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Who is a Refugee?

When you say “Refugee” most people probably imagine “a poor country where war and conflicts are occurring”. So people also probably think, “Japan does not have much to do with this”. However, that is not so. Every year many refugees request protection here in Japan where we live. However, the Japanese government recognizes a very few number of the “refugees”. From the beginning let us remember that “refugees” are not recognized as “refugees”.

In the United Nation’s “Agreement Regarding the Status of Refugees” a refugee is define thus: “ owing to a 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 or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence…, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.” * Japan, in 1981, became a signatory of the 1951 Convention (Nanmin-Jyoyaku) and the 1967 Protocol (Nanmin-Giteisho).

The refugees not recognized as refugees in Japan are either sent back to their home countries or to another country at the risk of their lives, or even if they can stay in Japan, living resources being scant, a severe lifestyle is imposed upon them. While other developed countries accept thousands, even tens of thousands refugees each year, in 2004 the Japanese government recognized only 15 people as refugees (out 426 refugees who “applied as refugees”). Various supporting organizations end up helping both the official refugee and the rejected refugees who have difficulties with their living needs. This commission also, in cooperation with each diocesan head or members, is also providing life support for them.

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Copyright 2008 J-CaRM