Japan to Accept 30 Burmese Refugees from Thailand

source from Irrawaddy news, 19 Dec 2008,

Japan will accept about 30 Burmese nationals from among the more than one hundred thousand now sheltering in refugee camps in Thailand sometime after the start of the 2010 fiscal year, according to reports.

The Kyodo news agency reported that representatives from 11 Japanese government agencies, including the ministries of justice and foreign affairs, held a meeting on Friday at the prime minister’s office to work out the details of the resettlement program, such as reception facilities for the Burmese refugees.

Under the program, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees will compile a list of eligible refugees, while Japanese officials will interview applicants from among those listed.

Japan will be the first country in Asia to accept refugees under the program, Japanese officials were reported as saying.

It is a rare move for a country known for keeping its gates tightly closed to asylum seekers. The decision to accept the refugees may help to deflect criticism of Japan for what many international observers call its overly strict assessment of asylum cases.

There is also growing pressure from within Japan, where a growing number of foreign nationals, many in the country illegally, are applying for refugee status after years of shying away from an assessment process that has overwhelmingly rejected asylum requests in the past.

Asylum seekers to Japan will likely exceed 1,450 this year, nearly double the number of the previous year, according to the Japan Association for Refugees. The previous record for applications was 954, set in 2006.

Burmese nationals make up one of the largest groups applying for refugee status in Japan, and the number has continued to increase since the junta’s crackdown on large-scale protests last year, the Japan Times newspaper reported.




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