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Defying Convention: Japan, National Identity and the Illegalisation of Asylum

Peter Lee, GSAPS (Waseda University)


Since becoming a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1981 Japan has faced widespread international criticism over the nation's low rate of acceptance. Between 1981 and 2008 only 573 of a total 7,297 applicants gained refugee recognition under the guidelines set out in the convention (while an additional 882 were granted permission to remain for humanitarian reasons). This is seen as an insignificant number in consideration of Japan's economic might and the records of other developed nations.

Refugee determination in Japan is handled in line with the nation's broader immigration policy by the Ministry of Justice as set out in the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (MoJ (2008)). As such the doctrine of defending a notional universal Japanese national identity, found at the core of Japan's stringent immigration policy, has also had far reaching implications for asylum applicants and refugees alike.

This paper seeks to address the way in which Japan's refugee policy facilitates the illegalisation of asylum and limits the extension of rights to refugees. Firstly, Japan's history of refugee acceptance is critically assessed in the context of compliance with the 1951 Refugee Convention. Secondly, I assess relevant theories in refugee studies. In the third section the implications of Japan's protectionist stance are explored. To conclude the future potential of refugee determination in Japan is discussed.

1 Grudging Acceptance: An Overview of Refugees and Japan

Between 1978 and 2002 Japan accepted nearly 11,000 Indo-Chinese refugees (Dean and Nagashima, 2007: 489). In stark contrast relatively few asylum claimants have obtained refugee status since Japan became a signatory of the Refugee Convention. As of 2008 only 573 (of which 63 went to the appeal stage) of a total 7,297 applicants had been granted refugee status (see fig 1). This amounts to an acceptance rate of under 13%. How does a nation go from resettling thousands fleeing the Indochina conflict to accepting one solitary refugee in numerous years during the nineties? Below I attempt to answer this question whilst untangling the complexities of refugee policy in Japan.

As defined in article 1 of the Refugee Convention the term “refugee” applies to an individual who: “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country” (UNHCR, 2007a: 16). Although in itself the convention's refugee definition has been the source of intense debate as to those it excludes, such as internally displaced stateless persons, it is now regarded as the internationally recognised standard against which applicants should be judged. Below the term “refugee” refers to those that have been granted convention refugee status. Those that obtain the status of “humanitarian leave to enter” are distinguished as “humanitarian refugees”.

1.1 The Indo-China Influx

The influx of Indo-Chinese refugees in the late seventies marked the first large-scale resettlement of internationally displaced people in Japan's post-war history. By 1980 over 1,200 new arrivals per year were granted leave to stay as international pressure mounted on Japan to fulfill its humanitarian obligations as the most economically developed nation in the region (Arakaki, 2008: 17). The Refugee Assistance Headquarters (RHQ) was established in order to both vet new arrivals and to provide assistance to those who were granted leave to enter. Although RHQ continues to support refugees through numerous programs their vetting role was revoked in 1994. The effectiveness of RHQ support mechanisms has also been questioned (see Banki 2006).

The Indo-Chinese experience exposed a distinct lack of legal machinery for refugee determination. Although effective as a stop-gap solution the Diet's refugee policy remained underdeveloped and focused exclusively on the acceptance and social integration of Indo-Chinese refugees. If the momentum that had been built during the late seventies was to be maintained then access to the refugee recognition process would have to be improved.

1.2 Accession to the Refugee Treaty

Japan became a signatory of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1981. This move was widely perceived as an attempt to both silence international criticism regarding low levels of refugee acceptance whilst closing the perceived gap in compliance with human rights standards between Japan and other developed nations. As Flowers notes Japanese officials were “preoccupied with making decisions regarding refugees that were “worthy” of members of international society” (2006: 24). As such compliance with the convention was seen as a means to improve Japan's international image.

Expectations were high that ratification of the convention would provide a standardised framework within which a more streamlined refugee determination process could evolve. In turn it was hoped that this would perpetuate a rise in the number of successful asylum cases in Japan.

This did not prove to be the case, however, and refugee acceptance has remained relatively low in recent decades. In 2008 a total of 1312 cases were concluded. Of these 73 (including 17 cases that went to the appeal stage) applicants were granted refugee status, 360 were permitted to stay on humanitarian grounds and 87 decided to withdraw their application (fig 1).

One measure used by the UNHCR to calculate a nation's capacity for refugee settlement is refugees to GDP per capita. This benchmark takes into account both the economic and demographic standing of a nation. In 2007 Japan's refugee to GDP per capita index was 0.1 (UNHCR, 2007b: 129). When compared with the US (6.2) UK (8.4) and China (56.5) it is clear that Japan is not fulfilling its potential as a refugee host nation.

1.3 Current Trends in Refugee Acceptance

Japan has been accused of buying its way out of trouble by contributing large sums of financial backing for refugee resettlement programs overseas. In 2004 total contributions to organizations such as the UNHCR amounted to $95.3 million (Banki, 2006: 333).

In contrast to this substantial financial support the number of convention refugees in Japan remains comparatively low. However recent years have shown a noticeable rise in the number of claims ending in refugee recognition or “leave to enter on humanitarian grounds”. If we combine the number of successful claims (including those at the appeal stage) with those who were granted humanitarian status then the 2008 total of 433 “successful” cases marks a 7 fold increase from that of 2000 (in which 58 asylum applicants were permitted to stay in Japan). Although this seemingly represents a remarkable increase in acceptance nearly 80% of the 2008 total were granted humanitarian status and so do not benefit from the same support structures available to convention refugees.

Japan is not the only nation to operate such a system and the practice of accepting asylum seekers on humanitarian grounds is common in several other developed nations. It should be noted, however, that there are no provisions regarding humanitarian status in the refugee convention. Whilst the provision of humanitarian status has become a common principle in customary refugee law standards regarding qualification vary dramatically from state to state.

Humanitarian status allows those who are found to fall outside the boundaries of the convention's refugee definition to gain temporary asylum when repatriation is not an option due to unrest or ongoing political instability: the status of “temporary refuge adopts a purely situational approach premised upon a de facto lack of national protection due to occurrences within the country of nationality” (Perluss and Hartman, 1986: 583). The rising number of asylum claimants who are permitted to stay on humanitarian grounds can be interpreted as a sign that the government is unwilling to grant permanent refugee status in cases where repatriation may be possible in the future.

The diet recently announced plans to start a UNHCR backed relocation program for Burmese refugees currently in camps on the Thai border. The program is set to start in 2010 for an initial pilot period of 3 years within which 30 refugees will be resettled in Japan per year. This program would mark a clear shift in refugee policy from the current doctrine of protectionism to a more pro-active resettlement model. Expansion of the program will be highly dependent upon the initial trial period and it remains to be seen whether or not the introduction of this resettlement scheme will impact upon the chances of pending asylum claims made on Japanese soil.

2 The Role of National Identity

Having addressed the background to Japan's refugee policies I now turn to the question of why the establishment of a seemingly orderly refugee determination process has failed to liberalise refugee acceptance standards. In order to do so the impact of national identity on refugee policy must first be examined.

Below I look at the concepts of “ambivalence” and “manufactured illegality” in the context of national identity. I then discuss the two theories' interconnectivity under the banner of “legal neutrality”. Kyambi's (2004) study of the implications of national identity on refugee law serves as a theoretical justification as to why nations often feel under threat by the existence of refugees within their borders. The concept of “manufacturing illegality” developed by Essed and Wesenbeek (2004) addresses the issue of how protectionist attitudes filter down to refugees and asylum seekers.

2.1 The Refugee's Ambivalence Toward National Identity

Kyambi's study highlights the way in which the very existence of refugees “questions the assumption that nations form natural, harmonious affiliations of peoples and territories” (2004: 29). This “ambivalence” of a refugee's stateless position within a world system that relies upon national identity to determine an individual's access to civil rights puts them at odds with preconceived ideas of nationality. Furthermore Kyambi suggests that the nation's ability to keep those who are “unwanted” outside its borders is in itself implicit in the formation of national identity.

It is within this environment that refugees and asylum applicants challenge the notional borders of nations as, at least in theory; they are to be accepted on the grounds set out in the convention regardless of their potential to integrate into the host nation's society. It is this distinction that sets them apart from other migrants. As Feller notes; “Refugees are not migrants, even if refugee and migration situations may share some common elements” (2006: 514). In reality, however, this distinction often falls by the wayside as states ultimately act in their own interests and governments work to appease fears over increased levels of immigration.

2.2 The Manufacture of Illegality

The ambivalence of a refugee's status puts them in a particularly fragile situation. This allows the recognition process to be used in a way that purposefully excludes applicants through what Essed and Wesenbeek termed the “manufacture of illegality” (2004: 58). They purport that if the actions of an applicant resemble those of an illegal economic migrant they may be tarred with the same brush regardless of the substantiality of their claim for asylum.

The prohibition of employment during the asylum application period is one way in which illegality is manufactured. Those without access to financial aid from civil organisations often have little choice but to partake in illegal labour. Such forms of “illegalisation” can have implications on the credibility of an asylum applicant, a factor crucial to the potential success or failure of a claim.

Dauvergne (2004) too has addressed the all too often vilifying nature of asylum procedures with reference to an individual’s means of entry into a nation. In the eyes of the host government the legally questionable means of entry of asylum seekers predetermines that the “connotations of the label 'illegal' are....attached to them” (Dauvergne, 2004: 94). As the stringency of immigration policy ultimately determines the extent of stigmatisation attached to this “illegal label” an applicant who’s claim is denied on such grounds in one country may find that they are able to gain acceptance in a third state with differing immigration standards.

2.3 Legal Neutrality – The Refugee Status Spectrum

Asylum seekers are neither legal nor illegal residents. Their ambiguous nature plunges them into the very grey-area between the blackness of illegality and the whiteness of legality that is unrecognised by the state. This ignorance of ambivalence or “legal neutrality” is the cause of the illegalisation of asylum status. It is assumed that as they are not “legal” then by a process of elimination they must be “illegal”.

Whilst Kyambi's theorising of ambivalence sets out a third alternative to legal and illegal status it seems that this too is something of a simplification of the current reality. In response to this I have developed the concept of ambivalence into what I have termed “legal neutrality” (see fig 2).

Legal neutrality is not a status, rather a spectrum of the many shades of grey that make up the space between “legality” and “illegality” with legal migrants and convention refugees at one extreme and failed claimants at the other (see fig 2). In the same way that denizens are not granted the full benefits of de facto citizenship asylum seekers and those holding humanitarian status are not afforded the same treatment as “legal convention refugees.

Once an asylum applicant is refused refugee status they suffer a fall in status to that of an illegal migrant and as such their deportation is justifiable. By raising and lowering the bar in line with economic and social factors the current determination framework can be utilized either as a humanitarian tool or a means of exclusion. Low levels of refugee recognition suggest the later to be applicable to the case of Japan but questions remain as to exactly how this attitude instills itself in the refugee determination procedure.

3 Implications for Refugees in Japan: Beyond Ambivalence

Below I highlight the difficulties faced by asylum seekers and refugees at three stages: pre-determination, during the determination process itself and post-determination. Low levels of refugee acceptance are often solely attributed to failures within the current legal machinery. The following study looks beyond this view by addressing the link between exclusionary policies in general immigration law and refugee determination.

3.1 Pre-Determination

The extent to which a potential asylum seeker is willing to apply for protection varies from case to case. Many only apply after being apprehended by the authorities whilst working illegally. This is often due to a combination of factors such as the mistrust of state authorities, a lack of knowledge regarding their right to apply for asylum or doubts regarding the legitimacy of the process itself.

The attitude of one Burmese convention refugee from Banki’s study of urban refugees is telling: “You can work for five years without being arrested, and then within two months of applying for refugee status you can be arrested, because the Japanese system is dangerous” (Banki, 2006: 335). For those employed illegally the risk of deportation and prohibition of employment make life as an asylum seeker an unworkable alternative and so only submit an application as a last resort when they are apprehended by the authorities.

This ambivalence between the state and potential refugee creates a lasting mutual distrust, pushing up the population of illegal workers whilst suppressing the number of asylum claims filed. As such the manufacture of illegality begins even before a formal application is made. Although it is hard to make direct comparisons due to numerous independent factors one explanation for the rising number of asylum applications in the past few years could be the government’s recent crackdown on undocumented workers1.

Many asylum applicants find themselves in detention centres either after applying for asylum at customs upon arrival or following their arrest as an unregistered worker. In these facilities asylum seekers are held alongside illegal migrants awaiting deportation. It should be noted that those that either apply whilst legally in Japan or illegal migrants who avail themselves to the authorities before arrest are generally not detained. This dual policy exemplifies the duplicity of asylum status in Japan. Those who are seen to have acted in good faith are afforded greater freedom than those thought to be abusing the system.

Although detainees can apply for provisional release the mechanisms in place at present are unsatisfactory. In cases where applicants apply for release the average detention period is one year (Arakaki, 2008: 225). Strict criteria for release limit access to release procedures and 2007 only 79 of 438 applicants were granted a provisional permit (RAFIQ (2008): 3).

A bail payment is also required to secure release from detainment. The amount requested varies from case to case depending upon factors such as the length of detainment with a maximum fee of 3 million yen payable upon release (Fields, 2006: 138). Although some are fortunate enough to receive aid from Japanese NGOs to secure these funds others face the prospect of indefinite detention due to the lack of limits on detainment periods. Recognition of the suffering imposed by long periods of detention is improving and in 2003 a Burmese refugee was awarded ¥9.5 million in compensation for the 9 months of imprisonment that led up to the acceptance of his appeal claim (Flowers, 2008: 346). Unfortunately such cases constitute exceptions rather than the rule.

Extended detention is another way in which the state attempts to deal with the ambiguous status of refugees and asylum seekers. By limiting the movement of asylum claimants deportation procedures are thought to be streamlined. It should be noted however that stateless persons, such as Indo-Chinese refugees born in Thai refugee camps (See Komai and Azukizawa (2009)), may face extended periods of confinement unless a suitable resettlement strategy is found. Thus, those most in need of support find themselves trapped with nowhere to go within a framework that fails to recognise their plight.

3.2 The Determination Process

The functionality of the Japanese refugee recognition process has been repeatedly criticised due to the seemingly ad hoc basis on which cases are decided. Critics point to long processing periods and a lack of transparency as issues that must be settled in order to create a more efficient, fair system. In recent years several cases have come to light in which Japanese decision makers have acted in violation of generally accepted legal practices in direct opposition to guidelines set out by UNHCR. Below I address how this confrontational approach moves the goalposts for those seeking asylum in Japan.

As each signatory to the Refugee Convention adheres to one set definition for refugee determination it is supposed that standards will be uniform across the board. This supposition seems to hold substance in Japan's case. Upon acceding to the convention the then Chief of the Immigration Control Section stated that “refugee determination procedure is substantially an act of fact finding in order to declare whether or not an applicant is a refugee. And this, anybody will reach an identical conclusion” (Arakaki, 2008: 20). If this stance is widespread then it would seemingly explain the low levels of success at the appeal stages of the process. However the legitimacy of this standpoint deserves attention. If international standards are indeed uniform then the practice of relocating failed asylum seekers in other nations as refugees would be implausible. The mere existence of this practice exposes the fact that standards vary wildly from nation to nation and that whilst the process is a fact-finding mission, the way in which these facts are then perceived by those tasked with granting asylum is by no means universal. The refoulement of two UNHCR recognised Kurdish refugees in 2005 exposed contradictions between refugee policy and the attitude that refugee determination is a standardised procedure (UNHCR, 2005).

Questions have also been asked regarding the onus of proof in refugee determination hearings. In principle asylum claimants are to be given the benefit of the doubt when the specific details of a claim lack tangible evidence. This is due to the difficulties associated with gathering corroborating evidence in the prior nation of residence whilst maintaining anonymity (Arakaki, 2008: 121). However in several asylum cases in Japan the burden of proof has been put solely on the applicant's shoulders by calling for documented evidence. In one instance a Bangladeshi asylum seekers was told that he must provide Japanese translations for applicable governmental legislation to back up his claims (Amnesty International, 1993: 230), a costly and time-consuming requirement that seems unjust when the applicant's position is considered.

In one case cited by Arakaki it was ruled that the burden of proof was the applicant's because “as applicants are aliens, it is obvious that our state may not obtain materials which prove that they are refugees rightfully and justly” (2008: 147). Essentially an applicant remains legally neutral until they have proven themselves worthy of recognition as decision makers lack a well-rounded knowledge of global human rights issues.

3.3 Post-Determination

Upon the completion of a case the claimant is notified of the result and their subsequent legal status2. The initial procedure can lead to one of three verdicts; refusal of refugee status, provision of refugee status and provision of humanitarian status.

As discussed above a failed asylum seeker essentially becomes “illegal” overnight once their case is concluded. Once refugee status has been refused an individual can prevent this fall in legal status by appeal against the initial decision either through the mechanisms in place under the Immigration and Refugee Recognition Act or through the courts. It is estimated that 60-70% of those who are refused chose to go to appeal (Dean, 2006:12). As both the initial hearing and appeal stages of the process are overseen by the Ministry of Justice appeals tend to fall on death ears due to the absence of an impartial administrative body.

Those who do obtain refugee status are eligible for governmental support such as housing benefit, language education and state medical insurance (Dean 2006: 19). Although they are permitted to work many find that the only employment available to them, at least in the short term, varies very little from that of illegally employed asylum seekers or other economic migrants. In the medium to long-term some manage to set up their own businesses and often subsequently offer employment to newcomers struggling to make ends meet. Linguistic and cultural barriers in addition to an individual's ability to accumulate cultural capital determine the extent to which they have access to these support networks.

The recent rise in asylum applications happens to have coincided with Japan's current economic recession. As such rising numbers are now seeking support from an already stretched budget and this has led to a redistribution of funding in which those most at need gain priority (Asahi Shinbun (2009)). Although this seems like a logical framework it exposes the lack of funding available for refugee support programs. Organisations such as Amnesty International have criticised the move as it may lead to a reallocation of support that whilst helping those most at need leaves others without a livelihood (Ibid.). Refugees often turn to NGOs to supplement the insufficient support offered by state authorities (See Dean and Nagashima (2007)) but these programs are no substitute for a more comprehensive governmental strategy. Cutting funding to government programs that are already limited in scope will push more asylum claimants into destitution or illegal employment pushing them further towards “illegality”.

At first glance humanitarian status seems to fill the void left between the convention's narrow refugee definition and those that fail to meet this definition but can not repatriate. Those with humanitarian status fall between convention refugees and asylum seekers. Whilst they are afforded access to civil services their residence status is temporary and must be renewed, usually on an annual basis, and as such the legality of an individual's presence is dependent upon the discretion of the Ministry of Justice. Records for cases in which humanitarian status were granted show a preference toward those with a Japanese spouse or dependent children (MoJ, 2008).

Humanitarian status has now become the norm when applicants are permitted to stay in Japan. However the lack of regulation under the Refugee Convention concerning this practice puts at risk the credibility of the current refugee determination procedure. As Japan looks to move to a program of refugee resettlement through the 2010 pilot scheme there is a danger that those seeking asylum within Japan may suffer further exclusion from convention status effectively limiting the rights afforded to them. If this is the case then it goes against the very principles of refugee acceptance and the humanitarian grounds set out in the convention.

Post determination asylum claimants are polarised as essentially legal or illegal. They are no longer subject to the insecurity of the grey area of legal neutrality. However this division does not always equate to the repatriation of “illegals” and the successful integration of “legals” due to political, social and economic complexities.


Despite being a signatory to the Refugee Convention Japan has continued to treat those who claim asylum with disdain. By illegalizing asylum seekers through the application of stringent immigration legislation the ambivalence of their legal status is ignored. This leads to a sporadic curtailment of rights based on a judgment of an individual’s integrity external to the narrow focus of refugee determination. The implications of these exclusionary measures are far reaching at all stages of the recognition process.

The illegalisation of Japan’s internationally displaced population is most evident in their initial mistrust of a “dangerous” system. Many with valid cases for asylum choose to remain undocumented as they perceive this to be the safer option. The selectivity of enforced detention is one of many factors that contributes to the creation of a spectrum of legalities.

Within the recognition process itself the lack of an effective, independent appeals process and non-adherence to internationally recognized refugee law principles stack the odds against applicants whose actions inside Japan are often just as influential as the extent to which they are at risk of persecution in their previous nation of residence.

Even after a case is successful many find that they still lack governmental support and turn to those around them as well as NGOs as a means of survival. The current dual tier system of convention and humanitarian refugees has developed in tandem with a crackdown on illegal workers and a rise in asylum claims. Humanitarian status has now developed from an exceptional measure to the current standard and in doing so has undermined the validity of de facto refugee status and the protection offered under the Refugee Convention.

Many of the practices outlined in this paper occur in other developed nations but are tolerated due to higher levels of acceptance. Greater international cooperation and a standardised humanitarian status are two measures that are needed on an international level if domestic reforms are to be realised.

If Japan is to increase the number of claims that end in protection and continued support for those at risk then steps must be taken to abolish the protectionist measures, both internal and external to the recognition process, that currently illegalise the status of those that seek asylum within Japan’s borders.


fig. 1 Asylum Figures 1982-2008

Asylum Applications

Refugee Status Granted (Succesful Appeals)

Refugee Status Refused

Application Withdrawn

Humanitarian Status Granted



67 0





63 0





31 0





10 0





3 0





6 0





12 0





2 0





2 0





1 0






3 0






6 0






1 0






2 1






1 0






1 0






16 1






16 3






22 (0)






26 2






14 0






10 (4)






15 6






46 15






34 12






41 4






57 17






508 65




Ministry of Justice Statistics (2009)

Fig 2 The Spectrum of Legality and the Curtailed Rights of Claimants

Legal Neutral Illegal

Convention Refugees



Asylum Seekers

Appeal Cases/ Detainees

Failed Claimants

Permanent Resident Status

Limited Access to Support/ Annual Renewal

Prohibition of Employment

Extended Detention

Forced Deportation

Formulated by author


Amnesty International (1993), Japan: Inadequate Protection for Refugees and Asylum Seekers, International Journal of Refugee Law Vol. 5 (1993)

Arakaki, Osamu (2008), Refugee Law and Practice in Japan, Ashgate Publishing

Banki, Susan (2006), Burmese Refugees in Tokyo: Livelihoods in the Urban Environment, Journal of Refugee Studies Vol. 19 No. 3, Oxford University Press

Dauvergne, Catherine (2004), Making People Illegal, from Forced Migration and Global Processes: A View from Forced Migration Studies (Crepeau et al), Lexington Books

Dean, Meryll (2006), Japan: Refugees and Asylum Seekers, Writenet Report Feb 2006

Dean and Nagashima (2007), Sharing the Burden: The Role of Government and NGOs in Protecting and Providing for Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Japan, Journal of Refugee Studies Vol. 20 No. 3, Oxford University Press

Essed and Wesenbeek (2004), Contested Refugee Status: Human Rights, Ethics and Social Responsibilities, from Refugees and the Transformation of Societies (Essed et al.), Berghahn Books

Feller, Erika (2006), Asylum, Migration and Refugee Protection: Realities, Myths and the Promise of Things to Come, International Journal of Refugee Law Vol. 18 (Sept/Dec 2006)

Field, Ophelia (2006), Alternatives to Detention of Asylum Seekers and Refugees, UNHCR, Geneva

Flowers, Petrice (2008), Failure to Protect Refugees? Domestic Institutions, International Organizations, and Civil Society in Japan, Journal of Japanese Studies, Issue 34 No 2 (2008)

Flowers, Petrice (2006), The International Refugee Convention: National Identity as a Limitation on Compliance, from Forced Migration and Global Processes: A View from Forced Migration Studies (Crepeau et al), Lexington Books

Komai and Azukizawa (2009), Stateless Persons from Thailand in Japan, Forced Migration Review Issue 32 (April 2009)

Kyambi, Sarah (2004), National Identity and Refugee Law, from Critical Beings: Law, Nation and the Global Subject (Fitzpatrick and Tuitt), Ashgate Publishing

MoJ (2008), Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (Cabinet Order No. 319 of 1951), Ministry of Justice

Perluss and Hartman (1986), Temporary Refuge: Emergence of a Customary Norm, Vaginia Journal of International Law Vol. 26 No. 3

RAFIQ (2008), NGO RAFIQ Submission to the Human Rights Committee, 94th session of the UN Human Rights Committee, 13-31 October 2008

UNHCR (2005), UNHCR Concerned Over Unprecedented Refugee Deportation, UNHCR press release 18 January 2005

UNHCR (2007a), Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, UNHCR, Geneva

UNHCR (2007b), Statistical Yearbook 2007 - Annex, UNHCR, Geneva

Web Resources

Asahi Shinbun (2009), Birthday Cake from a Detention Centre – The Situation of Japan's Refugees (shujyosho kara basudeikeki - nihonno nanminno jyokyou), Asahi Shinbun Website (March 6th 2009),

MoJ (2006), Basic Plan for Immigration Control (3rd Edition): Illegal Foreign Residents, Ministry of Justice,

MoJ (2008), Concerning cases in which special permits were and were not alocated (zairyu tokubetsu kyokasareta jireioyobi zairyu tokubetsu kyoka sarenakata jirei nitsuite), Ministry of Justice,

MoJ (2009), Asylum Statistics 1982-2008,

1 The introduction of humanitarian status in 1993 coincides with a rise in the number of deportations that followed attempts to reduce the number of undocumented residents in Japan (MoJ (2006): np).

2 Documents informing an applicant of a failed claim often give little information as to the reasoning for the decision. Some are no more than a couple of sentences long and simply state that the stipulations set out in the Refugee Convention had not been met.

3All websites accessed on 23 July 2009