Tougher rules eyed for refugee status system

The Justice Ministry will likely toughen the requirements for foreign nationals seeking to work in this country by applying for refugee status, aiming to prevent ineligible people from unlawfully filing such applications, ministry sources said.

The changes would prevent refugee status applicants from working in Japan if their ineligibility was confirmed.

A key factor behind the ministry's move is the recent increase in the number of applicants falsely claiming to be refugees so they can work in Japan.

This has slowed immigration authorities' efforts to examine such applications.

The ministry hopes the changes will prevent delays in extending aid to foreign nationals who are eligible for refugee status, according to sources.

It plans to stipulate the rules in its new basic immigration control policy plan, which is scheduled to be mapped out soon.

Under the current refugee status certification system, foreigners applying for refugee status are automatically given work permits six months after applying.

The current system was introduced in 2010 when the then ruling Democratic Party of Japan - which was concerned about the welfare of refugees - revised the system of work qualification certificates.

Previously, work permits had been granted only to applicants in need.

The revised system consequently triggered sharp increases in the number of refugee status applications that appeared to be fake.

Also, applicants can repeatedly appeal or submit a new application even if an application is turned down.

The system has therefore helped applicants continue working illegally by repeatedly submitting new applications.

False refugee status applications have involved foreign students unable to pay school tuition, as well as foreign interns who abandoned on-the-job training programs.

Under the new system, foreigners will still be able to repeatedly submit applications, but will not be allowed to work until they are granted refugee status.

The ministry expects the stricter system to decrease the number of applicants whose only purpose is to obtain a work permit, and encourage such people to return to their countries

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