Open wallet, closed doors: exploring Japan’s low acceptance of asylum seekers
Even as forced displacement has reached an unprecedented scale globally, with war in Syria, violence and political instability in parts of Africa and the Middle East, and persecution in Asia and South America sending millions fleeing within and beyond their countries, Japan has remained largely untouched. While Japan in 2014 witnessed a record number of asylum applications since its 1981 ratification of the 1951 Refugee Convention, the numbers remain small and the approval rate is extremely modest. Of the 5,000 individuals who filed for asylum in 2014, just 11 were granted refugee status—a 0.2 percent acceptance rate. In total, Japan was home to nearly 12,500 refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons as of December 2014, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Asylum seekers with pending applications for refugee status comprised the vast majority. While its acceptance of refugees and asylum seekers is very limited, Japan is one of the most generous countries in terms of financial contributions to support international humanitarian efforts. The world’s third largest economy, Japan in 2014 was the fourth largest donor to UNHCR, providing more than US $181 million. And Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged a further $1.6 billion at the UN General Assembly in September 2015 to fund new assistance for refugees and internally displaced persons in Syria and Iraq, as well as peace-building efforts in the Middle East and Africa. Despite its financial generosity, Japan has gained a reputation as a closed country to refugees….