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Fortress Japan wants to be seen as an ‘open’ country

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France 24

France 24

Tuesday 31 March 2009

Fortress Japan wants to be seen as an ‘open’ country

Tokyo has announced it will soon grant refugee status to displaced people in foreign refugee camps with no prospects of repatriation. But the lucky few will number just 30 a year.

Kyaw Kyaw Soe lives in a suburb of the Japanese capital Tokyo. This Burmese activist fled his country to avoid being jailed. He first came to Japan on a tourist visa and then applied for refugee status. He has bad memories of the interview he had to go through with local immigration officers: “Their questions intended to determine that I was not a refugee. So, they were very clever in the way they asked the questions. I was completely panicked.”
While waiting for the answer, Kyaw Kyaw Soe lived on a small amount of financial help from the state, combined with the odd little job. Two years later, his plea has finally been heard. He was lucky. Only 508 immigrants have been granted refugee status in Japan over the last 17 years, since Tokyo signed on to the United Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees.

One incident in particular, involving refugees from North Korea, has helped shift Japanese public opinion on the issue of refugees. One year later, Japan slightly relaxed its rules on refugees. And the number of applicants surged. Most of them are Burmese and Sri-lankans. But of the 1.600 applications submitted last year, only 57 were classified as coming from refugees. The authorities fear abuses.

Still, Japan wants to be seen as an “open” country. Tokyo has announced it will now also grant refugee status to displaced people in foreign refugee camps with no prospects of repatriation. But through this programme, the world’s second largest economy will only select 30 extra people a year.

http://www.france24.com/en/20090331-report-japan-refugees-status-displaced-people-camps-law

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Written by Lwin Aung Soe

April 1, 2009 at 3:10 am

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