Out of 13,823 applicants, Japan grants refugee status to only 303

Despite changes in immigration laws, Japan's approval rate remains low at 2.2 percent.

Out of 13,823 applicants, Japan grants refugee status to only 303
AP Photo/Hiro Komae
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Japan's Justice Ministry reported a record number of 303 asylum-seekers granted refugee status in 2023, surpassing the previous high of 202 set in 2022. 

While this increase is attributed to changes in Japanese immigration laws, which created a quasi-refugee status for those fleeing active conflict zones, the approval rate remains strikingly low at just 2.2 percent, the National Pulse reports.

The East Asian nation, known for its stringent immigration controls, saw a significant rise in refugee applications from countries such as Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Ethiopia. 

The total number of asylum-seekers applying for refuge in Japan reached 13,823 in 2023, representing more than a threefold increase from the previous year. 

However, only 303 individuals were granted full refugee status, with the majority, 237, hailing from Afghanistan.

In addition to those granted full refugee status, the Justice Ministry reported that 1,005 individuals, predominantly from Ukraine, were permitted to reside in Japan on humanitarian grounds, despite not meeting the strict criteria for refugee status. 

The recent changes to Japan's refugee program introduced a new category of "subsidiary protection," aimed at providing asylum to persons escaping ongoing conflicts. 

Since its introduction on December 1, 1,110 applications for special status were filed, with 1,101 coming from Ukrainian nationals. By the end of February, 647 applicants had been granted quasi-refugee status, 644 of whom were Ukrainians.

In stark contrast, the United States has an official refugee admissions cap of 125,000 per year, as set by the Biden administration. 

However, when asylum seekers granted temporary residence pending an immigration court appearance are included, the actual number is likely to be in the millions per year, dwarfing Japan's record-breaking yet relatively low acceptance figures.

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