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Friday, June 09, 2023, 16:47
Japan passes contentious bill to revise immigration, refugee law
By Xinhua
Friday, June 09, 2023, 16:47 By Xinhua

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida responds to an interview with reporters at his office in Tokyo on May 31, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)

TOKYO - Japan's upper house of parliament on Friday passed a contentious bill to amend an immigration and refugee law allowing for authorities to deport foreign nationals who apply for refugee status multiple times.

Despite some opposition parties rejecting the move, the law was enacted with the support of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior Komeito coalition ally, along with other smaller parties.

The controversial revision of the immigration and refugee law has been heavily criticized by organizations here established to support asylum seekers

The controversial revision of the immigration and refugee law has been heavily criticized by organizations here established to support asylum seekers.

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Such entities believe that now the revised law has been enacted it could lead to individuals being repatriated to their home countries.

The Japanese government believes the current system, which does not allow for foreign nationals to be deported while their application for refugee status is being processed, may be being abused by those applying for refugee status multiple times as a means to stay in the country.

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It believes that foreign nationals have been applying for refugee status multiple times in the knowledge that while the status of their application is pending, they cannot be deported from Japan.

The amendment law will bring an end to the extended detention in immigration facilities for potential refugees, including foreign nationals  who have overstayed their visas and not complied with deportation orders.

Under the new law, when applying for refugee status for the third time or later, those who fail the process for not being able to show why their status as a refugee should be granted will be repatriated by the Japanese government.

But opponents to the law have pointed out that in the past refugee statuses have in fact been granted to those after their third application has been made.

The amended law, however, will grant quasi-refugee status to individuals from conflict-affected regions, allowing them to stay in Japan even if they do not qualify for full refugee status.

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Providing they have the requisite supervision of their supporters, those applying for refugee status will be allowed to live outside designated immigration facilities as a means for the Japanese government to deal with its heavily-criticized long-term detention of foreign nationals.

The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan who has called for the system to be overseen by a third-party and not just immigration officials to ensure fairness, attempted to block passage of the bill in the eleventh hour by submitting a censure motion against Justice Minister Ken Saito, who is in charge of the legislation.

The motion was voted down in the upper chamber of Japan's bicameral parliament on Wednesday, however.

Refugee status was given to a record 202 people in Japan in 2022. But this was out of 3,772 applicants, with Japan falling far behind some European countries and the United States who take in tens of thousands of refugees annually.

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