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News Navigator: Why is the Japan gov't trying to revise the immigration law?

People protest against proposed amendments to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on April 30, 2021. (Mainichi/Yohei Koide)

The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about proposed revisions to Japan's immigration law.

    Question: What's behind the proposed revisions to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, which is being discussed in the current Diet session?

    Answer: The Japanese government, which proposed the amendment, explains that there have been "a number of deportation refusals by foreign nationals who have been ordered to leave the country for overstaying their visas or for other reasons, leading to prolonged detention at immigration facilities." Since deportation orders have become only a formality, the government wants to be able to repatriate such individuals even if they refuse.

    Q: Long-term detention at Japan's immigration facilities is considered a problem by the United Nations, isn't it?

    A: Yes. Under the proposed amendment, detainees who have applied for refugee status at least three times will be subject to deportation. Currently, refugee status applicants are not repatriated while their cases are pending. In addition, the government will introduce "supervisory measures," which will allow detainees to live outside the facilities under the supervision of lawyers and supporters. Through these measures, the government is trying to solve the problem of long-term detention.

    Q: Why are there opposing views?

    A: There are two issues. One is whether it is right for the Japanese government, which has been criticized for taking a backward-looking approach to the protection of asylum seekers, to set a cap on refugee applications. The rate of refugee status recognition in Japan in 2019 was 0.4%. If the proposed amendment is enacted, people who should be protected as refugees may be deported to countries where they are at risk of persecution. The other is whether it is appropriate for immigration authorities to be able to detain people at their own discretion even after the amendment.

    Q: Wasn't there a Sri Lankan woman who died while being detained at an immigration facility in Japan?

    A: Yes. There are many unclear points regarding the circumstances of her death, and her family is appealing for an investigation into the truth. Since it is difficult to gain access to the decisions made by immigration authorities from the outside, the United Nations has called for the involvement of the courts and a cap on the period of detention. However, these are not included in the proposed revisions.

    Q: When will the proposed amendment be voted on?

    A: We don't know yet. The government's ability to properly answer these questionable points is also likely to affect the timing.

    (Japanese original by Yukinao Kin, Digital News Center)

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