Statement Concerning the Enactment of the Amended Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act
The Bill Amending the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (the “Bill”) was passed into law by the House of Councillors on June 9, 2023.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (the “JFBA”) has always held the position that the Bill contained many issues, such as deferring the establishment of a maximum period of detention and a judicial review system; introducing a system of Monitoring Measures which compels supporters and attorneys to play a role that is incompatible with their respective positions; partially lifting the suspensive effect on deportation for certain cases of asylum seekers which may potentially contravene the principle of non-refoulement; and instituting criminal penalties for those who evade deportation.
The Bill was called into question by experts including the Special Rapporteur appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council who urged the Japanese Government in a joint letter to thoroughly review the Bill to bring domestic legislation in line with Japan’s obligations under international human rights law. However, the Government not only refused to take the plea seriously but also condemned that the experts unilaterally announced their views.
In the process of deliberation by the Diet in 2021, regarding a refugee examination counselor who was summoned to the Diet as a witness for the Government and claimed that she had found only a few applicants qualified to be recognized as refugees, it was revealed that she had reviewed 2,609 cases of objections filed by asylum seekers against the non-approval of their application for recognition of refugee status from 2021 through 2022 and in 2022 she had handled more than a quarter of all the cases within 32 days. It was revealed that there was a major gap between the number of cases she had reviewed and the number of cases other counselors had reviewed and the number she had reviewed exceeds the number that can be expected to be properly handled by a counselor. This casts serious doubt over whether the current refugee recognition procedure is properly conducted, which is the premise of introducing the lift of the suspensive effect on deportation. In addition, even though the government explained that the medical assistance condition was improved at detention facilities using the hiring of a doctor in a full-time position by the Osaka Regional Immigration Bureau as one of the examples, it was revealed that the doctor hired by the Osaka Bureau, having started working in the position since July 2022, had worked under the influence of alcohol in January 2023 and has not conducted medical work since then.
For the reasons above, the JFBA expresses its strong regret that the Bill was enacted despite serious doubt over the legislative facts (facts supporting the necessity to enact or amend laws). Additionally, as pointed out in its opinion entitled “Proposals for System Reform to Solve Urgent Issues in the Field of Immigration and Refugee Law – Proper Legal System for Legalization, Deportation and Detention of Refugees and Illegal Residents” dated September 15, 2022, the JFBA also calls for legislating as soon as possible to achieve measures that meet the requirements to protect human rights and ensure due process under the Constitution and international law such as ensuring compliance to international human rights treaties when making decisions regarding whether to grant a residence status and detention, establishing an independent institution from the Immigration Services Agency for handling refugee recognition, and applying the Administrative Procedure Act and other laws to handle the disposition concerning foreign nationals entering and leaving the country.
Furthermore, until the above measures are implemented, respecting the supplementary resolutions adopted by the House of Councillors, it is required to: (a) ensure that refugees are protected from their first application for recognition of refugee status in compliance with standards and opinions provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), while following clear and proper criteria and procedures for refugee recognition based on past dispositions and legal precedents by other state parties to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees; (b) on top of (a), not violate the principle of non-refoulement by easily lifting the suspensive effect on deportation by allowing the broad application of “materials that show adequate grounds” provided for in the Article 61-2-9, paragraph (4), item (i) of the Act or the other measures; (c) ensure that the Monitoring Measures are implemented in such a way that will not violate the privacy of monitors and monitored persons or cause the monitor’s reporting obligation to be in conflict with the monitored person’s trust toward the monitor; and (d) ensure that guidelines for granting Special Residence Permits are created in such a way that will comply with the international human rights law including the best interests of the child and families’ unity.
The JFBA, as a guardian of human rights, pledges to make every effort necessary to fight to protect people whose lives and physical safety are being put at risk due to the amended Act and whose freedom and rights are potentially being violated.
July 6, 2023
President of Japan Federation of Bar Associations