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Tokyo court rules deportation order for stateless man 'with nowhere to go' invalid

A stateless man speaks at a press conference after the Tokyo High Court quashed a deportation order against him and recognized him as a refugee, at the judicial press club in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki district on Jan. 29, 2020. (Mainichi/Kenji Tatsumi)

TOKYO -- The Tokyo High Court ruled on Jan. 29 that a deportation order issued to a stateless man who had been denied refugee status was invalid, and that he should be granted asylum.

The appeal ruling overturned a lower court decision.

"It was obvious that the man would have had nowhere to go on this Earth," said Presiding Judge Hiroshi Noyama. The Tokyo District Court in July 2018 dismissed a lawsuit filed against the government by the 52-year-old plaintiff seeking invalidation of the deportation order, among other demands.

Attorney Ayane Odagawa, representing the plaintiff, says it is the first judicial ruling that recognized a deportation order given to a stateless person as invalid, taking into consideration that no other country would accept the individual.

According to the ruling, the man was born in 1967 to an Armenian father in the then Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. He left for Russia in 1993, two years after Georgia's independence, but failed to acquire nationality there. He then traveled across Europe and entered Japan using a forged passport in 2010.

In 2011, the man was denied refugee status by the Ministry of Justice, and in 2012, he received a deportation order to Georgia from the Japan Immigration Bureau. The man filed a lawsuit opposing both decisions, which was dismissed in the initial ruling. He then appealed.

High Court Judge Noyama stressed that the plaintiff was a victim of theft and abuse due to discriminatory policies against Armenians and other ethnic minorities pursued by the government of Georgia at the time of its independence in 1991.

The court acknowledged that the man had been persecuted and forced to leave the country, and recognized him as refugee, considering that he would not be able to build a life in Georgia even now. Furthermore, it acknowledged that "the deportation order was without a doubt defective" because, with no other countries likely to accept him, the plaintiff would clearly have had nowhere to go.

In a press conference held later in the day, the 52-year-old said, "I believe my 30-year-long struggle of wandering across many countries has ended. I can finally think about my future."

The Immigration Services Agency commented, "We would like to respond properly."

(Japanese original by Kenji Tatsumi, City News Department)

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