Comment on the Cabinet Approval of the “Proposed Bill for the Partial Revision of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act”
March 7, 2023
Japan Association for Refugees
Today, the Japanese government approved the “Proposed Bill for the Partial Revision of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act and the Special Act on the Immigration Control of, inter alia, those who have lost Japanese Nationality pursuant to the Treaty of Peace with Japan” (hereinafter referred to as “this bill”). Deliberations are to be expected later in the current Diet session.
This bill is a resubmission of a bill that was submitted to the Parliament in 2021 and later withdrawn. The original bill aroused widespread criticism both domestically and internationally, including from our organization. Amid a major controversy, virtually no alteration has been made prior to the resubmission. The consequences of this bill are nothing but a deterioration in protection and treatment of refugees fleeing to Japan. We convey our strong opposition to the bill, which enables deportations of refugees seeking asylum in Japan and therefore places their lives and safety in grave danger.
An establishment of a comprehensive yet fair asylum system for protecting refugees under international norms is the major issue that should be dealt with. It is not the adoption of this bill nor the persistence of the current regime. We call for a drastic change in the national asylum system. This would include a dedicated law for refugee protection, as well as an establishment of a dedicated government agency with expertise in refugee protection and non-interference from immigration administration.
The primary issue with this bill regards deportation of refugees. Refugee status determination system in Japan has been organized in a way that makes it difficult to pursue refugee protection. Such issues involve lack of independence, expertise and transparency in the determination process and asylum procedure. Nonetheless, many decide to reside in Japan as asylum seekers and live in harsh conditions because they have a fear of persecution if they return to their home country. This bill does not aim at reaching out to those who are in need of protection but rather enables the deportation of people from Japan.
The low acceptance and recognition rates of refugees in Japan are due to the overwhelming number of denials of applications from whom their status should be recognized as refugees. Under these circumstances, enabling deportation of those who are in their third or later application process is a clear breach of the country’s obligation to protect refugees and is hardly acceptable. Needless to add, cutting off asylum seekers’ ties with the community and taking up their lives is nothing more than a violation of human dignity.
This bill introduces a new legal framework of “complementary protection” which raises another issue. This new rule replaces a regulation of what is called “special permission to remain in Japan on humanitarian grounds,” and hence does not actually “enlarge” the scope of those who are eligible for protection. Rather, the regulation adopts the Japanese government’s narrow definition of eligible persons for complementary protection instead of complying with practices among other countries and international standards.
Amid a situation in which those who should be protected as refugees have not been receiving adequate protection, it is doubtful whether complementary protection as defined in this bill will function as, what the Japanese government has said, a system that will also “ensure protection for those who have fled from Ukraine in a stable manner”. We emphasize the importance of establishing a fair protection system that guarantees protection for people fleeing not only from Ukraine but also from various countries and regions.
Furthermore, there has been a discouraging lack of improvement in the context of detention of asylum seekers. An also newly introduced system of “monitoring measures” severely constrains one’s freedom and jeopardizes human dignity. The act of assistance and protection of asylum seekers are completely incompatible with “monitoring” which is carried out by means of imposition of duty or punishment against citizens. Rather, we call for a system that does not keep foreigners including refugees under surveillance nor arbitrary detention.
We are committed to continuing to speak out for the realization of a comprehensive refugee protection regime.
※For further comments, please refer our oncoming opinion paper along with a opinion paper regarding the 2021 version of this bill (In Japanese only).
Cf. Opinions and articles concerning the amendment bill to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act
* as of May 18th, 2023