Opinion Paper on New Refugee Status Recognition System
The Law for Partial Amendment of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act including the amendment of the refugee recognition system was enacted in June, 2004, and the new refugee recognition procedure has been implemented since May, 2005. As one year has passed since the implementation of the new procedure, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) compiled its opinions on this procedure at the meeting of the Board of Governors on October 17, 2006, and submitted this opinion paper to the Minister of Justice on October 23, 2006.
The outline of the opinion paper is as follows.
Ⅰ Body for Filing Appeals
A body, independent from government agencies that has jurisdiction over immigration control and foreign policies, should be established in order to guarantee the effectiveness of the appeal system and the whole refugee status recognition system.
Ⅱ Refugee Adjudication Counsellors System
- Regarding the selection of Refugee Adjudication Counsellors, it should be institutionalized that two-thirds of the counsellors shall be selected from those who have been recommended by UNHCR and JFBA in order to ensure expertness and fairness.
- It is necessary to improve training programs for Refugee Adjudication Counsellors, and to review their rewards.
- An independent secretariat office should be set up to support Refugee Adjudication Counsellors.
- Any information held by the Immigration Bureau on an appellant's case should be disclosed to the individual concerned and an opportunity to rebut should be granted to him/her.
- The number of representatives of an appellant should not be limited.
- Refugee Adjudication Counsellors should formulate their opinions through discussion.
- Detailed reasons for decisions and opinions of Refugee Adjudication Counsellors should be disclosed.
Ⅲ Legal Status of Applicants for Refugee Status
- Information that enables a third party to examine the practice of and the reasons for disqualification from provisional stay, such as "indirect entry into Japan", should be disclosed.
- Appropriate protection should be provided to persons with permission for provisional stay; employment under certain circumstances should be permitted otherwise.
- Duration of examination for a provisional stay should be about two weeks and the deportation procedure, criminal procedure and de facto detention against the applicants should not be allowed during the examination is pending.
Ⅳ Relation with the Deportation Procedure
- When granting special permission for a stay, the Minister of Justice should duly consider the necessity of protection for applicants who are seeking refugee status on the basis of international human rights treaties and humanitarian considerations. In addition, criteria for decisions should be publicized and reasons for decisions should be disclosed.
- It should be interpreted and administered that special permission to stay should also be necessarily considered in the procedure to appeal against the denial of refugee status determination.
- The deportation procedure should be suspended while a lawsuit regarding his/ her refugee status is under preparation or is pending.
Ⅴ Guarantee of Due Process for Refugee Status Recognition
The JFBA requests to take the following measures for establishing equity in the refugee recognition procedure.
- Opportunities to comment on and explain about all information on the applicant's case should be granted.
- Involvement of attorneys as legal representatives, such as attendance at interviews, should be permitted.
- Detailed reasons for decisions on the refugee recognition/denial should be disclosed.
Ⅵ Access to Refugee Status Recognition System
- It is necessary to ease access to the refugee status recognition system.
- For ensuring a standard of interpretation, effective measures to examine interpreters' ability and to provide training should be enforced.
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
October 17, 2006