Japan saw record number of refugee applicants in 2017, Justice Ministry says
Japan Times -- Feb 13
The number of people who applied for refugee status in Japan last year reached a record high of 19,628, up 80 percent from the previous year, the Justice Ministry announced Tuesday.

The ministry attributed the surge in refugee applications to a rise in economic immigrants --- what the government calls those who apply for refugee status to land jobs in Japan.

The latest figure was an increase of 8,727 from 2016, when the number stood at 10,901 --- the first time it topped 10,000.

"Information has been spreading that foreign people could start working six months after filing out an application while waiting for (the ministry's) decision on whether to grant them refugee status," the Immigration Bureau's Tetsuro Isobe said.

Of the total number of last year's applicants, who came to Japan from 82 countries, only 20 --- mainly from Egypt, Syria and Afghanistan --- were given refugee status. Others fled Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Nepal, Myanmar, Cambodia, India and Pakistan, among other places.

Japan allowed a further 45 individuals to stay in Japan based on humanitarian grounds. Among them were people from Syria, Myanmar and Iraq determined to be unable to return to their home countries out of fear of political persecution.

The ministry also rejected 9,730 applications.

By nationality, Filipinos accounted for the largest group of applicants --- 4,895 --- followed by 3,116 Vietnamese, the latest data showed.

Long criticized for being reluctant to accept refugees, Japan has not officially adopted an immigration policy. But many foreign workers enter to work in Japan through the Technical Intern Training Program, which was created in response to labor shortages for low-level jobs. Currently, an estimated 230,000 people are working under the program.

News source: Japan Times
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