Before the law was passed, asylum seekers were allowed to stay in Japan while their claim was being processed, regardless of how many times they tried to get refugee status, but now they can be expelled after 3 rejection decisions.
Justice Minister Ken Saito said the amended law “will protect those who need protection and deal strictly with people who break the rules”.
“There are a lot of people who exploit the application system to avoid expulsion,” he added.
The controversy erupts
Activists staged demonstrations to protest the amended law, but an opposition bloc objection failed in a vote in parliament, where the ruling coalition has a majority. An altercation broke out in parliament on Thursday when opposition MPs attacked the head of a committee discussing law reform, in a bid to prevent a vote on the amendments. “It is unacceptable to deport people, even if they have a criminal record, to countries where their human rights may be violated” and “where their life and freedom are in danger”, the Association of Tokyo Bar. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party says the amendments will allow better access to medical care and provide accommodation options for people whose asylum applications are still pending.
about refugees in Japan
Last year, Japan took in just 202 refugees out of 12,500 people who sought asylum, and separately allowed 1,760 people to remain on its territory for “humanitarian considerations”. He received more than 2,400 evacuees from Ukraine in a different setting. The conditions of detention of immigrants in Japan have come under intense scrutiny since the death of Washma Sandamali, a 33-year-old Sri Lankan, in 2021. Chandamali was not an asylum seeker but was detained in Nagoya , in the center of the country, to stay with an expired visa. His family is asking the government for over a million dollars in compensation and holding them responsible for his death. Reports say Sandamali repeatedly complained of stomach pains and other symptoms, and activists say she did not receive proper medical attention. Growing controversy and political pressure over the incident prompted ruling party lawmakers to abandon an effort two years ago to enact similar legal amendments to immigration rules. Soichi Ibusuke, a lawyer for the Sandamali family, told AFP on Thursday that the amended law “is like pushing a button to execute asylum seekers by deporting them”. He saw that “Japan’s refugee identification system is not working,” with officials quickly rejecting applications, sometimes without face-to-face interviews. Amnesty International said in March that Japan should drop plans to overhaul its immigration laws, calling Japan’s detention policies “cruel and oppressive”.
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