June 9, 2023

Japan passes contentious bill revising immigration, refugee law

Japan passes contentious bill revising immigration, refugee law

Japan’s upper house of parliament, on Friday, passed a contentious bill to amend an immigration and refugee law of the country.

The law, allows authorities to deport foreign nationals who apply for refugee status multiple times.

In spite of some opposition parties rejecting the move, the law was enacted with the support of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, its junior Komeito coalition ally, along with other smaller parties.

The controversial revision of the immigration and refugee law has been heavily criticised by organisations established to support asylum seekers in that country.

The organisations believe that the revised law, if enacted could lead to individuals being repatriated to their home countries.

The Japanese government believed the current system, which did not allow for foreign nationals to be deported while their application for refugee status was being processed, may be abused by those applying for refugee status multiple times as a means to stay in the country.

It also fears that foreign nationals were submitting multiple applications knowing that while the status of their application is pending, they cannot be deported from Japan.

The amended law would bring an end to the extended detention in immigration facilities for potential refugees, including foreign nationals, who have overstayed their visas and not complied with deportation orders.

Those who fail the process for not being able to show why their status as refugees should be granted, would be repatriated by the Japanese government.

But opponents to the law have pointed out that in the past, refugee statuses have in fact been granted to many with even up to third applications.

The amended law, however, would grant quasi-refugee status to individuals from conflict-affected regions, allowing them to stay in Japan even if they do not qualify for full refugee status, provided they have the requisite supervision of their supporters.

Those applying for refugee status would be allowed to live outside designated immigration facilities as a means for the Japanese government to deal with its heavily-criticised long-term detention of foreign nationals.

The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, called for the system to be overseen by a third-party, and not just immigration officials, to ensure fairness.

It has attempted to block passage of the bill at the eleventh hour, by submitting a censure motion against Justice Minister Ken Saito, who was in charge of the legislation.

The motion was however, voted down in the upper chamber of Japan’s bicameral parliament on Wednesday.

Refugee status was given to a record 202 people in Japan in 2022.

But this was out of 3,772 applicants, with Japan falling far behind some European countries and the U.S., who took in tens of thousands of refugees annually.