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Japan.. a new law allowing the deportation of asylum seekers


Japan adopted, on Friday, a controversial immigration law that is supposed to improve conditions for asylum seekers, according to the government, but also allows it to deport those whose applications have been rejected several times, despite the objections of opposition parties and rights groups.

Before the law was passed, asylum seekers were allowed to remain in Japan during the processing of their applications, regardless of the number of attempts they made to obtain refugee status, but now they can be deported after 3 rejection decisions.

Justice Minister Ken Saito said the amended law “will protect those who need to be protected, and deal strictly with people who break the rules.”

“There are many people who are exploiting the application system to avoid deportation,” he added.

Controversy flares up

Activists organized demonstrations to protest the amended law, but an objection from the opposition bloc failed in a vote in Parliament, where the ruling coalition has a majority.

An altercation broke out in parliament on Thursday when opposition lawmakers attacked the head of a committee discussing legislative reform, in an attempt to prevent a vote on the amendments.

“It is unacceptable to deport people, even if they have criminal records, to countries where their human rights may be violated,” and “where their lives and freedom are in danger,” the Tokyo Bar Association said this week.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party says the amendments will allow better access to medical care and offer accommodation options for people whose asylum applications are still pending.

on refugees in Japan

Last year, Japan received only 202 refugees out of 12,500 people who applied for asylum, and separately allowed 1,760 people to stay on its territory for “humanitarian considerations.”

It received more than 2,400 evacuees from Ukraine under a different framework.

Immigrant detention conditions in Japan have come under scrutiny since the death of Washma Sandamali, a 33-year-old Sri Lankan, in 2021.

Chandamali was not an asylum-seeker but was being held in Nagoya, in the center of the country, for staying on an expired visa.

Her family is asking the government for more than $1 million in compensation and holding them responsible for her death.

Reports say Sandamali complained several times of stomach pain and other symptoms, and activists say she has not received proper medical care.

Mounting controversy and political pressure over the incident prompted ruling party lawmakers to abandon an effort to enact similar legal amendments to immigration rules two years ago.

Soichi Ibusuke, a lawyer for the Sandamali family, told AFP on Thursday that the amended law “is equivalent to a button pressed to execute asylum seekers by deporting them.”

He saw that “the system for identifying refugees in Japan is not working,” with officials quickly rejecting applications, sometimes without face-to-face interviews.

Amnesty International said in March that Japan should abandon a proposed revision of its immigration laws, calling Japan’s detention policies “cruel and oppressive”.