Turkish “refugees” arrested for rape in Japan + Some facts about refugee applicants in Japan
If you follow Japan-related news social media, chances are you’ve come across the news story about 2 Turkish nationals who were arrested for sexually assaulting and robbing a Japanese woman in Tokyo. Tokyo Reporter has been able to get huge traffic by using its headline to play up the fact that the alleged rapists were seeking refugee status in Japan. The story has been picked up by various anti-refugee groups, who share the link because it fits with their narrative about the dangers of accepting refugees from Muslim majority nations. But is this example relevant to the situation in Europe?
Some of these sites introduce the story as proof that Japan, like Europe, is suffering because it accepts refugees. However, let’s get the facts straight here, people: among developed countries, Japan is one of the most anti-refugee places imaginable. Japan is extremely strict when it comes to refugee applications. As the Guardian has noted about 2014 refugee data, “it received a record 5,000 applications but accepted just 11 people.”
The two Turkish nationals in question had submitted applications for refugee status just a few months before their alleged crime. Even had they committed no crimes in Japan, it’s an almost near certainty that they would have had their refugee applications rejected. Like the other 99% of refugee applicants, they would have been forced to leave Japan after appealing and failing to receive refugee status.
Many people reading this news story might wonder about the country of origin of the 5,000 people who applied for refugee status in 2014. Here is some data from the Japanese government (2015 data should be released sometime this year):
- The largest portion of applicants came from: Nepal (1,293), Turkey (845), Sri Lanka (485), Myanmar (434), Vietnam (294), Bangladesh (284), India (225), Pakistan (212), Thailand (136), and Nigeria (86), the Philippines (82), Ghana (70), Cameroon (70), Iran (68), and China (55). There were also 361 applicants from various other countries.
- 83% of the applicants had some form of legal permission to be living in Japan at the time of their application. This means that they entered the country legally on some form of temporary working or tourism visa. 81% of the 17% of applicants who had no legal permission to live in Japan submitted their refugee applications after having been caught without a visa and being issued deportation orders.
As the data shows, this is very different than the refugee crisis facing Europe. Most applicants do not come from Muslim majority countries, and the vast majority of them entered Japan legally. Japan is not facing huge numbers of people who enter the country without visas and apply for refugee status.
The Asahi Shimbun has reported that a significant number of refugee applicants are exploiting the system to temporarily work in Japan. If an applicant already has a valid visa to live in Japan at the time of his/her refugee application, the Japanese government often grants the applicant permission to work while the application is being processed. Due to the slowness of Japan’s bureaucracy, it can sometimes take several years. While this kind of abuse is worthy of concern, it isn’t particularly worthy of comparison to the situation in Europe. Almost all of these applicants will have their applications rejected and will be forced to leave Japan. They seem aware of the expected result, so they are doing this to temporarily earn money that they can send back to their home countries.
This is not at all similar to what is going on in Europe. The number of refugee applicants in Japan is tiny. Even if the number increased in 2015, and even if Japan suddenly changed its policy and started accepting more than 1% of applicants, it would be nothing compared to the masses of people entering Europe. Under Japan’s current system, refugee applicants can only expect to be allowed to live in the country for a few years. They will have to leave Japan when their applications are rejected, and Japanese authorities enforce their rulings. It isn’t like Europe, which seems to be opening itself up to allowing hundreds of thousands of refugee applicants, many of whom will have their refugee applications accepted, and will be allowed to live in Europe for the foreseeable future.