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UNHCR Reports Increase in Asylum Seekers in Japan in 2006

      On 23 March 2007, the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released a report on the number of asylum seekers in 50 industrialized countries[PDF451KB] (44 European countries and six other industrialized countries, including the United States, Canada and Japan) in 2006.
      The report indicates that the number of applications for asylum has fallen for five consecutive years; the figure in 2006 dropped by 10% from the one in 2005 to 303,400. The United States received the highest number of applications (51,500), representing 6% increase compared to 2005, followed by France and the United Kingdom, both of which received less applications than in 2005. The United States also ranks first as to the total number of applications in the five years since 2002.
      With regard to the countries of origin, Iraqis account for the largest part of asylum seekers; the number of applications by them has increased by 77% since 2005, which, according to the report, reflects the worsening situation in the country. The number of applications by asylum seekers from China and Russia, which are the second and third countries of origin, decreased compared to 2005. On the other hand, applications by those from Afghanistan and Somalia increased.
      Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice of Japan revealed the numbers of applications for and recognition of refugee status in 2006[PDF61KB](Japanese). According to the announcement, 954 persons applied for refugee status last year, which is an increase by 570 from 2005 and marks the highest record since the establishment of the refugee determination system in 1982. According to the above-mentioned UNHCR report, which shows a slightly different figure (950 applications), Japan takes the 27th place among the 50 countries in terms of the total number of applications and the 45th in terms of the number of asylum seekers per 1,000 inhabitants.
      34 applicants were recognized as refugees in Japan in 2006, which is a decrease by 12 from the previous year. Other 53 applicants were granted permission to stay on humanitarian grounds, although they were not recognized as refugees.
      The refugee determination procedures were modified in May 2005, in accordance with the amendments to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, and objections to dismissal of applications for refugee status are to be decided after hearing from independent refugee determination counselors, who are appointed from lawyers, former diplomats and other experts. The refugee determination counselors expressed their views in 158 cases in 2006, qualifying 10 applicants as refugees and recommending positive considerations for permission to stay in 17 cases. According to the Ministry of Justice, there have been "no cases" in which their views were not complied with.

· Press release by UNHCR, 23 March 2007: "UNHCR figures show Iraqis as top asylum seekers in industrialized countries last year"
· Full report by UNHCR, "Asylum Levels And Trends In Industrialized Countries, 2006" [PDF 451KB]
· The Ministry of Justice of Japan, "On the number of applications for refugee status and other figures in 2006" [PDF 61KB] [Japanese]
· Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act
· Law for partial amendment of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (Law No. 73 of June 2004)