Japan Association for Refugees: Statement Regarding Deportation of Asylum-Seekers in Preparation for the Petition to Revoke the Decision to Reject Refugee Status

Ms. Keiko CHIBA Minister of Justice, Japan On 29 October 2009, a member of an ethnic minority of Myanmar (Burma), who sought asylum for fear of being persecuted for his political activities, was forcibly deported from Narita Airport while in preparation for the petition to revoke the decision to reject refugee status.

Under the Administrative Case Litigation Act, an asylum seeker is entitled to apply for judicial review within six months upon receiving notice that their application for refugee status has been rejected. Considering the fact* that quite a number of refugees rejected at the administrative stage received refugee status through the judicial process, the deportation violates not only the right of asylum seekers to judicial review, but also the principle of non-refoulement.

The principle of non-refoulement is stipulated in article 33 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, article 3 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and also included in article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to all of which Japan is a signatory.

To the knowledge of Japan Association for Refugees, in recent years, no deportation has taken place against asylum seekers who were preparing to file a petition to revoke the decision to reject refugee status. Particularly following the Saffron Revolution in September 2007, the Japanese government has refrained from deporting Myanmar nationals even after the 6-month submission period has elapsed. Coupled with the recent increase of detentions during the refugee status determination procedure, this unusual measure of deportation is causing fear and anxiety among asylum-seekers in Japan. This deportation occurred amid increasing expectations on Japan’s further commitment to international refugee protection, brought by recent developments including the launch of a pilot resettlement program in 2010 and positive comments on the refugee issue by the new Minister of Justice, Keiko Chiba. This action has betrayed such expectations set by the recent positive trend, thereby damaging Japan’s image. We, Japan Association for Refugees, who are engaged in refugee protection in Japan, find this incident deplorable. Therefore, Japan Association for Refugees are expressing deep concern over this deportation and urge the Japanese government to take all the necessary steps to prevent the recurrence of such an incident by;

  1. Disclosing the reasons and decision-making procedure which led to the deportation of the person concerned, and identifying the body making the decision.
  2. Implementing every possible measure to prevent recurrence of this incident.

*For instance, according to Defense Counsel for Burmese Refugee Applicants in Japan, among 35 Myanmar refugees who were recognized at the 1st instance in 2007, 11 were granted refugee status after the revocation of the decision to reject refugee status in judicial review. Likewise, 6 out of 40 in 2008 and 4 out of 12 in 2009 were recognized as refugees upon positive decisions by courts.

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