Statement Opposing the Resubmission of the Bill for Amendments to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act by the Government on the Pretext of Protecting Evacuees from Ukraine
The invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation which began in February of this year has produced a large number of casualties and evacuees among the citizens of Ukraine. In response to this situation, the Japanese government took prompt action to protect evacuees from Ukraine, although it cannot be described as sufficient. While welcoming the development, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (the “JFBA”) is deeply concerned about the current situation in which fundamental human rights continue to be violated and strongly hopes that further measures will be taken to accept the evacuees.
In the meantime, Prime Minister Kishida stated during the plenary session of the House of Councillors held on April 13th of this year that the Ministry of Justice was exploring the introduction of a measure to protect evacuees as refugees with an intention to apply it to evacuees from Ukraine. Also, at the news conference on the 19th of the same month, Justice Minister Furukawa stated the necessity of conducting a comprehensive review of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act ( “Immigration Control Act”) along with the detention and extradition system in order to protect evacuees from Ukraine and announced his intention to resubmit the bill for amendments to the Immigration Control Act (“Government Bill”), which was sent to the regular session of the Diet but abandoned last year, saying that the legislation would comprehensively solve the issues under the current law, rather than removing a part of it.
However, the Government Bill encompasses numerous issues including:
− Deferring the establishment of the maximum period of detention and a system of judicial review;
− Introducing a system of monitoring measures, which compels supporters and attorneys to play a role that is incompatible with their position;
− Partial lifting of suspending deportation for certain cases of asylum seekers, which may potentially be an infringement of the principle of non-refoulement; and
− Instituting an expulsion order system that includes the use of criminal penalties that are not necessary;
The JFBA has reiterated its opposition to the resubmission of the Government Bill and released the “Statement on the Bill for Amendments to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act Submitted by the Government” dated February 26, 2021; the “Statement Opposing Once Again the Bill for Amendments to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act Submitted by the Government” dated May 14, 2021; and the “Opinion on the Bill for Amendments to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act” dated March 18, 2021.
The Russian Federation’s armed operations encircled residential areas, and the military attacks destroyed a lifeline, threatening the lives of the residents. In a situation suspected of genocide, as stated by the President of the United States, many evacuees from Ukraine should be recognized as refugees in the first place. The government also states that even if the evacuees are not recognized as refugees, it is possible to protect under a humanitarian consideration measure based on the provisions of the current Immigration Control Act (Article 61-2-2, Paragraph (2), etc.) (based on explanations given by the Justice Minister during the news conference held on March 15, 2022, etc.). Therefore, it can be said that the supplementary protection system proposed in the Government Bill (also referred to as “quasi-refugees” by the press) is not necessary to protect evacuees from Ukraine. In addition, assuming that the Immigration Services Agency will apply its interpretation that refugee status applicants are not considered as facing a risk of persecution unless they are specifically targeted by persecutors, there is a concern that many evacuees from Ukraine might not be protected under the supplementary protection system as the presumed risk of persecution is a requirement for being covered by the system.
Based on these circumstances, the government's explanation that the supplementary protection system is appropriate for providing adequate relief to asylum seekers according to their circumstances is misleading. It is not acceptable if they are trying to justify the Government Bill that is full of issues by using protecting evacuees from Ukraine as an excuse.
The JFBA raises the alarm on the government’s intention to move forward with the Government Bill while falsely claiming it is necessary for protecting evacuees from Ukraine and restates its opposition to the resubmission of the Government Bill.
June 1, 2022
President of Japan Federation of Bar Associations