More seek, fewer win status as refugees

The number of people granted refugee status by the government between January and September was less than a third of the figure for the same period last year, according to Justice Ministry documents.

Considering that applications for refugee status during the nine months surpassed the record number set for the period in 2008, people who support refugees expressed concern that the situation in Japan, which is already seen as having a “closed door” for refugees, is deteriorating.

According to the documents, 1,123 people applied for refugee status between January and September, up from 1,100 the year before, but only 15 people were approved during the period, compared with 46 in 2008.

However, the number of people who were denied refugee status but granted special permits to remain in Japan due to humanitarian considerations increased during the period to 399 from 293 last year, the documents show.

Since October, the number of applications appears to have slowed, while there seems to have been an increase in the number of people granted refugee status, according to sources.

“We determine whether an applicant qualifies for refugee status on a case-by-case basis, so there are years in which we have many (approvals) and years in which we have few,” an official in the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau said.

“It takes one year or more on average for us to conclude whether to grant (refugee status), so even if the number of applicants increases, that is not immediately reflected in the number of applications approved,” the official said.

In 2008, the number of people applying for refugee status increased to 1,599, about double the figure for the year before, likely due to deteriorating public security abroad, including in Myanmar.