Sunday, February 17, 2008

Govt likely to take in Myanmar refugees

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The government likely will agree to take in dozens of Myanmar refugees now staying in Thailand, sources said Sunday.

If the move goes ahead, it will be the first time the government has accepted refugees who are currently under the protection of a third country.

The move is likely to happen next year at the earliest, and the government hopes it will help soften international criticism of Japan's refugee policy for being too strict and exclusive.

Related government entities, such as the foreign affairs, justice, health, labor and welfare ministries, will soon enter negotiations over the rules of admission for such refugees.

According to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, about 141,000 Myanmar refugees had fled to Thailand as of the end of September 2007 for fear of political persecution by the military government in their home country.

Under the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, the government decides whether to take in refugees after looking into whether he or she would face persecution on such grounds as race, religion or political stance in the event that they returned home.

Such assessments are conducted after the refugee enters Japan. This makes it impossible for Myanmar refugees who fled to Thailand without enough money to visit Japan to undergo such proceedings, even if the government is willing in principle to accept them, a government official said.

To improve this situation, the government is moving toward introducing a system to conduct such assessments on Myanmar refugees while they are still in Thailand, allowing them to then go to Japan with refugee status already approved.
(Feb. 18, 2008)

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