Justice Ministry to take steps to curb misuse of refugee program

Jiji Press TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The Justice Ministry said Friday that it will take steps to address a rise in people seeking work in Japan by abusing its refugee protection program.

The ministry will not provide work permits to applicants who do not meet the conditions for refugee status in preliminary screenings, starting with applications to be submitted on Monday.

At present, the ministry allows applicants to work in Japan six months after they apply for refugee status, even if preliminary screenings find them clearly ineligible. It usually takes about nine months to complete all screening processes.

In 2016, a record 10,901 people applied for refugee status. Of them, only 28 were recognized as meeting conditions stipulated in the international convention on the status of refugees.

No applicants from the top five countries by applicant number, including Indonesia and the Philippines, were granted refugee status. The ministry suspects many applicants pretend to be refugees in order to gain work in Japan.

The ministry conducts preliminary screenings within two months of applications being submitted. Applicants are classified into four groups — those very likely to meet the refugee conditions, those difficult to judge anytime soon, those clearly viewed as ineligible and those reapplying.

The ministry said it will provide work permits to applicants in the “very likely” group. For those whose applications are expected to take time, the ministry will examine each application and determine whether to provide work permits on an individual basis.

But it will not provide work permits to those who came to Japan as students but have since left their studies or those who are in a grace period during which they must leave Japan.

No work permits will be granted in principle to people who seek refugee status for such reasons as debt or mafia-related problems in their home countries and are deemed ineligible as refugees, or those who reapply for reasons for which they were rejected in the past.

For these people, the ministry will begin deportation procedures after their authorized periods of stay expire. There are exceptions, including when the political situation in an applicant’s home country has changed significantly.Speech

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