The Refugee Status becomes a hot issue among all statuses in Japan due to its low approval rate. Most of those asylum-seekers in Japan are coming from countries in Asia, Middle East, Africa, and many other countries. However, several applications got rejected due to insufficient materials proving their claim as Refugees, or maybe because of the unfamiliarity of applying for such status. This article will give useful information on how to be recognized as a Refugee in Japan.
Let’s consider first the meaning of the word refugee? What’s in your mind when you hear this word? If you think of a person escaping from his or her own country. Well, partly, that is right. Refugees are those forced to leave their own country to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.
Under the 1951 Refugee Convention, a person must satisfy four (4) criteria to be qualified as a refugee:
- Is outside the country of his nationality
- To have a well-founded fear of being persecuted
- The fear of being persecuted for the reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion
- Being unable or unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country owing to such fear.
What do you need to understand before you apply for refugee status?
The determining process of refugee status involves the understanding of “well-founded fear” of the applicant. Fear is the subjective element that must be reasonable and backed up, with an objective element to be well-founded.
What are the different forms of persecution?
- Danger to your life (target attack)
- Arrest / Detention
- Disappearance (by abduction)
- Confiscation of property
- Deprivation of opportunity to work
- Deprivation of educational opportunity
- Being forced to a religion
- Being forced to a political party
What should be the reason for the persecution?
It should fall under the refugee criteria such as race or ethnicity, nationality, membership of a particular social group, and political activity or opinion.
What proofs do you need to submit?
- Newspaper or article stating your persecution, or the persecution of the same group you belong
- Documents showing the record of your political opinion, including search warrants or arrest warrants if any.
- Proof of membership in your organization or it can be a letter from your organization with your name and stating what happened to you in your country.
- Reports published by governments, agencies, and human rights groups including domestic organizations
- Any identification such as student identification card
*Only submit the photocopies, not the original copies.
The immigration will assess, evaluate all the factors involving both elements, but will evaluate the applicant’s statements first. Therefore, you should make your statement as detailed as possible.
If you think you are not eligible to apply for this status, don’t waste your time to apply for recognition of Refugee status. To learn other visas in Japan, please read this article “Japan Visa: How Can I Get a Visa to Work?”
The Application for Recognition of Refugee Status
Who can apply?
A foreigner who already in Japan, and possessed the four (4) criteria above
What are the Requirements?
- A copy of application form
- A copy of the applicant statement claiming that he/she is a Refugee (any format)
- Other Materials confirming that the applicant is a refugee, such as magazines or newspapers, any documents, or reports published from the Government
- Two (2) copies of photo (4cmx3cm, taken within the last three (3) months, with applicant’s name on the backside)
Must present if the applicant has any following documents:
- Passport or Certificate of Status of Residence
- Residence card
- Any Landing permission
For more details, please check the Immigration Bureau of Japan
The Flow of Application
- Submit the necessary documents for the application.
- Interview with a Refugee Inquirer (Nanmin Chousa-kan). After the application is processed, the staff from the immigration office will call to inform the schedule of the interview. A Refugee Inquirer (Nanmin Chousa-kan), who is a staff member of the Immigration Bureau will handle the interview. After some fact-finding by the interview, they will notify the applicant of the result whether he or she will be recognized as a refugee or not.
- Grant of Refugee Status
- Make an appeal
If the application is rejected, the applicant can appeal (Igimoushitate) within seven (7) days after the result. Therefore, he or she must submit the appeal application form within seven (7) days since the notification of the initial application result.
- Appeal interview
The applicant has the right to oral pleading and hearing, so he/she can request for it. The hearing with Refugee Examination Counselors and the interview usually lasts for two (2) hours. Right after the interview, they will notify the applicant of the appeal decision. If rejected, then request for Administrative trial.
- Request for Administrative Trial
The applicant can request for Judicial review if she/he is not satisfied with the decisions made by the Immigration bureau. Also, she/he can make another appeal if she/he will be rejected for the initial judicial trial. However, she/he will shoulder the court expenses.
What are the things you need to do after receiving refugee status?
For those who received recognition of refugee status with long-term residence status
Immediately confirm your status of residence and period of stay at the Immigration Bureau. Ask them also the other procedures necessary in order to legally stay in Japan.
For those who received recognition of refugee status with short-term stay residence status
You need to apply for change status, and the following documents will be required.
- Application form for change of status of residence
- Certificate of Alien Registration
- A written statement (explain that although you do not have a competent guarantee, you wish to receive permission to change your status of residence, etc.)
Rights and Benefits authorized to Refugee Status
- Protection from refoulement
- Entitled to resident status. That means he/she can work and stay long-term in Japan.
- Can apply for a Refugee Travel Document. Having this document, a refugee can travel to other countries.
- Entitled of healthcare insurance
- Entitled to receive equal benefits of Japanese citizens in terms of employment and educational services.
- Will not be tighten up from the requirements for permission for Permanent Residence.
Many are determined to apply for this type of status in Japan, apparently, due to rights and benefits. Sadly, because of unconvincing reasons and insufficient proofs, many applications were rejected. Besides, the alluring offers of some visa agencies making other foreigners decide to apply, although they are not actually eligible.
Therefore, asylum-seekers will only be eligible for the refugee status application only if they have suffered well-founded fear from persecution and can be able to supply concrete evidence. Otherwise, their claim as Refugees will be rejected by the Ministry of Justice in Japan.