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In November 2016 No.139
  1. 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
    • 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
    During the period of exhibition, some related events will be held at the venue. Everyone is welcome!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.
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In August 2016 No.136
  1. 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 status.

    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: Yonsanhachi
    Branch Number: 438
    Account Number: 6677668
    Account Name: RAFIQ
  2. 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 conflict".

    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.

  3. 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 High Court

    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 commented.
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In July 2016 No.135
  1. 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 in Japan.

    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)

  2. 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 Japan.
    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 year.
    (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

  3. 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.

  4. 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 known.
    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 treated.

    "Inmates on hunger strike at Japanese immigration detention center" (Reuters)
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In June 2016 No.134
  1. 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 UNCHR's homepage)
    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
    Participating Universities:
    Osaka University 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

    [TOKYO]
    Film Series: "Thinking About Refugees: So Near Yet Feeling So Far" Vol. 1
    Date & Time: Thursday June 16th 18:30 - 20:30
    Location: Rikkyo University (Ikebukuro Campus) Hall 11, Basement Floor 1 (Classroom AB01)

    [TOKYO]
    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

    [TOKYO]
    Refugee Talk: World Refugee Day Special Edition
    Date & Time: Saturday June 18th 14:00 - 16:00
    Location: Smart News Ltd. 2nd Floor Event Space

    [TOKYO]
    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

    [TOKYO]
    Refugees Are Here (in Japan): Portraits of Refugees in Japan
    Date & Time: Monday June 20th - Sunday June 26th
    Location: Tokyo Metro Omotesando Station

    [TOKYO]
    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

    [TOKYO]
    World Refugee Day in Shimo-Kita
    Date & Time: Monday June 20th 17:00 - 23:00
    Location: Rokudemonai Bar

    [TOKYO]
    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)

    [OSAKA]
    World Refugee Day 2016: West Japan Assembly
    Date & Time: Sunday June 26th 13:30 - 16:30
    Location:Sumai Joho Center, 3rd Floor

    [TOKYO]
    Film Series: "Thinking About Refugees: So Near Yet Feeling So Far" Vol. 2
    Date & Time: Wednesday June 29th 18:30 - 20:30
    Location: Rikkyo University (Ikebukuro Campus) Hall 8, Second Floor (Classroom 8202)

  2. 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.


  3. 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:

    Takegaki-san's Report:
    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:
    1. 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.

    2. 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 standards.
      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 more creative.

    3. 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):
    1. 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.
    2. Global Burden and Responsibility Sharing
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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 possible proposals.

  4. 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 with that.
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In May 2016 No.133
  1. "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 there?

    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)

  2. [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 lives.

  3. 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!

    WORKSHOP DETAILS
    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)

  4. 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 being rejected.
    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 public.)

    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."
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In April 2016 No.132
  1. 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 of April.

    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.

  2. "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 held.
    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
                Osaka-shi, Kita-ku, Tenjinbashi 6-4-20
                Tel: 06-6242-1160
               Map

    Event Details
    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 International Standards!"
             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 foreign attendees.
    If you would like to volunteer, please contact us at rafiqtomodati@yahoo.co.jp, 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

  3. 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:
    • 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 (SDGs).
    • The fact that last year's G7 and COP21 summits did not set specific goals regarding the "how" and "when" of dealing with environmental issues.
    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.

    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)

  4. A Report on "Dealing with Refugee Problems & Expanding Support Networks"

    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 asylum seekers.
    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.
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in March 2016 No. 131
  1. 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 goods.
    Tickets must be applied for in advance.
    Please contact RAFIQ to apply for tickets.

    21st March (Monday - Public Holiday) 13:00 - Syrian Film Screening & Discussion Event
    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 syriamovie.takatsuki@gmail.com. The deadline for email applications is March 20th. You can also contact us on the day itself.

  2. 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 also attended.

    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.


  3. 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 had tripled.
    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").


  4. 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."
  5. 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)
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In February 2016 No.130
  1. 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 were accepted.
    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.

  2. 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."

    Signed by:
    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:
    • 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.
    A Selection of Other Comments:
    • "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

  3. 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 in Japan.
    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:
    1. Planning the event by attending the organising committee meetings and signing up to the mailing list.
    2. Supporting the event (Groups 1,000yen; Individuals 500yen)
    3. Having a booth at the event.
    4. Distributing leaflets.
    5. Spreading the word about the event in newsletters or online.
    6. Doing something relating to refugees (pending discussion - please let us know what your plans involve)
    7. Volunteering at the event.
    8. Assisting in any other way.

    Contact us: RAFIQ
    569-0078 Takatsuki-shi, Ootemachi 6-24
    Fax: 072-684-0231
    Email: rafiqtomodati@yahoo.jp
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In January 2016 No. 129
  1. 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 year.
    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 this year.
    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 they are.
    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.

    January 2016

    RAFIQ Joint Representatives
    Keiko Tanaka
    Yoshie Hirokawa

  2. 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 not return.
    The exact figures for all of 2015 will be released in June.

    LINK: UNHCR report confirms worldwide rise in forced displacement in first half 2015

    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 country.

  3. Kansai Airport are Planning to Put Up Posters About the Refugee Application Process

    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 about change..

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

http://rafiq.jp/eng/

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