|2016: November August July June May April March February January
In November 2016 No.139
- Special exhibition of refugees at Osaka Human Rights Museum （Liberty Osaka）
19 November 2016 - 18 March 2017
Opening Hours: Wednesday - Friday: 10:00-16:00 and Saturday - 13:00-17:00
During the period of exhibition, some related events will be held at the venue. Everyone is welcome!
- Organizers: RAFIQ, Osaka Human Rights Museum
- Supporters: The UNHCR Representation in Japan, Amnesty International Japan,
Refugee Assistance Headquarters (RHQ), and others
- Exhibition themes include:
- Who are refugees?
- Refugees in the world
- Refugees in Japan
- Growing support of refugees
- A tent, mosquito nets, nutritional supplement and other goods provided
by the UNHCR
- 2016 World Refugee Day
10 December 2016, 11:00-19:30
Location: Cafe Shuka and the neighborhood in Nakazaki-cho, Osaka
Organizers: Neo Nanmin-Cafe Network
RAFIQ supports this event.
- Decisions of the Nagoya High Court
A high court in Nagoya authorized refugee status for two Nepalese and one Ugandan woman, overturning lower court rulings that upheld the government's rejections of their claims. These decisions mostly follow the guideline of the UNHCR Handbook and Guidelines on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status. It is said that they are unprecedented decisions in Japan.
In August 2016 No.136
- Please Contribute to RAFIQ's Summer Fundraising Drive
Are you interested in helping RAFIQ support refugees in Japan? Do you wish
you could attend our events, or use your skills to help us, if only you
weren't so busy?
Well, there is a way for you to support RAFIQ even when you don't have
the time to do anything in person: by making a financial donation. Of course,
we hope that you'll also be able to help us in other ways as well, but
we understand that this is not always possible.
The number of asylum seekers in Japan is increasing rapidly. Japan's domestic
policy in this area is determined by the "Immigration Control and
Refugee Recognition Act". As its name suggests, this law is almost
exclusively concerned with the recognition (or non-recognition) of refugees.
If it weren't for organisations such as RAFIQ, refugees in Japan would
have no support at all. There is a particularly pressing need to provide
protection and support for those who are currently applying for refugee
It is nearly impossible for a refugee to be accepted in Japan without any
support or assistance with the process. RAFIQ is a small organisation,
but we aim to provide this support for those who need it.
Including those people for whom we are currently deciding whether or not
we can offer support, we support 16 refugees from Africa and 4 from Asia.
Most of these people do not have the right to work in Japan, either because
they are on provisional release from detention centres, or because they
applied for refugee status less than 6 months previously, and therefore
have a "Designated Activities" visa. People in this situation
are in urgent need of help.
Last year, one of the refugees we support was granted asylum, and was given
the right to reside in Japan for five years. Another refugee we support
was granted special permission to remain in Japan for one year on humanitarian
grounds. Successes such as these show that our efforts are making a difference.
We are currently in the process of preparing to open "Nanmin House"
(the name is provisional) in September. This will double as our offices
and as a shelter for refugees. We hope that it will become a base for supporting
asylum seekers in Osaka - in order to make this a reality, however, we
are in need of more money.
All your donations will go towards continuing our good work. Please show
your support for RAFIQ!
Please send donations to the following bank account:
Via Post Office Bank (Yuucho):
Branch Number: 438
Account Number: 6677668
Account Name: RAFIQ
- Over 5,000 Asylum Applications in the First Half of 2016 - and Only 4 Accepted!?
In last month's mail magazine, we reported the announcement in June that
there had been over 2,300 asylum applications in Japan in January-March
2016, and that only one of these had been accepted. Following a request
from the Asahi Shinbun newspaper, the Ministry of Justice has now announced
the figures for the entire first half of the year.
There were over 5,000 asylum applications in total, of which only four
were accepted. A further 33 people were granted special permission to remain
on humanitarian grounds.
According to the American Government's human rights report from April 2016:
"Responding to criticism of the government's high threshold for proof
in the adjudication of asylum applications, in September the Ministry of
Justice announced new operational guidelines for refugee and asylum adjudication
that stipulates that foreigners fleeing conflict in their country of origin
may be granted "shelter from conflict," if not refugee status."
We believe that this refers to the "special permission to remain on
human rights grounds, and we assume that this new definition applies mainly
to refugees from Syria. But why are these people not refugees? It also
defies belief that only 33 people of the 5,000 applications made were "fleeing
The government claims it is revising the implementation of the Refugee
Recognition Act. These latest figures suggest that nothing has changed,
however, and that it remains, in effect, a "Refugee Rejection Act".
The report refers to people who have fled from debt collectors, as though
this immediately disqualifies them, but perhaps the authorities should
ask why these people felt it necessary to escape in such a manner? For
example, if someone loses their job after engaging in anti-government activities,
they may have no choice but to take on unsustainable debts. Furthermore,
these debt collectors may be agents of the ruling party or president, and
the person in question may well be being targeted for their beliefs.
In cases such as these, it is important to build up a relationship of trust.
For an immigration officer with no knowledge of the applicant's country
of origin to decide their fate on the basis of a single "interrogation"
is very dangerous indeed.
From the Asahi Shinbun newspaper, August 11th:
|Huge Increase in Asylum Applications; 5,011 in the First Half of 2016,
Only 4 Accepted
The MOJ has revealed that 5,011 people applied for asylum in Japan in the
first 6 months of 2016, which suggests that the total for this year will
far exceed last year's 7,586 - the highest on record.
Despite the dramatic increase in the number of applications, however, only
four refugees were accepted during this period. The MOJ stated that they
"decided on each case based on the Refugee Convention, which determines
that those in fear of being persecuted for their ethnicity or religious
and political beliefs are to be recognised as refugees". 33 people
who came to Japan to flee conflict were not granted refugee status, but
were given special permission to remain on humanitarian grounds.
According to the MOJ, the country of origin which showed the most dramatic
increase in the number of applications was Indonesia. 969 Indonesian people
had already applied for asylum in Japan in 2015. There were also many applications
from the Philippines, more than the 299 made in 2015. The MOJ believes
that these increases are as a result of the relaxation of the visa requirements
for Japan for citizens of both countries. There were also a high number
of applications from other Asian countries, including repeated applications
from people who want to come and live and work in Japan.
The MOJ says that it has cracked down on those who make repeated applications
for reasons such as "escaping debt collectors" - saying that
these people cannot be recognised as refugees. They went on to say that
this will serve to make the system more efficient.
- A Refugee from Uganda Wins Her Appeal at the High Court
On the 28th of July, a refugee from Uganda won her appeal at the Nagoya
High Court, quashing the district court's decision to support the rejection
of her asylum application.
The Chunichi Shinbun newspaper reported on the matter.
As with many other African national, it is always very difficult to get
a clear picture of the situation in Uganda. However, it seems the high
court listened to what the refugee had to say, and made their decision
based on it. We hope that this is the first of many cases that are dealt
with in this way.
From the Chunichi Shinbun newspaper, July 29th:
|Rejection of a Ugandan Woman's Asylum Application Quashed at the Nagoya
On the 28th of July, the Nagoya High Court quashed a decision to reject
the asylum application of a 41-year old woman from Uganda. The decision
to reject her application had been made by the district court, and the
plaintiff had complained about the way her case had been treated. According
to the woman's lawyer, it is rare for rejections of asylum applications
to be quashed in this manner.
According to the judge, the reasoning for the court's decision was as follows:
"The woman's testimony was consistent with the situation on the ground
in Uganda, and we believed it. Though there were some parts of her testimony
that could not be supported objectively, the fact that she had left the
country because she feared persecution cannot be denied." He went
on to note that "the woman was a member of the opposition party, attended
party meetings, and proactively spoke out about her beliefs. Though she
was not a leader of the opposition, there is a risk that she would be persecuted
by the Ugandan government."
According to the court's verdict, the woman came to Japan in 2008, and
applied for refugee status the following year. Her application was rejected
in 2001. The woman appealed to the Nagoya district court to reverse this
decision, but instead it was upheld. The court claimed that "since
the woman's testimony had undergone several changes, she could not be believed."
Unless the Japanese state takes the woman's case to the supreme court,
she will now be able to reapply for asylum at the Nagoya Immigration Bureau.
"This verdict is to be applauded for taking the circumstances of my
client's country of origin into consideration", the woman's lawyer
In July 2016 No.135
- The World Refugee Day West Japan Assembly Was a Big Success! A Brief Report
on the Event, Which Took Place on 26th June
Over 150 people took part in the event overall. Following a series of lectures
and reports, guest speakers, staff members and other participants posed
for photographs while holding messages welcoming refugees to Japan.
This year, we were unable to hire the venue for the full day, and the various
preparations (such as printing pamphlets for distribution) were done in
three separate sessions. The event was staffed by people who had come from
as far away as Tottori prefecture, and some participants at the event had
come all the way from Kyushu.
Many young people worked very hard to help set up the event, including
high school students who were busy preparing for their exams. We appreciate
that it gets harder and harder for young people to participate in events
such as these as they grow older, and as such we consider it a really promising
sign that our staff numbers continue to increase. Thank you very much to
everyone who worked at the event, and to everyone who attended. We really
appreciate your efforts.
As refugee numbers continue to increase all over the world, there are many
factors for accepting countries to consider. However, we believe that the
theme of the event, "Learn More! Think More! Accept More Refugees!"
is something that should provide plenty of motivation for Japanese citizens.
We hope that this event proves to be a means by which people can start
thinking along those lines.
The speech given by Katsuya Soda, of Nanmin Now!, concerned the offering
of support to refugees both in distant countries and those closer to home.
The speech did not simply say that "we should help them", however.
It discussed in detail the kinds of problems that refugees face, our role
in dealing with them, and the potential effects of our intervention.
The keynote speech, given by Hiroaki Ishii of the Japan Association for
Refugees (JAR), focused on Syrian refugees, and featured detailed statistics
on various countries' acceptance of these refugees. Mr. Ishii went on to
question what our stance should be, what kind of support we could offer
and how, and how we should view the media that provides information on
issues such as these.
A Nepalese refugee who has been granted asylum in Japan talked about the
persecution he faced in Nepal, the process of being granted asylum, and,
now that he has been granted asylum, how he is living as a Nepalese person
The final speech was given by Teruo Naka, a lawyer who fights in the Osaka
district court to quash decisions to refuse asylum to refugees. He pointed
out some of the claims made by the Japanese government in such cases, and
some of the issues with these claims. He also suggested that decisions
made to refuse asylum based on the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition
Act may contravene international treaties and the Japanese constitution.
The event was recorded by Nanmin Now! members. Documents, presentations
and other reports have also been uploaded to the World Refugee Day website.
Photographs of participants holding signs indicating that refugees are
welcome in Japan have also been uploaded to the World Refugee Day website.
These can be viewed until the end of August, so anyone who is interested
but was unable to attend on the day should check the website for more details.
Photographs of "Refugees Welcome" signs at the World Refugee Day West Japan Assembly
2016 (Available Until August 31st)
- One in Every 113 People Worldwide Has Been Displaced! UNHCR Announce Their
Global Trends for 2015
To coincide with World Refugee Day, which takes place on June 20th, the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced their "global
trends" for the previous year. Their report detailed the current situation
regarding people who have been forced to leave their homes or their home
towns to take up residence in other regions or countries.
As usual, most refugees seek asylum in a country near their country of
origin. This year's announcement was also notable for the number of refugees
who are unable to flee to another country.
At the end of 2015, 65.3 million people had been displaced worldwide. This
was the first time the number had exceeded 60 million. (In 2014, the number
of displaced people was 59.5 million.) This equates to one in every 113
people worldwide. It also equates to over half the entire population of
The total number of people who had applied for asylum in developed countries
was 5.2 million. 98,400 children had applied for asylum.
The UNHCR recently conducted an inquiry into Yemen, and discovered that
there were 2.5 million internally displaced refugees in the country last
(For comparison, in the first 5 months of 2016, 50 asylum applications
were made in Osaka.)
No country can deal with the current refugee crisis by itself. We believe
that emergency measures need to be taken on a global scale.
The UNHCR's report was mentioned at the World Refugee Day West Japan Assembly,
where we pointed out its most significant aspects.
Even a quick glance at the figures mentioned in the report makes it clear
that huge numbers of people live under constant threat, away from their
homes, in desperate search of a safe place. We hope that everyone can have
an idea of the difficulty of these people's lives.
UNCHR Global Trends 2015
- Over 2000 Asylum Applications Were Made in Japan in the First Three Months
of 2016 - Only One Refugee Was Accepted
To mark World Refugee Day 2016, on the 20th of June, the Asahi Shinbun
newspaper asked the Ministry of Justice to provide the number of asylum
applications made in Japan in the first three months of 2016.
Quite incredibly, 2,356 asylum applications were made in January - March
2016, and only one of these was accepted. At this rate, there will be over
10,000 applications by the end of the year...and only four of these applications
will be accepted!
It seems clear that the situation for refugees in Japan is even more difficult
than it was last year. According to the article: "Because many applicants
make repeated applications in the hope of being able to come to Japan to
work, applications such as these are being ‘investigated' ASAP in order
to streamline the process."
But how can anyone judge who is making an application simply because they
want to come to Japan to work? It is possible that those who appear to
be seeking employment are also in need of asylum, and unless proper investigations
are made this fact can remain hidden.
Refugees are seeking a normal life as well. They want to make use of their
skills, and they want to live with their families. As such, we think it's
fair to say that yes, some refugees do come to Japan with employment as
their first priority.
- A Hunger Strike at the Osaka Immigration Bureau
More than 10 detainees at the Osaka Immigration Bureau (located in Osaka
port) went on hunger strike around the second week of July. This was reported
by Reuters and the Asahi Shinbun newspaper.
RAFIQ paid a visit to the Immigration Bureau on the 12th of July, but none
of the three detainees we interviewed had taken part in the hunger strike,
and they didn't have any details about it. We were able to interview these
detainees for the usual 30 minutes, and the restriction on interviews with
lawyers was not in place. However, we remain concerned about the health
of the detainees who took part in the hungers strike, considering the length
of time for which they are detained.
The Osaka Immigration Bureau was designed to be used for short-term detention
only. However, we have heard that the reason the hunger strike started
is because detainees have been held there for almost a year, and have not
been granted provisional release.
A refugee supported by RAFIQ will have been detained at the Osaka Immigration
Bureau for a whole year in August. A second application for provisional
release was made in June, but the result of this application is not yet
We will continue to ask the Immigration Bureau to (1) provide reasons why
detainees are provisionally released (2) provide reasons why detainees
are NOT provisionally released (3) improve the ways that detainees are
"Inmates on hunger strike at Japanese immigration detention center" (Reuters)
In June 2016 No.134
- The UN has Designated June 20th as "World Refugee Day" - There
Are Events All Over Japan!
On the 4th December 2000, the United Nations announced that the 20th June
would be designated as an annual "World Refugee Day". The 20th
June was originally "Africa Refugee Day", commemorating the day
on which the OAU (Organisation of African Unity)'s refugee treaty came
into force. In order to draw more global attention to issues concerning
the protection and support of refugees, however, and to deepen support
and understanding of the activities of the UN and various NGOs, it was
decided to make the day a global occasion. (Information taken from the
To mark World Refugee Day, support organisations hold events all over Japan.
Almost every year, these events give people a chance to interact with refugees
living locally, and also feature lectures and symposiums focusing on global
issues of asylum.
In Western Japan, the World Refugee Day West Japan Assembly Organising
Committee, of which RAFIQ is a member, will he holding an event that aims
to increase awareness and acceptance of refugees in Japan, and to teach
the public about the Japanese asylum system.
We invite you all to attend an event in your area, to interact with refugees
and their supporters, as well as researchers into matters of asylum, and
listen to what they have to say.
Also on the 20th June, UNHCR will announce the number as asylum applications
made in each country during the previous year. Let's all pay close attention
to the number of refugees worldwide in 2015.
[ALL OVER JAPAN]
"Meals for Refugees" at Various Universities
||June 6th - June 20th (Open to the Public)
|Tokyo Women's University
||June 13th - June 24th
|Meiji University(Izumi Campus)
||June 13th - June 24th
|Sacred Heart University
||June 20th - June 25th
(Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday)
|Kwansei Gakuin University
(Nishinomiya Uegahara Campus)
|June 20th - June 24th (Open to the Public)
|Kwansei Gakuin University(Kotobu)
||June 20th - June 24th
|Otsuma Women's University
||June 28th - June 30th
Film Series: "Thinking About Refugees: So Near Yet Feeling So Far"
Date & Time: Thursday June 16th 18:30 - 20:30
Location: Rikkyo University (Ikebukuro Campus) Hall 11, Basement Floor
1 (Classroom AB01)
World Refugee Day Project: Multinational Assembly June 18th
Date & Time: Saturday June 18th 13:00
Location: The Public Utility Foundation, Waseda Hoshien, Hoshien Kaikan
Basement 1, You-I Hall
Refugee Talk: World Refugee Day Special Edition
Date & Time: Saturday June 18th 14:00 - 16:00
Location: Smart News Ltd. 2nd Floor Event Space
Thinking About World Refugee Day! The Present and Future for Those Who
Flee to Japan
Date & Time: Sunday June 18th 15:45 - *Part 1: 16:00 - 18:45 (Dialogue)
*Part 2: 18:30 - 20:00 (Party with Food and Music)
Location: ADDIS Restaurant
Refugees Are Here (in Japan): Portraits of Refugees in Japan
Date & Time: Monday June 20th - Sunday June 26th
Location: Tokyo Metro Omotesando Station
Symposium: "The Syria Crisis - Our Shared Human Responsibility"
Date & Time: Monday June 20th 14:00 - 17:20 (Doors open at 12:30)
Location: UN University, U Thank International Meeting Hall
World Refugee Day in Shimo-Kita
Date & Time: Monday June 20th 17:00 - 23:00
Location: Rokudemonai Bar
Refugee Forum Open Day 2016
Date & Time: Wednesday June 22nd 18:00 - 20:00 (Visitors Are Free to
Enter and Leave)
Location: JELA Hall (Japan Lutheran Society, 1st Floor)
World Refugee Day 2016: West Japan Assembly
Date & Time: Sunday June 26th 13:30 - 16:30
Location:Sumai Joho Center, 3rd Floor
Film Series: "Thinking About Refugees: So Near Yet Feeling So Far"
Date & Time: Wednesday June 29th 18:30 - 20:30
Location: Rikkyo University (Ikebukuro Campus) Hall 8, Second Floor (Classroom
- RAFIQ's Joint Representative Appears on a Radio Programme: "Kyoto
Radio Cafe: Kyoto Happy NPO!"
Our joint representative attended the recording of "Kyoto Happy NPO",
a regional radio programme that broadcasts information from NPOs in Kyoto.
RAFIQ has members in Kyoto, and we are registered as a group at their Citizens'
Activity Centre. Since we had been distributing flyers and so on in anticipation
of the World Refugee Day West Japan Assembly on the 26th on June, Tanaka-san,
our joint representative was invited to come along to record an episode.
During the 30-minute broadcast, Tanaka-san talks about RAFIQ's activities
and about refugees in general. We hope that programmers such as this can
help to increase awareness of understanding of refugee-related issues.
- On May 27th We Attended a Lecture by Professor Hathaway
On May 27th, Professor James C Hathaway, of the Michigan University Law
School, gave a lecture at Waseda University, entitled "Responding
to the Crisis in International Refugee Protection". RAFIQ member Takegaki-san
attended this lecture, and provided the report below. We would like to
thank Takegaki-san for attending the lecture.
Professor Hathaway's latest book has now been translated and published
in Japan. The original English version of the book, "The Rights of Refugees Under International Law", is available from Cambridge University Press:
|Professor Hathaway is a leading global authority on refugee-related issues,
and since this was the first time I had heard him speak, I had high expectations.
There were over 100 people present - three classrooms had been joined together,
and the room was still full.
Professor Hathaway has a gentle manner and a relaxed way of speaking which
allows him to explain himself clearly. The content of his lecture had a
long-term view and an international perspective, and I hope that Professor
Hathaway's proposals become a reality in the near future.
From the point of view of those who deal with refugees on a day-to-day
basis, however, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that, while we wait for
these proposals to be implemented, refugees' suffering will continue. The
fact remains that urgent improvements are needed in the laws and structures
that affect the lives, safety and stability of refugees.
A Summary of the Lecture:
- Understanding the Current Situation
Syrian refugees are but one example of the chaos currently engulfing the
world. In the past, there were systems such as international human rights
law, international security organisations (i.e. the UN Security Council)
and responsibilities to protect people (in response to genocides etc.).
Refugee law tended to fill in the gaps between these legal structures.
Refugee law is often said to be an example of people "voting with
their feet" (by going to a country that will protect them.)
The current situation is referred to as a refugee crisis, but that is a
mistake. A "crisis" is something that's too big to deal with
- while the current refugee situation is something that we should be able
to deal with. There are 25 million refugees worldwide. This is only 1/3
of 1% of the world's population. This is a problem that can be resolved.
The problem is that we always avoid dealing with the situation.
- The EU's Agreement with Turkey
The EU recently established a refugee exchange agreement with Turkey. This
agreement has been criticised, but it is not without its merits. People
who take the overland route to Greece, which neighbours Turkey, will likely
be treated better. Also, those who are designated as "vulnerable"
by the UN (those with disabilities, children without a guardian) will not
be returned to Turkey if their conditions of acceptance does not meet EU
This agreement was formed in haste, and after the fact. If the EU and Turkey
had agreed on a deal in advance, it may well have been more universal and
- Future Improvements to the Refugee Convention
The difference between migration law and refugee law is that migrants go
to where they want to go, while refugee law aims to guarantee that refugees
can go to somewhere where they are safe. It is in developed countries'
interest for refugees' movements to be orderly, and they dislike chaos.
It is important that their acceptance of refugees is manageable.
If the current situation is a crisis for anyone, it is for developing countries
with more developed neighbours. 85% of refugees are in developing countries.
(Approx. 60% of all refugees are in just 10 countries.) Developing countries
are being forced to take the majority of the burden.
Here are 5 proposals for consideration (none of which would require a fundamental
change to the refugee convention):
- Plan for, rather than react to, refugee movement:
Countries should create teams which can either grant residency to refugees
in that country or provide an international solution by allowing refugees
to obtain residency in other countries. These decisions should be made
according to a plan that is established in advance.
- Global Burden and Responsibility Sharing
- Common But Differentiated State Responsibility
Countries should take a share of the responsibility according to their
area, population, employment rate, and so on, in a similar way that responsibility
is allocated for climate change and other environmental issues.
- International Administration
Instead of each country spending money separately and inefficiently, administration
should be conducted by an autonomous international organisation, which
operates within current levels of investment.
- Access to Protection, and to a Solution
Refugees should have access to a solution to their situation. The current
situation, in which refugees stay in the country in which they arrive simply
means they are shut out at the entrance to that country. Refugees should
be guaranteed acceptance somewhere.
In September, the UN Secretary General will hold a meeting to discuss the
above points. We would like everyone to continue to put pressure on those
representing Japan at this meeting, to ensure that Japan makes the best
- The Japanese Government Announces that They Will Accept 150 Syrian Refugees
as Foreign Students
No doubt aware of the proximity of the G7 Summit, on May 21st the Japanese
government announced that over a period of 5 years from 2017, 150 Syrian
refugees would be accepted as foreign students.
When you consider the incredibly low numbers of refugees accepted, and
the fact that the Japanese government has refused to accept any Syrian
refugees, this would seem to be a very contradictory move. Perhaps it's
best not to say anything at this stage, but one has to wonder why these
refugees are being accepted as students, and not as asylum seekers.
Between the late 1970s and the early 2000s, the government accepted around
10,000 refugees from Indochina. In 2009, they accepted Burmese refugees,
mainly from the Karen tribe who live near the border with Thailand.
However, after 6 months of Japanese and other assimilation lessons, these
refugees were forced to find a job and a place to live, and then abandoned.
Many Inndochinese refugees could not become part of Japanese society or
adjust to the lifestyle, and turned to crime. When they were caught and
punished, they lost their right to residency. We have met people like these
who are being held at detention centres. Some people have re-applied for
refugee status from these detention centres. While they cannot be deported
back to their country of origin, they exist in a limbo in Japan, hardly
alive in any meaningful way.
Are most Syrian refugees of the right age to be studying? How should we
be accepting them? Now's the time to start thinking in detail about the
refugee acceptance system. The refugees we accept need to made the priority
once more. By connecting these people to their local communities and support
organisations, we want to be able to say "Welcome to Japan",
and "There's a Bridge Between Syria and Japan!".
A certain academic noted that "while the acceptance rate remains low,
this is a small step in the right direction". However, he went on
to say that "this current system does not do enough to help refugees
in the part of the world where help is needed most". We have to agree
In May 2016 No.133
- "World Refugee Day: West Japan Assembly" June 26th: Full-Colour
Flyers Have Been Produced, and the Website has been Updated!
The World Refugee Day: West Japan Assembly is coming up on June 26th! We
finished producing flyers for the event on April 28th, and started distributing
them at the constitutional meetings that were held in various locations
on May 3rd. We distributed 2,300 flyers in total.
Following the production of the flyers, we have also updated the event's
website. For those of you who haven't yet seen a flyer, it can be downloaded
in PDF format from the website.
Printed flyers are also available from the Amanto Cafe in Nakazaki-cho,
Kita-ku, Osaka. Why not drop by for a drink and pick up a flyer while you're
|World Refugee Day 2016: West Japan Assembly
"Our Shared Times, Our Shared Planet"
An Era of Over 60 Million Refugees
Learn More! Think More! Accept More Refugees!
See above for more details (the day Web of world refugees)
- [URGENT!] Let's Keep an Eye on Parliament Regarding the Hate Speech Act!
On the 13th of May, the so-called "Hate Speech Act" was passed
by the lower house of parliament, and was sent to the upper house of parliament.
The act is expected to be approved and to become law.
This piece of legislation was first proposed by a coalition led by the
DPJ in May 2015, when it was known as the "Act to Promote the Elimination
of Discrimination". However, in April 2016 a clause was proposed by
the government which specified that the act's protections only extended
to "legal residents", which could be interpreted as specifying
that hate speech directed towards non-legal residents is acceptable. This
brought to mind the 2009 case involving the Calderon family in Saitama
prefecture (more details here: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2009/04/14/issues/a-battle-for-japans-future/#.VzknCJGLSCg).
RAFIQ believes that the dignity of everyone who resides in Japan has to
be respected, regardless of their reason for being here.
According to the media, opposition parties have claimed that the limiting
of the act's protection to "legal residents" who are "not
from Japan" essentially legitimises discrimination against Okinawans
or Ainu people, as well as foreigners who do not have the right to reside
in Japan. The opposition have asked for these limitations to be removed,
but the government has refused. Since the opposition's priority is for
the act to be passed, they have asked for additions to the text of the
law, specifying that "consideration shall be given as necessary".
The government eventually compromised, stating that "because specifying
that the victims of discrimination as per this law must ‘not be from Japan'
could be interpreted as suggesting that discrimination against those from
Japan is acceptable, we agree to refine the concept of ‘Japan' as per the
spirit of the Japanese constitution and our various international treaties."
(As reported by the Huffington Post, 12th May 2016)
While there are no punishments for those who break this new law, it should
still be considered as a positive first step toward the elimination of
discrimination. We should keep an eye on developments at the upper house,
and aim to do what we can to enforce the spirit of the act in our daily
- RAFIQ's New Office and Shelter: Nanmin House
We have some happy news to share with you!
RAFIQ have been given a detached house to use as a combined office and
shelter. It requires some repairs and building work, but we have already
made a start. Since May, RAFIQ members and volunteers have visited twice
to check out the new premises and to start cleaning it up.
WORKSHOP: Let's Build Nanmin House Together!
We'd like to hold several workshops to see what kind of office we'd like
to have, and to discuss what we'd like Nanmin House to become.
It's only a small place, but let's consider it as a base for supporting
refugees in Osaka. We'd be delighted to hear everyone's thoughts and opinions!
May 22nd (Sunday) 14:00
Let's Build Nanmin House Together! Part 1
Location: Our New Office
Meet At: The South Exit of Higashi-Mikuni Station (Midosuji Subway Line)
- A Written Demand for the Osaka Immigration Bureau
On the 26th of April 2016, three RAFIQ members submitted a written demand
to the Osaka Immigration Bureau, asking them to stop the practice of transferring
detainees from Osaka to Omura.
In the last two years, refugees we support who were detained in the Immigration
Bureau for more than 6 months, or who were issued with deportation orders,
were transferred to the Omura Immigration Centre, near Nagasaki.
The Japan Lawyers Network for Refugees (JLNR) had already objected to this
practice on human rights grounds. However, since the detainees in question
were provisionally released before the results of this objection were revealed,
no recommendations on human rights grounds were made in the end.
One of the refugees currently detained at the Osaka Immigration Bureau
was told that they would not be transferred to Omura, because their period
of detention had been 8 months. This refugee made an application for provisional
release in March. On the 20th of April, this application was rejected.
Despite asking in writing and in person, no reason was given for the application
In the past, some refugees have been transferred to Omura immediately after
having their application for provisional release rejected. That is why
we issued our written demand at this time.
What's more, the Omura Immigration Centre is in Nagasaki Prefecture, near
Kumamoto, where the earthquake recently struck. We therefore added to our
written demand a request that, even if refugees are to be transferred,
it is better that they are not transferred to Omura.
Since Omura Immigration Centre is not under the jurisdiction of the Osaka
Immigration Bureau, we submitted our written demand directly to the Ministry
of Justice. The demand has now been presented to their Public Relations
department, and we are awaiting their response.
Finally, we asked the Ministry to provide access to their responses to
our written demand. Their response, however, was to state that they have
a policy of not responding to such demands - not only from RAFIQ but from
other groups as well. We followed up by asking whether, if they were unable
to respond to us directly, they could perhaps post their responses on their
website or similar. They answered this by saying that they do not report
their responses to demands. However, should we really want to know, their
responses will be noted in the inspection committee's report. Requests
made by detainees can be posted into a box, and these requests will be
forwarded to the inspection committee. It seems clear that their position
hasn't changed since last year: we'll listen to you, but we won't respond.
(The "inspection committee" mentioned above is the Immigrant
Detention Facility Inspection Committee", which was established in
2009 to allow those from outside the bureau to give their opinions on the
Immigration Bureau's problems. The committee has around 10 members in East
Japan and 10 in West Japan. The names of committee members are not made
The only response we have had so far has been "we will explain to
our superiors (the facility managers) about not only your demand, but also
about the background situation."
In April 2016 No.132
- The Ministry of Justice Release Final Figures on Refugees Accepted in 2015
On March 23rd, the Ministry of Justice announced the number of refugees
who were accepted in Japan in 2015.
Since the preliminary figures were announced on the 23rd of January, it
has taken two months for the final figures to be released.
The main difference between this year's announcement and those made in
previous years was the addition of the sections "Notes on Accepted
Cases" and "Notes on Rejected Cases" in additional supplements.
These notes were not present in previous years. Furthermore, the number
of examples of accepted cases has increased from 3 to 7.
There are also case studies of accepted refugees provided in an additional
supplement, though it seems that these cases are restricted to those which
happen to neatly correspond with the conditions for acceptance mentioned
in the Refugee Convention.
It seems that these additions to the announcement have come as a result
of calls for greater transparency regarding the conditions for accepting
refugees. However, it should be noted that there is still no reason given
for why the acceptance rate is so low.
In response to this announcement, Councillor Michihiro Ishibashi submitted
a "List of Questions and Concerns Regarding the Refugee Recognition
Situation" to the government on the 28th of March. Deputy Prime Minister
Taro Aso put his name to the responses, which were provided on the 1st
The Japan Lawyers Network for Refugees (JLNR) provided a comment on March
29th. The JLNR were very critical, insisting that the fact that the rejection
rate was over 99% and that the Immigration Bureau was effectively a "Refugee
Rejection Bureau" could not go unmentioned. They also said that, while
the fact that among those accepted were applicants who had not been personally
persecuted was to be welcomed, it was strange that hundreds of other applicants
in similar situations had not also been accepted.
More details on the numbers of refugees accepted and rejected in 2015 are
available in previous issues of the mail magazine, on the RAFIQ home page.
- "World Refugee Day: West Japan Assembly" June 26th: Outline Established:
Now Seeking Volunteers!
<<Please feel free to spread the word!>>
In the year 2000, the UN General Assembly agreed that the 20th of June
should be designated as World Refugee Day. To mark this annual occasion,
we have been holding events entitled "World Refugee Day: West Japan
Assembly", which gives us a chance to think about the problems facing
refugees residing in Japan. This will be the 11th year the event has been
According to an announcement by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of refugees worldwide exceeded 60 million
in 2014, and is continuing to rise, creating the biggest global crisis
since the Second World War. The theme for this year's assembly will be
"Our Shared Times, Our Shared Planet", and we would like to use
the assembly to call for Japan to accept more refugees. Please come along
and offer your support.
World Refugee Day 2016: West Japan Assembly
"Our Shared Times, Our Shared Planet"
An Era of Over 60 Million Refugees
Learn More! Think More! Accept More Refugees!
Date & Time: Sunday June 26th 2016 13:30 - 16:30
Location: Sumai Joho Center, 3rd Floor
Kita-ku, Tenjinbashi 6-4-20
General Statement: A description of the conditions facing refugees in Japan,
given by the organising committee.
Speech: "Let's Enable Ourselves to Say 'Welcome'!" Given by Katsuya
Soda of Nanmin Now!
Keynote Speech: "Japan's Position in the Age of Refugees"
Given by Hiroaki
Ishii (Japan Association for Refugees (JAR); Forum for Refugees Japan (FRJ)
Speeches by Refugees
A Report on a Refugee's Court Case: "Let's Have Court Cases that Meet
Given by: Teruo Naka,
lawyer for R-san, an Afghan refugee who went to court to overturn the rejection
of his application for refugee status.
Photo Exhibitions, NGO Booths, and more.
Please check the RAFIQ website for more details, and please contact us
if you would like to endorse the event, or if you would like to have a
booth at the event (please contact us before the 10th of June if you would
like to have a booth).
We are currently looking for volunteers! We would be grateful for volunteers
to assist with the following tasks: setting up the venue; tidying up; reception
duties; providing guidance to attendees, interpreting for refugees and
If you would like to volunteer, please contact us at email@example.com,
providing your name, age, email address, and cell phone number. Please
also tell us what kind of volunteering duties you would like to undertake.
(Please contact us before the 15th of June.)
Organisers: World Refugee Day 2016: West Japan Assembly Organising Committee
(Affiliated Organisations: BRC-J (Burmese Relief Centre Japan); PASTEL
(Ritsumeikan University's Refugee Research Group); J-FUN Youth Kansai (K.G.);
The Social Guild; RAWA; Thanks & Dream (An organisation for evacuees
from the Tohoku Earthquake in western Japan); Nanmin Now!; RAFIQ, and others)
Supporters: UNHCR Japan; Amnesty International Japan; JLNR; JAR; the Kansai NPO Alliance
Cooperators: Nanmin Now!; the Yoyogi Animation School, Osaka
- A Report on the CIVIL G7 Dialogue in Kyoto: Preparing for the G7 Summit
in Ise Shima
On the 22nd of March, the CIVIL G7 Dialogue international meeting was held
in Kyoto. The theme of the meeting was "Let's Speak to the World at
the G7 Summit!". Two RAFIQ members attended the meeting. This is our
report of the event.
This meeting is held in the G7's host country. Its purpose is to communicate
proposals from civil society to summit itself.
The event is held in Japan every 7 years. This year's event was held at
the Doshisha Alumni Association, and we accepted an invitation from JAR
to attend the event.
What was discussed at the event:
We also took part in a subcommittee on refugees, which focused on the second
of the issues mentioned above. On the evening of the 22nd, there was a
dialogue between representatives of NGOs and the G7. We don't know how
this dialogue will affect the content of the summit.
- The concepts of "Peace Through Dialogue" and "Peace as a
Precursor to Everything".
- The fact that this year's summit has changed for the first time from having
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to having Sustainable Development Goals
- The fact that last year's G7 and COP21 summits did not set specific goals
regarding the "how" and "when" of dealing with environmental
This does not only apply to G7 countries, but we believe it's very important
that leaders listen to the opinions of their citizens. The G7 Summit will
be held in Ise Shima on the 26th and 27th of May, and we will be watching
closely to see how citizens' opinions are reflected.
Following the attacks in Belgium, we hope that the G7 places a serious
focus on creating societies in which people do not turn to terrorism.
We were particularly pleased to have been able to meet people from Japanese
and foreign NGOs at this meeting.
(Report by: Tanaka)
- A Report on "Dealing with Refugee Problems & Expanding Support
RAFIQ works in co-operation with JAR (Japan Association for Refugees),
which has produced a report on "Dealing with Refugee Problems &
Expanding Support Networks".
Work on this report started in April last year, and in June last year RAFIQ
contributed towards it. This mostly involved organising interviews with
Last year, the Western Japan Immigration Centre (in Ibaraki, Osaka) closed
down. Detainees held there were not transferred to the Osaka Immigration
Bureau, in Osaka City, but rather to the Omura Immigration Centre, which
is near Nagasaki. As a result, we could no longer offer our support to
those asylum seekers. It was difficult to support their applications for
provisional release, and even after their release it was difficult for
them to be moved back to Kansai from Omura. This was a recurring theme
in what refugees told their interviewer.
Sharing this kind of information with other support organisations via JAR
is sure to prove highly beneficial.
in March 2016 No. 131
- Syrian Film Screening and Discussion Event on March 21st
We are co-hosting an event where a Syrian film will be screened and a discussion
will be held. Please come along and show your support.
The film that will be screened is Loving Our Home, Syria, Forever, which
was also screened at the UNHCR Refugee Film Festival in 2015. RAFIQ are
co-hosting this event, which will also feature a panel discussion chaired
by Muneta-san from Nanmin Now. Saori Fujii, the director of the film, will
take part in the discussion, along with JICA staff who have worked in Syria,
members of youth groups active in the region, Syrian people who currently
live in Japan, and Keiko Tanaka of RAFIQ.
There will also be a photo exhibition and an opportunity to purchase Syrian
Tickets must be applied for in advance.
Please contact RAFIQ to apply for tickets.
21st March (Monday - Public Holiday) 13:00 - Syrian Film Screening &
Location: Takatsuki Gendai Gekijo, Exhibit Rooms 1.2 (Bunka Hall, 2nd Floor)
Organiser: Takatsuki Citizens Action Network
Joint Organisers: RAFIQ, Sadaqa (Syrian Support Organisation). Tanaka will
be giving a talk.
* Participants are asked to make a donation of 1,000yen.
* To apply for tickets, please send your name, organisation name (if applicable),
and contact details (phone number or email address) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline for email applications is March 20th. You can also contact
us on the day itself.
- A Report from the Second All-Japan Meeting of Refugee Support Groups (February 19th & 20th)
The Second All-Japan Meeting of Refugee Support Groups was held in Tokyo
on the 19th and 20th of February. Two RAFIQ members attended the meting.
Here is a simple report on what took place:
The meeting was organised by the FRJ (Forum for Refugees Japan), with whom
RAFIQ are affiliated. Members of groups not affiliated with the FRJ were
also invited to attend. The FRJ has affiliates in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka,
but lawyers from Fukuoka, members of a foreigner support group from Kumamoto,
and a group which supports those detained in the Omura Immigration Centre
On the first day, following introductions and opening remarks, we split
into three working groups and discussed "Interpretation", "Protecting
Vulnerable Refugees" and "Lifestyle Support".
(While all refugees are vulnerable by definition, those considered notable
vulnerable are those who have been subjected to torture or human trafficking,
minors, and those with particular medical needs.)
Since it is very rare to have an opportunity to have an exchange such as
this, the entire session was taken up with each participant explaining
the work that their organisation does. However, it was great to have a
chance to hear from other organisations and to learn that they share our
concerns. We felt as though we had taken steps in the right direction and
were moving towards resolving our various issues. Both our individual efforts
and our shared structures should bear fruit before long.
On the second day, there was a lecture by Doctor Fumitaka Noda on the mental
disorders that many refugees suffer from. Three RAFIQ members attended,
including a member based in Tokyo.
It was made very clear that consideration of psychological issues is an
extremely important part of supporting refugees.
- The Ministry of Justice Announce the Number of Illegal Residents for 2015.
Half of Deportation Orders Were Issued to Asylum Seekers
On March 11th, the MOJ announced the number of foreigners residing illegally
in Japan (as of January 1st).
NHK news reported that the number of illegal residents had increased and
that the number of exchange students and interns staying in Japan illegally
The truth is, however, that the number of illegal residents in Japan has
only increased very slightly since last year. Furthermore, the number of
illegal residents has in the past the number has been as high as 200,000.
In 2008 this fell to 140,000, and by 2014 it had fallen dramatically to
59,061. This year the figure remains steady around the 60,000 mark.
What's more, asylum seekers who have applied for refugee status are included
among these "illegal residents". That goes a long way to explaining
why the number remains as high as it does. Many of these people are part
of Japan's workforce, contributing to the country legally.
Here is the MOJ's announcement:
|As of January 1st 2016, the number of people residing illegally in Japan
is 62,818. This is an increase of 2,811 (4.7%) on January 1st 2015. The
number of illegal residents had been falling steadily from the peak in
May 1993 (298,646 illegal residents) until January 2014, but has now been
increasing for two consecutive years.
We were particularly interested in the MOJ's comments on "deportation
of illegal residents and the status of asylum seekers". They noted
that 3,063 of Japan's current illegal residents had already been issued
with deportation orders (1,046 of these were asylum seekers). This means
that around half of the illegal residents set to be deported had applied
for refugee status in Japan.
According to a document published by SMJ (Solidarity with Migrants Japan),
as of the 30th of June 2015 there were 347 asylum seekers (including those
appealing the initial rejection of their applications) being held in detention
centres in Japan.
Deporting asylum seekers to their country of origin is a violation of the
UN Convention's Non-Refoulement Principle. ("Refouler" is French
for "send back" or "push back").
- Statement Made By Mitsuhide Iwaki of the House of Representatives' Committee
on Judicial Affairs
On the 23rd of February, Minister of Justice Mitsuhide Iwaki made a statement
to the House of Representatives' Committee on Judicial Affairs concerning
the acceptance of refugees.
We are facing the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War, and
the world is watching how Japan will deal with it. Iwaki-san has stated
that Japan will implement an "appropriate and timely refugee recognition
process", which suggests that he has grasped that the current process
is neither appropriate nor timely. We hope that the new process is implemented
as soon as possible.
Iwaki-san's Statement on Refugees:
"The number of people applying for refugee status has increased dramatically
recently. Many of these applicants are only coming to Japan in order to
work. Such fraudulent applicants are preventing us from offering real refugees
the protection that they require in a timely manner. Furthermore, refugees
are flowing into Europe from the middle east and Africa, meaning that the
world's refugee crisis is worsening. As such, we will work to implement
an appropriate and timely refugee recognition process here in Japan."
- Articles Relating to Detention, Deportation, and other Issues
* Forced Deportations of Sri Lankan Refugees
On the 27th of February, a Tamil refugee from Sri Lanka were forcibly deported
from Japan. On the 2nd of March, the Japan Lawyers Network for Refugees
(JLNR) issued a written statement of objection to the Ministry of Justice's
Immigration Bureau and the Yokohama Branch of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau.
According to the JLNR's statement, this refugee had appealed the initial
rejection of his application. This appeal was also rejected. He was preparing
to go to court to have his rejection rescinded, and had attended a meeting
with a solicitor.
Furthermore, he was deported three days after being released from hospital,
having been admitted following an overdose of sleeping medicine. He was
deported with no concern for his health, and with no consideration of the
fact that as a member of the LTTE (the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam),
sending him to Sri Lanka was extremely dangerous. This deportation was
a violation of the non-refoulement principle enshrined in the UN Refugee
Convention and the Convention against Torture. It was also a violation
of his right to go to court within 6 months of having his application for
refugee status rejected. In short, it was a violation of both domestic
and international law.
Deportations of this type take place regularly. The Immigration Bureau's
violence is unacceptable!
* A Hunger Strike at the Osaka Immigration Bureau, February 10th - 15th
Detainees at the Osaka Immigration Bureau went on hunger strike in an attempt
to secure better conditions. We sympathise with how they feel. We have
been visiting the Immigration Bureau since April last year, and we hope
to do whatever we can to ease the problems detainees are facing there.
* Reuters Reports on Japan's Immigration Detention Centres
Reuters has published a special report on deaths in Japanese immigration
detention centres, in which the Immigration Bureau are strongly criticised.
Nicholas, mentioned in the article, was a Sri Lankan refugee who died in
the Eastern Japan Immigration Centre in November 2011. In response to this
tragic development, RAFIQ held an emergency debriefing with Dr. Junpei
Yamamura in December 2014.
Death in Detention: Grim toll mounts in Japanese detention centers as foreigners
seek asylum （16/3/8 Reuters）
In February 2016 No.130
- 7,586 Applications for Asylum in 2015, Only 27 Accepted!
On the 23rd of January, the Ministry of Justice announced their preliminary
figures for asylum applications made and accepted in 2015.
27 refugees were accepted in 2015, 16 more than the 11 accepted in 2014.
Does this mean that this is an unusually high number?
The most refugees that Japan has accepted in one year is 57, in 2008. Almost
all of these refugees were from Burma (Myanmar). Many of the leaders of
the resistance against Burma's military dictatorship were accepted as refugees.
From another perspective, however, it could be said that almost no one
from countries that did not have military dictatorships was accepted.
As Burma has transitioned from a dictatorship to a democracy, however,
even Burmese refugees are no longer accepted, and so in 2014 the total
number of refugees accepted by Japan fell to 11.
This is despite the fact that so-called "Boat People" such as
the Rohingya and other Burmese minorities continue to be oppressed, and
the fact that Burma's constitution calls for the military to make up a
quarter of the parliament.
At least two of the 27 refugees accepted in 2015 were not from Burma. It's
a good thing that non-Burmese refugees are now being accepted as well.
However, we don't know the reason for this development. The Ministry of
Justice has only announced the preliminary figures. We await more detailed
data, and we hope that they provide reasons why the successful applicants
When a refugee is granted asylum, they receive a "Refugee Acceptance
Certificate", but it does not state the reason why they were accepted.
It is important to note that although the number of refugees did increase
last year, it is still incredibly low.
There have been news reports in other countries with headlines such as
"27 Refugees Accepted in Japan, Over 99% Rejected". We would
like to know the reasons why refugees are accepted - and the reasons why
they are not accepted.
In a press conference on the 26th of January, the Ministry of Justice were
asked about Syrian refugees. They responded that the Japanese government's
position was that refugees fleeing the war in Syria did not have reason
to be accepted. They noted that this position would not change.
In another press conference on the 2nd of February, in relation to the
fact that the number of asylum seekers from countries such as Nepal had
increased, they touched upon the revisions to the application of the refugee
recognition policy made in September last year: "We revised our policy
with regards to the granting of the right to work and the right to reside
to asylum seekers. We implemented a system when these right could be granted
on a discretionary basis, provided certain conditions were met. We also
considered the prevention of fraud and systemic abuse when revising the
application of the policy." They seemed to have decided that many
asylum seekers are fraudulent troublemakers. They also said that they would
"observe the results of our policies and continue to consider what
refugee recognition policy is most suitable."
It seems obvious that, even as the number of applicants increase, the Ministry
of Justice is concerned not with protecting them, but with picking and
choosing between them.
Since these were only preliminary figures, it is not known how many appeals
were made in total, though we do know that only 8 appeals were successful.
It seems the referral system set up in 2014 to allow those from outside
the Ministry to give their opinion on cases has not resulted in any more
refugees being accepted.
Overall, Japan remains a country that's closed to refugees. Once again
we are struck by the fact that Japan simply must create laws that offer
protection to genuine asylum seekers in a timely manner.
- We Endorsed a Proposal to Put an End to the War in Syria
We would like to report that we have endorsed a proposal put forward by
Sadaqa, an organisation that supports the people of Syria, to put an end
to the war in that country.
The proposal asks that Japan uses this year's G7 summit to take the lead
in resolving Syria's problems. It was submitted to the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs on the 19th of January.
Sadaqa have gathered opinions from people currently living in Syria.
The bombing of Syria, by various countries, is still ongoing.
Not all Syrians are terrorists, or members of ISIS. It's just a middle-eastern
country whose people want to live in peace.
By standing alongside the countries which are bombing Syria, the Japanese
government is responsible for the increasing numbers of Syrians who are
seeking asylum, even if they are not directly involved in the bombing themselves.
Everyone in the world wants to be able to live a simple, peaceful life
in the place they were born. It's time for all countries to think of ways
to avoid creating even more asylum seekers.
|To Yasumasa Nagamine, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Cabinet's
Special Representative at the G7 (Sherpa)
19th January 2016
"This proposal is presented by the Syrian Peace Network. The Syrian
Peace Network has been actively supporting the Syrian people since before
this conflict began, and we are continuing to provide humanitarian support
during the current crisis. We have heard from many people who have been
affected by this conflict (see below for further details), and have committed
ourselves to making peace a reality in Syria.
"The situation in Syria is getting worse. Despite the adoption of
UN Security Council Resolution 2254 in December last year, the competing
interests of western powers continue to stand in the way of peace, while
tensions between middle eastern nations escalate. It is not clear how things
will progress from here.
"Even greater humanitarian efforts are required. However, until a
fundamental peace can be established, no amount of humanitarian support
will prevent the number of casualties and refugees increasing.
"We believe that the 2016 G7 summit, which is being held in Japan,
is an important opportunity to bring peace to Syria. Japan is trusted by
civil society both in Syria and across the middle east. It is one of the
few countries that does not have a direct interest in the outcome of the
Syrian conflict. Furthermore, in January 2016 Japan became a non-permanent
member of the UN Security Council, which means it now has greater international
responsibility than ever. Much of expected of Japan in this new role. We
are also hearing from many of the other G7 countries that the Syrian crisis
is on their agenda for discussion, not least because of the dramatic increases
in the number of Syrian refugees in surrounding countries and in Europe.
"Further humanitarian support is not enough. In light of this, we
ask that the forthcoming G7 summit is used to consider the following points:
1.The Japanese government should take the lead in the Syrian peace process.
Specifically, it should take charge of the discussions among G7 leaders
and seek to lead them towards the non-military mediation process mentioned
in UN Security Council Resolution 2254. In line with this, we suggest that
Japan hosts a Syrian peace summit.
2.Leaders of all G7 nations should overlook their own national interests
in order to find a non-military resolution to the Syrian crisis. It is
the responsibility of the Japanese government to ensure that discussions
leading to such a resolution can take place smoothly.
This year's G7 summit offers the Japanese government an unparalleled opportunity
to show the world that it can, as a UN Security Council Member, lead the
way towards peace in Syria. We hope that this opportunity is taken."
Sadaqa (A Syrian Support Organisation)
JIM-NET (An NPO Network Providing Medical Support in Iraq)
World Vision Japan (An NPO)
What the Syrian People Say:
Many Syrians said that:
A Selection of Other Comments:
- They would like a ceasefire to be implemented immediately, to put an end
to the senseless killing.
- Everyone is tired. They just want to live. They want to have access to
electricity and water and bread.
- Many people are separated from their families. They want to return to Syria
as soon as possible and resume their normal lives.
- They would like Japan to help with the rebuilding of the country once the
conflict is over.
- "We are not part of any group. If we were to try and work for any
specific group, it would just create more meaningless conflict."
- "We want to give everything we have for the future of Syria, our country.
In times of peace, no one knows who's Sunni and who's Alawite (the branch
of Islam that President Assad follows). We see all these awful things on
TV all the time, we're living in an endless chain of horrors, day after
day. Things are so polarised, whenever you say or do anything you're asked
who you're working for or who you support. There's no freedom."
- "We want to have hope. We have nowhere to escape to, but we want to
live. We have to forget about revenge. There is no one in Syria who has
not lost a family member. If everyone sought revenge, we'd all kill each
other, the violence would continue until the whole country was wiped out.
We're all so tired. We just want to live and be safe. Most people just
want to be able to buy a loaf of bread."
- "When you go back to Japan, please tell people about what's happening
in Syria, to the Syrian people. We can live without aid, but we don't want
to be forgotten about."
Sadaqa: The Syrian Support Organisation
- World Refugee Day West Japan: Date and Location Confirmed
This is an announcement from West Japan World Refugee Day Organising Committee:
In 2000, the UN established "World Refugee Day" on the 20th of
June. To mark this day, we have for the past 11 years held a World Refugee
Day Convention in west Japan, in order to consider the situation of refugees
This year's date and location have now been confirmed. Please come along
and show your support.
|Date: Sunday 26th June 2016 (Afternoon)
Location: Osaka City Sumai Joho Center 3rd Floor Hall
(Osaka-shi, Kita-ku, Tenjinbashi 6-4-20)
The next meeting of the organising committee is at 18:00 on Saturday 27th
February in Salon de Amanto. If you are able to assist on the day in any
of the following ways, please contact us via email or fax:
- Planning the event by attending the organising committee meetings and signing
up to the mailing list.
- Supporting the event (Groups 1,000yen; Individuals 500yen)
- Having a booth at the event.
- Distributing leaflets.
- Spreading the word about the event in newsletters or online.
- Doing something relating to refugees (pending discussion - please let us
know what your plans involve)
- Volunteering at the event.
- Assisting in any other way.
Contact us: RAFIQ
569-0078 Takatsuki-shi, Ootemachi 6-24
In January 2016 No. 129
- New Year Greetings
Thank you very much for continuing to support RAFIQ.
We'd like to start by sharing with you some good news from the end of last
We are pleased to report that, in October last year, a refugee supported
by RAFIQ was granted asylum in Japan, and received a residence card. He
will now be able to start building a life for himself in Japan.
This is only the second asylum seeker that has been accepted since RAFIQ
started supporting refugees. What's more, he was granted asylum at the
very first stage of the application process, which came as quite a surprise
to us. This is a real success for us, and we feel like it's a reward for
all our hard work.
However, the reasons why this asylum seeker was accepted have not been
revealed, and so unfortunately we can't really tell you which aspects of
our support were effective and beneficial in this case.
When Japan signed the Refugee Convention in 1981, it decided to be a country
that would protect asylum seekers. What's more, in 2011, both houses of
parliament unanimously voted to offer support to refugees, and announced
this decision to the world.
In 2015, moves were made to reform the refugee recognition laws and their
application. We believe that there will be more developments in this area
We'd like to expand our efforts in supporting refugees, so that one day
we can replace the "refugee recognition law" with a "refugee
protection law", which recognises refugees as the human beings that
Every day, we receive news of new tragedies from across the world. If Japan
were to accept more refugees and defend their human rights, then we believe
it would contribute to world peace and would help put a stop to the increase
in refugee numbers.
We look forward to working with you again this year.
RAFIQ Joint Representatives
- Over 60 Million Refugees Worldwide, Over 6,000 in Japan
What do you make of these numbers?
Over 60 Million Refugees Worldwide
On the 18th of December, UNHCR issued a press release in which they announced
that in the first six months of 2015, over 55 million people had been forced
from their homes.
This figure breaks down into:
Refugees (Those Who Have Left their Own Country): 20.2 Million
Those Seeking Protection: Over 990,000
Internally Displaced Refugees: 34 million
(These figures are all based on June 2015 estimates.)
Adding these figures together reveals that there were over 60 Million refugees
worldwide in 2015. In other words, one in every 122 people on the planet
were forced to move away from their home.
UNHCR strives to allow refugees to return home voluntarily, but the number
of people who do this decreases every year. Indeed, it is increasingly
likely that once someone leaves their own country as a refugee, they will
The exact figures for all of 2015 will be released in June.
LINK: UNHCR report confirms worldwide rise in forced displacement in first half
Over 6,000 Refugees in Japan
On the 16th of December, Reuters reported that 6160 people had made asylum
applications in the first 10 months of 2015. It seems likely that the total
for the whole year will exceed 6500.
While this is the highest figure ever, it also means that only 1/10,000th
of the 60 million worldwide refugees have applied for asylum in Japan.
The highest numbers of applicants come from the same countries as last
year: Nepal, Turkey, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. The number of successful applications
has not yet been announced.
The Japanese government claims that most applicants are "false asylum
seekers". However, the criteria for acceptance are difficult to understand,
and many applicants do not understand the definition of "refugee".
In any case, we have no choice but to face head on the fact that there
are 60 million people across the world who are unable to be in their own
- Kansai Airport are Planning to Put Up Posters About the Refugee Application
The FRJ (Forum for Refugees Japan), with whom RAFIQ works closely, are
currently in three-party discussions regarding the asylum application process
with the Ministry of Justice and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
One of the proposals put forward at these discussions is the displaying
of posters about the application process at Japanese airports. These posters
will inform refugees about how to contact support organisations and proceed
with their applications.
These posters have been displayed on a trial basis in Narita and Haneda
airports since 2012. In 2015, it was decided to expand the scheme to Kansai
and Chubu airports. The posters will be renewed this month, before being
put up in Kansai airport for the first time.
Most refugees who apply for asylum at airports cannot speak Japanese, and
are not accustomed to life in Japan. They need your help with things such
as interpretation in various languages, and simple lifestyle support.
Please be sure to attend this month's "Let's Know More About Refugees"
lecture and the introductory meeting for volunteers that follows.
RAFIQ will continue to cooperate with other organisations as we aim to
being about a system that offers appropriate protection for refugees while
supporting asylum seekers here in Japan. Little by little, we can being