This article analyzes the state of the world's refugees over the past decade and asks how it might evolve in the years to come. Starting with a brief discussion of the relationship between human security and forced displacement, the article goes on to look at the reasons why refugee numbers have increased so rapidly in recent years. The following section of the article examines the growing threats that exist to refugee protection and solutions, focusing on the declining commitment of states to the institution of asylum and the limited ability of UNHCR to influence their behaviour. The article next examines the recent steps taken by the international community to ameliorate the state of the world's refugees, focusing particularly on the 2018 Global Compact on Refugees. While recognizing that the Global Compact is in some respects a significant diplomatic achievement, the article concludes that the most progressive recent developments in relation to refugees are to be found in innovative approaches at the operational level, the engagement of new stakeholders and an upsurge of grassroots activism on behalf of uprooted people.
Traditionally, refugees were provided with durable solutions in other countries via either spontaneous arrival as asylum seekers or resettlement through the first country of asylum, unless and until repatriation becomes possible. Since the early 1990s, and given the global attention to the so-called Syrian refugee “crisis,” the world has devised a number of new ways to allow entrance for forced migrants, including temporary protection, complementary pathways, and “humanitarian” admission programmes. In particular, over the past few years, schemes such as private sponsorship and refugee admission as foreign students, labour migrants, or family members have been hailed as innovative ways to provide new sanctuary and opportunities for forced migrants. However, this paper challenges uncritical promotion of new schemes, arguing that some of these schemes risk turning the institution of asylum into a neoliberal immigration enterprise reserved only for highly skilled and educated migrants, setting aside the principles of vulnerability and humanitarianism. After critically analysing statistical data and reports made available by international organisations, this paper calls for cautious approaches to such new schemes if one is to uphold the truly humanitarian nature of refugee protection. It concludes that such new pathways should be adopted, if ever, in addition and complementary to—not in place of—the traditional ways of admitting refugees.
In October 2019, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) adopted a landmark ruling marking the first decision by a UN human rights treaty body based on a complaint filed by an individual seeking protection from the adverse effects of climate change. The case concerned a national of Kiribati who sought asylum in New Zealand claiming that the effects of climate change and sea level rise in his native country violated his right to life under article 6(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). While the HRC determined there had been no violation of his right to life in this particular case, it warned that before the entire country become submerged by rising sea levels, conditions of life in such a country may become incompatible with the right to life with dignity. This article examines what made this landmark ruling possible by analysing its background of broader international legal and policy framework surrounding so-called climate refugees. Subsequently, it reviews some of the possible ramifications that the ruling may have on areas of debate regarding the potential of international human rights law for the protection of migrants and refugees within the emerging refugee protection mechanism. It considers that this case sets forth new guidance that could serve as a basis for future climate change-related asylum claims by recognising for the first time that forcibly returning a person to a place where his life would be at risk due to the adverse effects of climate change may violate the right to life under article 6 ICCPR. It is built on the interpretation of right to life with dignity based on intersectionality of civil and political rights and economic and socio-cultural ones. This article concludes that international human rights law may be able to address the current protection gap, on the grounds of right to life interpreted in a non-restrictive manner, responding to the call for universal legal instruments for climate migrants.
In the past five years, Japan's immigration policy has undergone major changes. The government decided to open gates to hundreds of thousands of foreign workers, and refugee policies are being upgraded through the reform of the refugee status determination (RSD) process. This essay attempts to describe these changes, and explain the reasons thereof, by focusing on the 7th Advisory Council on the Immigration Control Polices (AC, 2015-2021) and the Immigration Services Agency (ISA). In doing so, this essay adapts Hollifield's four-driver model and argues that Japan's immigration policies have been formulated by balancing four drivers: (1) the economic driver, or the industry demand for foreign workers; (2) the social driver, or popular desire to maintain a safe and homogenous society; (3) the security driver, or the state's wish to maintain law and order; and (4) the rights driver, or attempts to protect the human security of foreign workers and refugees. This essay points out that the economic factor was the main driver of the change; the government provided “comprehensive measures” to address social concerns and enhanced security measures to sooth security concerns, while the rights driver has been overwhelmed by other. Finally, the essay argues that the opening of Japan to foreign workers and the reform of the RSD will enable Japan to accept more refugees, and that comprehensive measures would enhance the empowerment of foreign workers and refugees in Japan.
This article contrasts the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees with its implementation in Japanese domestic law by conducting an objective, technical examination of the wording of Japan's Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (hereinafter ICRRA). To determine Japanese compliance with the Refugee Convention, existing research has focused on data analysis of Japan's consistently low recognition and high incarceration rates of asylum seekers. However, though these may be indicative of a problem, they cannot conclusively demonstrate Japanese non-compliance. The Japanese Ministry of Justice defends its interpretation of the Refugee Convention as narrow yet permissible and points to other factors to explain Japan's low recognition rates. By directly examining its text, this article finds that the ICRRA violates refugees' rights to protection from expulsion and refoulement, as well as their right to a refugee travel document. Provisions of the ICRRA outlining the conditions for the revocation of refugee status and the suspension of the freedom of movement of lawfully present refugees initially appear to violate the Refugee Convention but upon further examination are shown to be permissible. Conditions for the suspension of the freedom of movement of unlawfully present refugees are found to be insufficiently codified within the ICRRA to judge their permissibility.
The reform of the immigration control law in 2018 signalled the latest phase in the institutional approach to post-World War II immigration governance in Japan. In previous decades, governments avoided an official immigration policy, relying instead on a range of alternative schemes to procure workers. As in other high-income countries, state anxiety over immigration centred on restricting low-skilled migration and while Japan has sought to facilitate highly-skilled migration, the recent policy shift to accept less-skilled migrants is undoubtedly significant.1 This paper, however, will focus on Ghanaian labour migration to the country for low-skilled work during a period where such migration was not legally permitted. Drawing on qualitative research conducted in Japan and Ghana, the paper will focus on the employment dimension of this migration in relation to the small firm sector.2 It will highlight the relationship between immigration status and employment experiences, arguing that both the migration trajectories of Ghanaians as well as their immigration status affected their experiences in the small firm sector.
In recent years, Japan has seen a steady rise of migrants and their children. The increase in the number and variety of people coming in as migrants has diversified their needs, including those related to the education of their children. Despite Japan's signing of various human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to what extent has the country been able to consider the reality of migrant children in its mainstream schools? Through the review of existing literature and policy, this paper discusses some of the major educational barriers to the pursuit of mainstream education by migrant children in Japan. The paper uses the 4As framework with its various sets of indicators to analyze these factors. This paper reveals that mainstream education in Japan is generally available, moderately accessible, unevenly acceptable, and barely adaptable to the diverse needs of migrant children. The legal ambiguity of domestic education policies and the lack of social infrastructures, as well as a lack of teacher training aimed at understanding migrants' diverse needs diminishes the availability of public education for migrant children. Similarly, administrative inaccessibility and the fear of unsafe learning environments affect the access of public educational institutions by migrant families. Despite their varying backgrounds, the form and substance of education throughout the country is rigidly consistent, which impedes the full enjoyment of the right to education (RTE) of migrant children. Finally, the stereotype of labelling foreigners as gaijin in different facets of Japanese society makes mainstream education less adaptable to their lived realities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reached 131.5 million cases and over 2.8 million deaths worldwide, as of April 2021. It has plunged the global community into the most significant economic depression in modern history. The responses by political leadership have primarily been to implement containment measures, supplement healthcare systems, and mitigate economic losses. Development and progress toward achieving the SDGs has not only been halted, but in some cases reversed for some communities. This paper will focus on the impact of balancing considerations of national security and human security in political discourse and policy for vulnerable migrant and refugee communities in Brazil, Mexico, and Japan, three countries with contrasting historical and political stances on migration. In some cases, COVID-19 has created legitimacy for more nationalistic regimes to launch discriminatory protectionist measures, which have impacted the vulnerable who have been prevented from accessing much needed support networks. This paper will explore, through comparative media analysis, how the political discourse by Brazilian, Mexican, and Japanese leadership has amplified the vulnerabilities of certain migrant and refugee communities in their countries during COVID-19.
This paper analyzes the challenges faced by resettled Rohingya refugee women in Tatebayashi, Gunma prefecture in Japan through participatory observation research and offers insights on the issue for Japan more broadly. It is, moreover, intended to contribute to discourse on the subject of refugees and aid in advocacy efforts aimed at improving the living standards of refugee womenfolk through education, social assistance, and social integration. The Rohingya are a group of people indigenous to the Rakhine state of Myanmar and have become especially well-known since they began to flee institutionalized persecution and constitutionalized denationalization under successive administration specifically since the military coup in 1962. These atrocities have long amounted to a crime against humanity and state-sponsored genocide that has rendered the Rohingya population stateless and displaced domestically, regionally, and globally. Rohingya people are now globally recognized as the most persecuted people with one-fourth of its total population residing in the world's largest makeshift refugee camp in Bangladesh. Today, there are approximately two-hundred Rohingya living in Japan, and about ninety percent of them live in Gunma. As a Rohingya refugee myself, I was able to settle to Japan, obtain my undergraduate degree from Aoyama Gakuin University, and commit myself to voluntary community service with the hope of improving the living standards of my fellow Rohingya womenfolk. My years of engagement and participation in the Tatebayashi Rohingya community indicate persistent challenges for Rohingya refugee women, particularly a lack of domestic support, skills development opportunities and empowerment. In this paper, I advocate for accessible quality education, sufficient financial support and local integration through job placement and community service to overcome these challenges and optimize education, social assistance, and social integration for Rohingya refugee women in Japan.