials were
published in the media, recognising the need for refugees to be accepted
in Japan. Links to some of these articles are listed below. We hope that
these help to bring about an increasing demand from the people of Japan
for refugees to be protected.
- A Report on Alternatives to Detention (ATD)
A pilot scheme took place in 2012-2014, seeking to find an alternative
way of dealing with asylum seekers who arrive in Japanese airports without
the right to enter or remain in the country. Most of these asylum seekers
are currently detained in immigration centres.
The Forum for Refugees in Japan, an organisation with which RAFIQ is affiliated,
have been assisting with this pilot scheme. They published a report on
the 11th of March.
There have only been a few cases so far. We hope, however, that there are
more cases in future, and that the scheme is expanded to Kansai Airport.
Introduction to the FRJ's Report:
Between April 2012 and March 2014, a pilot scheme took place, seeking to
secure accommodation for refugees who apply for asylum after arriving at
Japanese airports. This pilot scheme was based on a protocol signed on
the 10th of February 2012 by three parties: Ministry of Justice's Immigration
Bureau, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, and the Forum for Refugees
During the course of this scheme, the FRJ's role was to secure accommodation
(shelters) for asylum seekers, to provide legal support, and to ensure
that each asylum seeker had access to the social care, health, and educational
services that they require. In terms of providing assistance with the refugee
application process, we co-operated with the Japan Federation of Bar Associations
to provide the support required.
The three parties which collaborated on this pilot have now compiled and
published a report on the scheme.
Though the scheme was limited in terms of budget and personnel, it attracted
glowing review, both domestically and overseas. This is because it was
the first initiative in which the Ministry of Justice collaborated with
local citizens when working with asylum seekers.
The FRJ, in conjunction with our two partners would like to see the scheme
continued and facilitated further, as we continue our efforts to learn
more about how best to protect refugees.
The full report is available on the Ministry of Justice's website (in Japanese).
- "Creating a Sustainable Society - ESD Implementation Documents for
Young People" ? RAFIQ's Example
RAFIQ was featured in a collection of ESD implementation documents for
young people, concerning the creation of a sustainable society. The documents
were issued on the 10th of March by the Kansai International Exchange Organisation
Conference. We were really glad to see that RAFIQ's initiatives were considered
to be of practical use to young people. Many of those who are active within
RAFIQ are indeed young at heart.
The documents are free (shipping must be paid separately), so we hope that
people of all ages can enjoy reading them.
As the introduction to the documents states: "These are documents
intended to be studied by young people, students, and NPO staff, in order
to increase awareness of ESD (Education for Sustainable Development). We
hope they stimulate a great deal of activity among those who will build
the next generation."
For more details in ESD, please click here: (to Unesco.org)
In March 2015 No. 119
- 5000 Refugee Applications in 2014, 11 Refugees Accepted
On March 11th, the Ministry of Justice announced the number of refugee
applications made in Japan in 2014, and how many of these applications
were accepted. These figures break down as follows:
Applicants: 5,000 (From 73 countries)
Top Ten Countries of Origin for Applicants (No. of Applicants):
- Nepal (1,293)
Sri Lanka (485)
Applicants Recognised as Refugees: 11
(Six accepted at the first stage; Five at the second stage)
Applicants Appealing Their Decision: 2,533
Top Ten Countries of Origin for Appealing Applicants (No. of Appealing
- Nepal (653)
Sri Lanka (270)
Only 11 refugee applications were accepted at either the first or second
stage. This is a startlingly low figure when compared to other developed
countries, which recognise refugees in their thousands. What's more, the
number of refugee applications made is up to an all time high of 5,000,
an increase of 1,740 on the previous year.
Japan's Immigration Bureau puts this huge increase down to people abusing
the system, making fraudulent applications in order to come to Japan to
work. However, decisions about whether an applicant is really a refugee
or not must be made on a case-by-case basis. It is important that these
decisions are made carefully, and that the correct procedure is followed.
Snap judgments cannot be made based simply on an applicant's nationality,
or on their residence status in Japan. Furthermore, the authorities should
not use this increase as a justification for restricting applicants' ability
to work, or for further endangering their lifestyles.
For more details, please refer to the following statement, released by
the Japan Lawyer Network for Refugees:
"A Statement by on Refugee Recognition in 2014 and Other Issues"
(Released on 15th March 2015 by JLNR)
Here are some links to articles from foreign media outlets:
"Japan accepts just 11 asylum seekers from record 5,000 applying in 2014"
(Released on 11th March by Reuters via Worldbulletin）
"If You're a Refugee, Don't Even Bother With Japan"
(Released on 12th March by Reuters via The Star)
"Japan's Asylum Laws: No Entry"
(Released on 14th March by the Economist)
It must also be noted that, even when an appealing applicant is deemed
to be a genuine refugee by 2 of the 3 adjudication counsellors who examine
such appeals, their appeal is rejected. In the case of one man born in
Burma who was not granted residency on humanitarian grounds, the adjudication
counsellors decided to appeal to a court in Tokyo in order to have the
decision to refuse him refugee status quashed.
In 2013, seven people who were deemed to be genuine refugees by adjudication
counsellors had their applications ultimately rejected by the Minister
of Justice. (10 applicants were deemed to be genuine refugees by adjudication
counsellors in total. Of these, 7 were rejected.)
The adjudication counsellor system was brought in when the refugee recognition
law was reformed in 2004. Instead of being an independent body, people
of learning and experience are appointed by the Minister of Justice to
act as adjudication counsellors and examine each appeal in teams of three.
While the adjudication counsellors' opinions are nominally respected, in
2013 the Minister of Justice repeatedly ignored these opinions. This clearly
shows that the Ministry of Justice is entirely dominant over the refugee
recognition system, and this is a major problem.
"Adjudication Counsellors Claim the Rejection of a Genuine Refugee is Unjust;
They Go to Court; Questions Are Asked About the System" (Mainichi Shinbun, 14th February 2015)
"Refugee Recognition: Going to Court to Attempt to Quash the Rejection of
an Applicant from Myanmar" (Mainichi Shinbun, 18th February 2015)
- Another Detainee Transferred from the Osaka Immigration Bureau to Omura,
Another African refugee has been transferred from the Osaka Immigration
Bureau to the Omura Immigration Centre. The last time this happened, the
Eastern Japan Immigration Centre in Ibaraki was still operational. Since
the Eastern Japan Immigration Centre is closing in September, however,
this time the authorities had no reason to keep the transfer a secret.
RAFIQ has been visiting the African refugee in question since August 2014,
and supporting his efforts to secure provisional release. Despite these
efforts, however, he has not been provisionally released, and has instead
been transferred to Omura.
On the 13th of March, RAFIQ presented a formal objection to both the Osaka
Immigration Bureau and the Ministry of Justice, requesting that his transfer
to Omura be reconsidered, and appealing for him to be provisionally released: Click here...
- A Report From the Debriefing on the Recent Forced Repatriations and the
Situation in Sri Lanka (February 15th)
On the 18th of December 2014, 32 refugees (26 from Sri Lanka and 6 from
Vietnam) were forcibly deported using a chartered aircraft. RAFIQ had been
supporting one of the deported refugees. Refugees had also been deported
to the Philippines and Thailand in July and December 2013, respectively,
making this the third forcible deportation to have taken place. None of
the deportees from Osaka (including the one RAFIQ were supporting) were
being detained at the time of their deportation. This deportation was different
to the previous two instances in this regard.
In mid-January 2015, Dr. Junpei Yamamura (of Yokohama), who often speaks
at events where the problems of the Eastern Japan Immigration Bureau are
discussed, visited Sri Lanka to check up on the deportees. A debriefing
was held upon his return to Japan, where we were able to learn more about
the circumstances of the deportation, and the deportees' current condition.
Dr. Yamamura was able to meet five of the Sri Lankan deportees. All five
had applied for refugee status in Japan. If even one of those on board
was an applicant for refugee status, then this mass deportation was a violation
of the non-refoulment principle. It is possible that these applicants'
applications and their subsequent appeals were all rejected, but that the
applicants were not informed of this until the day of their deportation,
or the day before.
When an applicant's appeal is rejected, they need to think seriously about
whether to take the matter to court, and start looking for a lawyer. It
is clear that these deportees were robbed of the chance to take their cases
Dr. Yamamura also visited the Philippines after the first mass deportation
took place, and he discussed how this deportation had differed from that
one, and what we should do in cases such as these.
In February 2015 No. 118
- New RAFIQ Leaflets and Revised Texts for our Introductory Lectures on Refugees
The RAFIQ leaflets that we have been distributing up to now have been completely
revised. The section which introduces RAFIQ's activities now contains an"
index of refugee-supporting" which is based on the latest information,
and the leaflets have been designed to draw attention to our activities
in a number of fields. One particular change is that the "Index"
section now includes QR codes as well as web addresses, making it easier
for the pages to be opened with a smartphone or other mobile phone.
The textbooks used in our introductory lecture on refugees, "Let's
Know More About Refugees" (held on the third Saturday of each month
since the start of the year), have also undergone some revisions. We are
adding information about refugees to these textbooks on a regular basis.
- Proposals from UNHCR regarding Japan's Refugee Recognition System (January 30th)
On the 30th of January, UNHCR (the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees), published some written proposals regarding Japan's refugee
recognition system. This is the first time that UNHCR have made proposals
after looking into Japan's refugee recognition system in detail. In conjunction
with the recommendations put forward by the Advisory Committee on the 26th
of December, these proposals express a desire for Japan's refugee recognition
system to be reformed.
Release: Points of Consideration related to global and domestic refugee
and statelessness issues (UNHCR, January 30th 2015, PDF file)
- The Western Japan Immigration Centre is Closing in September
Towards the end of January, articles appeared in newspapers announcing
that the Western Japan Immigration Centre would close in September. Here
is the article from the January 26th edition of the Sankei Shinbun:
|Western Japan Immigration Centre to be Closed at the End of September;
A Decrease in the Number of Illegal Immigrants
On the 26th of January, it was announced that the Western Japan Immigration
Centre, in Ibaraki City, Osaka Prefecture, would be closed at the end of
September. The immigration centre is operated by the Ministry of Justice,
and is used to detain illegal immigrants. Its planned closure follows a
decrease in the number of illegal immigrants in Japan. The centre has a
capacity of 300, but as of the 25th of January, only 21 detainees were
being held there. These detainees will be moved to other detention facilities.
The Ministry of Justice are also proceeding with a review of how to use
their facilities going forward.
According to the centre, which was opened in 1995, there have been times
when it has operated at near capacity. Tougher immigration inspections
in recent years, however, have lead to a decrease in its number of detainees.
Apart from the centre in Osaka, there are two other immigration centres
in Japan (three in total). The Eastern Japan Immigration Centre is in Ushiku
City, Ibaraki Prefecture, while the Omura Immigration Centre is in Omura
City, Nagasaki Prefecture. According to the Ministry of Justice, there
were around 113,000 illegal immigrants in Japan in 2009. By 2014, however,
the number had fallen to around 59,000.
The closure of the Western Japan Immigration Centre has been rumoured for
a while. The women's block was closed in March last year.
The Western Japan Immigration Centre is a long-term detention facility.
Foreigners who cannot return to their countries of origin, such as those
who have applied for refugee status, are transferred to this facility from
the detention facilities of Immigration Bureaus all over western Japan:
from as far east as Shizuoka prefecture, and as far west as Yamaguchi prefecture.
One person who contacted RAFIQ had been detained at the Osaka Immigration
Bureau, but was transferred to Omura (Nagasaki Prefecture) for long-term
detention. This meant that supporters were unable to meet him face-to-face.
If refugee applicants are detained at the Western Japan Immigration Centre,
we are able to offer them support, and can assist them with procedures
that will lead to them being provisionally released. Regardless of the
fact that such people are now fewer in number, what is the Ministry of
Justice intending to do about people who cannot return to their countries
On the second Tuesday of each month, RAFIQ organises visits to the immigration
centre, in order to meet its detainees. We went as usual on the 10th of
February, and made inquiries regarding these issues. When we visited, there
were only around 10 detainees, and the person we had been planning to meet
had already been provisionally released.
Questions we would like to ask the management at the Western Japan Immigration
The staff members we spoke to said they didn't know what was going on,
but they did vocalise a desire not to be transferred to Omura. It is thought
that the Western Japan Immigration Centre will cease to operate as an immigration
facility this fiscal year (i.e. before the end of March). Between then
and its complete closure in September, it is thought that only procedures
relating to its closure will be taking place.
- - What will happen to the detainees currently being held at the centre?
- When the centre closes, there will be no long-term detention facility
on Honshu to the west of Shizuoka prefecture. What is going to happen to
long-term detainees in the future?
- How will the site of the Western Japan Immigration Centre be used?
- Will staff members be transferred etc.?
RAFIQ has been visiting detainees at the Western Japan Immigration Centre
since 2002, and we have made many requests for improvements to detention
The centre is close to a residential area, meaning that it is easy for
supporters to visit detainees.
It is probably unnecessary to find a replacement for the immigration centre,
but if the Western Japan Immigration Centre is being closed for economic
reasons, then the Omura centre should be closed as well.
RAFIQ is still intending to visit detainees at the Osaka Immigration Bureau
in March and beyond.
- We Attended an Event Entitled "How Should Immigration Detention Facilities
be Inspected? Learning from the Practices of British Inspectors"
On the 24th of January, two RAFIQ members attended an event entitled "How
Should Immigration Detention Facilities be Inspected? Learning from the
Practices of British Inspectors", organised by the Japan Federation
of Bar Associations.
At the event, two members of HMIP (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons)
spoke in detail about inspecting immigration facilities, and other such
Japan's Inspectorate of Immigration Detention Facilities (nyuukokusha shuuyoshoto
shisatsu iinkai) was established in 2009. Its main concern is the treatment
of detainees at immigration bureaus. In the UK, however, the inspectorate
also verifies whether detainees and deportees are suitable for detention
or deportation. They also sometimes accompany deportees as they are being
The talk took place just after we had visited the Osaka immigration bureau
to talk about the recent forced repatriations that had taken place in Japan,
and been deeply disappointed at the lack of response. As such, it was hard
not to become envious when listening about conditions in the UK, which
seemed dream-like in comparison. We did, however, get support for our feeling
that there was something strange about the Immigration Bureau's response.
Of course, things in the UK are far from ideal, but I do think that Japan
has to move towards the establishment of independent, power-wielding bodies
such as HMIP and the EU's Committee for the Prevention of Torture. (Tanaka's
Original Article: Immigration detention centers like prisons, UK inspectors say
|**About Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP)**
HMIP is an independent organisation that gives advice on how to improve
the conditions in various detention facilities. At the event, a Q&A
session was held, in which the guests from HMIP answered questions about
the organisation's regular inspections of prisons, immigration detention
facilities, and other detention facilities; spoke about the history of
the organisation; its powers; its inspection methods; and how it goes about
improving conditions and treatment of detainees at immigration detention
The inspectorate is composed of those with a legal background, academics,
medical professionals, former prison governors, and other such people.
When it inspects a facility, the four key points it considers are:
The two visitors from HMIP also referred to NPM (National Preventative
Mechanisms), as mentioned in the United Nation's OPCAT (the Optional Protocol
to the Convention Against Torture). (NMPs are measures taken within a state
to prevent and monitor the use of torture), and pointed out that HMIP has
powers related to detainees' human rights.
- - That the detainees, who are in a vulnerable position, remain safe throughout
their period of detention.
- That the detainees are treated with respect.
- That the detainees are able to take part in beneficial activities.
- That the detainees are prepared for a return to society, so that the
risk or re-offending is reduced.
- The Ministry of Justice's Announcement Concerning "Fake" Refugees
On the 4th and 5th of February, the media carried reports of an announcement
from the Ministry of Justice. The announcement said that a Nepalese man
who had brokered fake asylum applications for over 100 Nepalese refugees
had been identified and deported. The timing of this report makes one wonder
whether the MOJ is simply trying to lay the groundwork for its March announcement
of another pitifully low refugee acceptance rate.
- "A Nepalese Man Identified as Having Abused the Refugee Recognition
System, Instructing Others to Make False Applications" (Sankei Shinbun, 4th February)
- "False Refugee Applications. MOJ: They were 'Trying to Seem Suitable' (Yomiuri Shinbun, 6th February)
- 33 People from Myanmar make Refugee Applications after Fleeing their Place
of Training" (Yomiuri Shinbun, 7th Feburary)
In response to this event, Minister of Justice Yoko Kamikawa, said "we
will review whether applicants should have permission to work". She
also mentioned that a review of the entire system would be considered.
In cases with which RAFIQ have been directly involved, it takes over six
months for those who apply for refugee status while they have permission
to reside in Japan to be interviewed. They must then wait another 2-3 months
for the results of the interview. These periods should be guaranteed.
Japan doesn't have a specialist, independent body to deal with refugee
applications. As such, decisions regarding refugees are made by immigration
It is easy to claim that an applicant is making a fake application, but
it is very difficult to know whether the application is actually fake or
not. That is almost beside the point, however. The primary problem is the
number of refugees who are accepted in Japan. In 2013, only six were accepted.
The Ministry of Justice should not be focusing on "fake" applications.
It should be concerning itself with the fact that Japan does not have a
systems which help or support refugees.
The crisis involving ISIS has made "humanitarian aid" a hot topic.
But what about humanitarian aid within Japan? Or are we happy just to accept
foreign tourists and foreign workers to boost our economy? Surely we should
at least be thinking about these questions?
In January 2015 No. 117
- New Year Greetings
Happy New Year!
In 2014, over 4,500 asylum applications were made in Japan, up by over
1,000 from the previous year. Despite this increase, successful applications
are almost unheard of, and Japan's status as a country that's closed off
to refugees is becoming more entrenched. On the 18th of December 2014,
32 refugees from Sri Lanka and Vietnam were deported from Japan, including
one refugee whom RAFIQ had been supporting. In mid-January, we lodged an
objection to these deportations with the Osaka Immigration Bureau.
On the 26th of December, two reports were produced. One by the Immigration
Control Policy Council, which determines Japan's foreign policy, and one
by the Justice Ministry's Advisory Panel on Refugee Recognition. We think
that the main questions facing Japan are how to increase its low acceptance
rate for refugee applications, and how to establish clear criteria regarding
whether Japan should help people coming here for assistance. In these areas,
the content of the reports did not provide much hope.
RAFIQ supports people in Kansai who seek protection, and who are in the
most difficult of situations. People who enter Japan via Kansai airport,
not knowing anyone here; people who are detained in immigration centres;
asylum seekers whose asylum applications are rejected but who cannot return
to their home countries, and others in similar situations. We assist them
through the refugee recognition process, and support them in their daily
lives. We would appreciate your assistance and cooperation as we seek to
continue doing this throughout 2015.
RAFIQ Joint Representatives:
- The Advisory Panel on the Refugee Recognition System Published a Report;
The Immigration Control Policy Council then Published their Own Report
The advisory panel was convened in November 2013, following a proposal
from the Immigration Bureau. It operates under the governance of the Immigration
Control Policy Council, a consultative body attached to the Ministry of
Justice. The advisory panel's task has been to review the refugee recognition
system. After holding meetings twice monthly for over a year, the advisory
panel finally presented a report on its findings to the Immigration Control
Policy Council. After receiving this report, the Immigration Control Policy
Council then compiled its own report on immigration administration. The
Ministry of Justice published these reports online on the 26th of December.
(The links below are in Japanese only.)
The council's report is 66 pages long, while the advisory panel's report
runs to 28 pages.
The reports state that the problem with Japan's refugee recognition system
is that it cannot not provide protection for "real refugees".
However, the report does not contain any information relating to international
approaches to protecting refugees. Still, at least the debate about reforming
the Refugee Recognition Act has begun, and the fact that the report contains
some information relating to reforming the act is a sign of progress.
We hope that consultations regarding these issues will be widened even
further, incorporating the Ministry of Justice, various experts (both within
Japan and overseas), UNHCR, NGOs, and more. These consultations should
take place from a position where protecting refugees is the first priority.
We would also like a dedicated, independent refugee agency to be established,
eliminating discretionary decisions from the process.
We believe that, without a dedicated refugee agency, measures such as fast-tracked
recognition and preliminary screening are impossible. We hope that, rather
than issuing rights to remain on humanitarian grounds, Japan starts to
recognise an increasing number of refugees, in line with its duties as
a signatory of the refugee convention.
(Reference Material) Media Coverage on the Reality of Life for Asylum Seekers:
- Koko ni Chui! "Japan's Acceptance of Refugees" (NHK Commentary
Panel, 11th December 2014)
- "The Refugee Recognition System: A New Framework for Protection. Clarifying
the Right to Remain" (Mainichi Shimbun 11th December 2014)
- "A Rapid Rise in Asylum Seekers: Topping 4,000 for the First Time.
People are Waiting for Inspection…" (Asahi Shimbun 25th December 2014)
- "New Standards for Refugee Protection - Granting the Right to Remain
on Humanitarian Grounds - Proposals from the Ministry of Justice"
(Jiji Press, 26th December 2014)
- "Refugee Recognition: The Ministry of Justice are Revising the System.
More Clarity on the Right to Remain and on Those Who are Eligible"
(Mainichi Shimbun 27th December 2014)
- More Mass Deportations on Chartered Aircraft. 32 Sri Lankans and Vietnamese
Repatriated, Including Refugees
On the 18th of December, 32 people (26 Sri Lankans and 6 Vietnamese) were
forcibly repatriated on board a chartered aircraft. This is the third such
mass deportation, following similar incidents in July and December 2013.
This is the first time that the deportees have included asylum seekers,
however. This deportation goes against the principle of non-refoulment,
which states that those who are applying for asylum cannot be repatriated
to their country of origin.
Since RAFIQ was providing support for one of the Sri Lankan refugees who
was deported, we would like to present here a summary of events, as well
as the objection which we lodged on the 13th of January.
Summary of Events
On the 17th of December, RAFIQ heard that five people had been re-detained.
As such, we went to the Osaka Immigration Bureau on the afternoon of the
18th. We tried to have a meeting five refugees who had been re-detained,
but we were unable to do so. We didn't know what had happened to them.
They may have been transferred elsewhere, or provisionally released. The
reason given for their re-detention was incomprehensible: it was said that
they had been provisionally released for a long time. And yet there were
other deported refugees who had only been provisionally released for a
We encountered a person from other support groups, and learned that the
refugees had been deported using a chartered aircraft. We didn't think
they would be re-detained (which is bad enough), let alone deported.
It is worth noting that presidential elections were held in Sri Lanka on
the 8th of January, and that it is a country which witnesses violence every
time an election takes place. Some of those who were deported were seeking
asylum for political reasons, and we are very concerned about their safety.
What We Should Do Now
- Lodge objections with the Immigration Bureau and the Ministry of Justice.
- Try and get hold of as much information as possible about the situation
in Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
- The Ministry of Justice is planning further deportations using chartered
aircraft. As citizens, we should be concerned about this issue, and we
need to spread the word about it.
- We would like to try and contact as many of the deportees as possible.
- On the 28th of December, there was an academic conference with Dr. Yamamura,
concerning the death that took place in the Tokyo Immigration Centre in
November. In light of these events, we decided to hold a debriefing session
about the deportations at the same time.
- We presented our objection to the deportations to the Osaka Immigration
Bureau. (See below.)
- November 13th: A Speech by Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees,
Followed by a Q&A Session
On November 13th, a speech event and Q&A session with Antonio Guterres,
the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, was held at the International Conference
Room of the Diet building, Tokyo. Ayaka Izu, a RAFIQ member, attended the
event and provided a report for us.
In his speech, the High Commissioner made the following remarks regarding
Japan: "The policy towards foreigners is inhospitable, and goes against
the concept of Human Security. Improvements should be made with regards
to the rights that protect the dignity of children and women. With regards
to the refugee system, a stand-alone system should be created that is totally
independent. When it comes to stateless persons, progress needs to be made
in the legislative system, and Japan should ratify the relevant international
It is rare for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to speak critically
about the Japanese government. We hope that meetings such as this one helps
increase the number of politicians in parliament who have an understanding
of international standards regarding refugee recognition.
Mr. Guterres's Speech
References were made to the increasing numbers of refugees globally. In
particular, there are increasing numbers of refugees from middle-eastern
countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as from African
countries such as South Sudan and Somalia. Allusions were also made to
the fact that these increasing numbers sometimes caused domestic problems
within the countries that accept these refugees.
Mr. Gutteres expressed gratitude to Japan for the financial support it
has provided. However, he also criticised Japan's policy towards foreigners
as being inhospitable, and of going against the concept of Human Security.
He said that improvements should be made with regards to the rights that
protect the dignity of children and women in particular. With regards to
the refugee system, he said that a stand-alone system should be created
that is totally independent. Furthermore, with regards to stateless persons,
Mr. Gutteres indicated that progress needs to be made in the legislative
system, and Japan should ratify the relevant international treaties.
The Q&A Session
Question from an MP: "I'd like you to make a comment directed to the
Minister of Justice, regarding domestic issues within Japan."
Answer: "I am planning to have a meeting with the Minister of Justice
on the afternoon of the 13th, regarding matters of legislation, detention,
and so on."
Question from the Stateless Network NPO: "Could you comment on the
idea of having two separate bodies to deal with the issue of stateless
persons: the Immigration Bureau (Legal) and an Agency for Assigning a Nationality
Answer: "First of all, investigations should be made in order to clarify
where there are stateless people, and what their situation is. In the Netherlands,
the agency that deals with refugee recognition is also associated with
recognising stateless persons. This is because their law regarding the
system of protection for refugees has been revised accordingly. This is
an example that should be referred to."
A representative from a corporation (Involved in the Development and Supply
of Heat-Reducing Paint) asked how businesses could contribute to refugee
Gutteres's answer: "We'd like to use new technologies and network
to improve the harsh conditions in refugee camps. We've been supplying
new shelters from IKEA, which have proved extremely valuable for those
exposed to the harsh winters in Lebanon.
The strongest impression I was left with after attending this event with
High Commissioner Gutteres was that he had chosen the words in his speech
carefully, so that everything he said was harmless and inoffensive.
In particular, during the Q&A session, the Stateless Network gave an
explanation of the issue of stateless people in Japan that was frank and
easy to understand. The High Commissioner's response to this was far too
generic, I thought, which was a bit of a shame.
I rather naively thought that, in front of motivated MPs, NGO members and
other attendees, the High Commissioner would make a comment directed to
the Minister of Justice about Japan's refugee issues. What I got instead,
for better or worse, was a glimpse at what the role of international organisations
really is. (That is, although they are influential organisations, they
cannot do anything when confronted with a nation state.)
My impressions were not all negative, however. There were many things that
impressed me about Mr. Gutteres. He was faced with questions from participants
who all came from different perspectives: MPs, NGOs, even corporations.
He seemed to listen carefully to what everyone had to say, which made me
feel that, even as a member of an international body, he was trying to
solve the same problems as the other groups who had assembled there. What's
more, even though he chose his words carefully, he introduced some ideas
which seemed to make sense and made me think again about the situation
of the world. I learned a lot from his responses, which came from the point
of view of an international body.
With regards to the event as a whole, the fact that a speech and Q&A
session with the High Commissioner for Refugees had been arranged gave
encouragement to people with awareness of the same issues - even though
they may be active in different fields - to co-operate and co-ordinate
to a greater extent. This fact left me with a positive impression.
In particular, listening to what representatives of corporations had to
say made me realise that support came in all sorts of different forms,
and made me think that all these different forms have a contribution to
Overall, although it was obvious that UNHCR cannot get directly involved
in domestic issues, I felt that Mr. Gutteres shared with us the broad perspective
that only international bodies can have. Furthermore, since this was a
valuable opportunity to meet the High Commissioner, people from all sorts
of various fields attended, and I thought it was a really meaningful and
significant opportunity for the very latest information to be exchanged.
Mr. Aisawa, of the Diet's all-party parliamentary group relating to UNHCR
has indicated that he would like these meetings to take place on a regular
basis. I hope that another meeting and Q&A session is held next year.