Japan does accept a small number of official refugees

23 January 2020
What was claimed

Japan is not taking in refugees.

Our verdict

Incorrect. Japan does accept a small number of officially recognised refugees, but more people are able to stay in Japan under humanitarian grounds.

A post on Facebook claiming that Japan is not taking in refugees, saying that “it must look after its citizens first” has been shared over 6,000 times.

This is incorrect. Japan accepted 42 people as refugees in 2018 and 20 in 2017, according to the country’s Ministry of Justice. If refused refugee status, applicants can also be allowed to remain in Japan on humanitarian grounds; for example another 45 people received this status in 2017.

According to a 2017 study published by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of people Japan has officially recognised as refugees has been relatively low. Around 41,000 people applied for asylum in the 35 years to 2016, and around 700 were recognised. A variety of reasons have been suggested for this relatively low refugee intake.

The UN’s definition of a refugee is based on the 1951 Refugee Convention which says a refugee is “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.”

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