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The bill to amend Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act would give immigration authorities more power and exacerbate human rights violations
We demand the withdrawal of the bill

Statement by Kurosawa Koichi
Secretary Genera
National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
April 21, 2021

The House of Representatives Committee on Judicial Affairs on April 20 began discussing a bill to amend the special law concerning immigration control of people who have renounced Japanese citizenship in conformity with the law on immigration control and refugee recognition and the Treaty of Peace with Japan.

The bill would add new provisions to the law to give migrants no more than two chances to apply for refugee status and would enable the immigration service to deport those who have been denied refugee status. Refugees are people whose human rights need to be protected. The bill, if enacted, would enable the authorities to deny refugee status. Such adverse amendments are absolutely unacceptable. The National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) demands the bill be scrapped.

Many applicants for refugee status say they are unable to return to their home countries due to government persecution. If the authorities fail to take into account their situation and reject the applications in the process lacking transparency, the applicants may face deportation. If they refuse to comply with deportation orders, they could face criminal punishment. This provision contravenes the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. It is natural that the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention regards it as a violation of international law and calls for the bill to be reconsidered.

Japan affirms the policy on mandatory detention, which is very rare in the present-day world. If an asylum seeker is not given refugee status by the Immigration Service Agency without judicial involvement, the person will be deprived of life or liberty and put in detention. There have been many cases in which detainees get ill or die during detention. The immigration authorities tend to refuse to disclose why or how a detainee died. It’s contrary to what administrative authorities of a democracy should be. In this sense, scrapping the present bill is not sufficient. The need is to fundamentally reform the immigration control systems.

A UN Human Rights Council statement points out that detention should be the last resort. It calls for alternatives to detention to be considered for asylum-seeking individuals. The present bill would amend the immigration control law to create a new supervisory program, which would allow would-be deportees to live outside detention facilities under the supervision of their family members or others. The program would be run under the control of the Immigration Service Agency. A “supervisor” would be required to pay three million yen in guarantee money to the authorities. If an asylum-seeker has run away and the “supervisor” has failed to report it to the authorities, the supervisor will be penalized. Thus, the “supervisor” is required to shoulder heavier responsibilities and duties. We cannot expect a decline in detention cases under the “supervisory program.”

Applicants for refugee status have various reasons for being unable to return to their home countries. Some may face persecution due to political view. Some have had no choice but to flee from excessively long working hours or violence as technical intern trainees. Some are unable to return to their homes due to the status of their children or other family members. The authorities should respond to the problem by taking these people’s different situations into account.
The refugee recognition rate in Japan was held the lowest among the developed countries under the government of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. In 2019, only 44 people were given refugee status. They were only 0.4 percent of the 10,000 asylum seekers. By contrast, Germany gave 53,973 people refugee status. If the Japanese government says it is aiming to create a “multi-cultural society” it should change policy to strengthen refugee protection.

In February, opposition parties, including the Constitutional Democratic Party, the Japanese Communist Party, the Democratic Party For the People, and the Social Democratic Party, jointly submitted to the House of Councilors a bill to protect refugee-related people and a bill to amend the immigration control law.

Zenroren demands that the government bill to amend the immigration control law be scrapped and that the immigration service be reformed to protect the human rights of asylum seekers.


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