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January 19, 2015
Japan Association for Refugees
Free Legal Services for Refugee Support
TMI Associates Law Office (Tokyo Roppongi, Senior Managing Partner, Tanaka Katsuro) has formally created a new partnership with the Japan Association for Refugees (JAR) Pro Bono project. JAR has now established 4 pro bono partnerships (See 2012 July 27 Press Release). This partnership with a leading Japanese firm is the first formal pro bono partnership established with a Japanese law office. TMI’s pro bono services (free legal aid), will provide legal assistance to refugee clients referred by JAR who are seeking asylum. The goal is to create and expand an ongoing support system through collaboration on individual cases.
Why is Pro Bono Important?
Refugee application procedures and administrative litigation following the rejection of refugee status in Japan are legally complicated and support from experts is important. Most asylum seekers are burdened with the responsibility of proving that they are a “refugee” on their own. For example, they would need to gather statements and official comments describing their countries’ human rights conditions and detail their personal experiences of persecution or oppression. At times, refugees would need to use comparative case law from other countries’ courts to demonstrate their refugee qualifications. It is difficult to prepare all of these kinds of legal materials and proof alone. However, due to the refugees’ financial circumstances and the dearth of available experts, most refugees are unable to receive support, and thus are inevitably forced to undertake this entire process on their own. In addition, it takes 3 years on average before a decision is given on each case, and some cases can take over five years. In order to provide ongoing support over this time period, and in order to adapt to and improve the system, we must engage lawyers, experts, and other personnel.
JAR’s Pro Bono Partnership Structure
The Japan Association for Refugees (JAR) engages in reception and registration of asylum-seekers, and is the first to identify and document their situation, and assess their needs. If a client requires legal assistance, then JAR connects asylum-seekers with lawyers, serving as a coordinator. In accordance with the needs of the individual case, the law firm identifies a team to provide the necessary legal assistance.
For the past several years, there has been an increasing number of refugees seeking asylum from the Japanese government. However, very few of them are granted asylum in Japan. In 2013, 3,260 people sought asylum in Japan, but only 6 were accepted. Through this partnership, we hope to enhance legal assistance in individual cases, expand the number of refugees provided with protection, expand the collaboration between NGOs and Law Firms towards enhancing pro bono activities, and establish a system of regular support.
※If you are interested in learning more about JAR’s Pro Bono activities, please visit our website.We hope that many lawyers and law firms will join the cause.
Please feel free to contact: Shiho Tanaka, Public Relations Unit
Japan Association for Refugees, Daisan Shikakura Bldg., 6F, 1-7-10 Yotsuya, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0004
Tel: 03-5379-6001 Fax: 03-5379-6002