April 18, 2023 Prime Minister Fumio Kishida Justice Minister Ken Saito Health, Labor, Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato
Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions
Written request: We strongly oppose the proposed amendment to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law and demand that it be revised in accordance with international human rights standards.
The bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law submitted by the government contains almost the same provisions as a bill scrapped during the 2021 ordinary session of the Diet due to strong public opposition. The latest bill maintains provisions of the present law, which deviates from international human rights standards, and further strengthens human rights violations against foreign residents in Japan. We believe that the bill is unacceptable from a humanitarian point of view and demand that it be scrapped.
Even under the current law, foreign nationals without residency status, such as those on provisional release while applying for refugee status, are excluded from all social security services, including medical care, as well as are banned from working. They are unable to have access to medical care when they have health issues and thus have constant risks of losing their lives.
Underlying this is the issue of Japan’s extremely low refugee recognition rate of about 1%. The United Nations has repeatedly recommended that Japan create a comprehensive refugee protection law in accordance with international standards. Japan’s unusually strict criteria for determining refugees ignoring international standards have unfairly created undocumented residents. As a result, their social rights are not properly guaranteed.
A survey regarding medical care for foreign nationals conducted by the Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions has received cases of how Japanese authorities repeatedly turned down applications of asylum seekers, who had risked their lives to flee their countries after witnessing the killing of their relatives. It shows that those who should be recognized as refugees according to international standards have not received such recognition.
If enacted, the government-submitted bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law could force such refugee applicants who have sought asylum in Japan to go back to their home countries where they have a risk of being killed. It violates the Non-refoulement fundamental principle of international law and is unacceptable from a humanitarian point of view.
The International Covenants on Human Rights, which Japan has ratified, stipulate the right to social security for all people. The government is obliged to guarantee social rights (particularly the right to life) to all people in Japan regardless of their nationality or residency status. Article 98, paragraph 2 of the Japanese Constitution, states, “The treaties concluded by Japan and established laws of nations shall be faithfully observed.” It must be said that the current Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law and the proposed bill violate international law and the Japanese Constitution.
We demand that the government establish a system to protect foreign nationals’ lives and guarantee them public medical care in accordance with international human rights law. We request the following:
1. Scrap the bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law submitted by the government to the 211th session of the Diet as it violates international human rights law and strengthens human rights violations against foreign residents in Japan.
2. Provide residency status for asylum seekers on provisional release so that they can receive medical care while they are applying for refugee status. Expand the coverage of the Ordinance for Penal Institutions and Treatment of Inmates and have the Immigration Services Agency cover the medical costs. Medical expenses for foreigners who have difficulty paying them should be covered by the government.
3. Following the scrapping of the bill, amend the existing law to ensure that it complies with international human rights law.
1) Include judicial review for immigration detention
2) Establish a refugee recognition body independent of the immigration bureaus to properly determine refugee status (The determination process should be in accordance with the principle “a doubtful point should be interpreted in favor of applicants (gray interest)” based on a handbook on refugee status criteria.)
3) Change indefinite detention, recognized by the UN as torture, to the minimum necessary duration
4) Adhere to the Principle of Non-refoulement and stop deportations that are in violation of international human rights law
5) Stop penalizing undocumented immigrants who do not agree with repatriation