Japan’s upper house of parliament on Friday passed a contentious bill to amend an immigration and refugee law allowing for authorities to deport foreign nationals who apply for refugee status multiple times.
Despite some opposition parties rejecting the move, the law was enacted with the support of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior Komeito coalition ally, along with other smaller parties, reports Xinhua news agency.
The controversial revision of the immigration and refugee law has been heavily criticized by organisations here established to support asylum seekers.
Such entities believe that now the revised law has been enacted it could lead to individuals being repatriated to their home countries where they face persecution.
The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, which has called for the system to be overseen by a third-party and not just immigration officials to ensure fairness, attempted to block passage of the bill in the eleventh hour by submitting a censure motion against Justice Minister Ken Saito, who is in charge of the legislation.
The motion was voted down in the upper chamber of Japan’s bicameral parliament on Wednesday, however.
Refugee status was given to a record 202 people in Japan in 2022.
But this was out of 3,772 applicants, with Japan falling far behind some European countries and the US, which take in tens of thousands of refugees annually.
In 2021, refugee permits were granted to only 74 out of 2,413 asylum-seekers.
This is because Tokyo only grants refugee permits to those who meet each criteria of the Refugee Convention, which describes refugees as people who are 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; outside the country of their nationality; and unable or, owing to such fear, unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of their country.