Only 27 of the 7,586 applications for resettlement the Japanese justice ministry received in 2015 were actually approved, according to Agence France-Presse.
Included in the thousands of applications were five from Syrian refugees, of which three were approved. Additionally, six Afghans, three Ethiopians and three Sri Lankans were given refugee status, allowing them to resettle in a country that has been known to have stringent immigration regulations.
Japan’s refugee acceptance is remarkably low when compared to the other top-five world economies. Germany has confirmed that it will accept just under 40,000 refugees, the U.K. will accept 20,000 and the U.S. around 10,000. Even the tiny European country of Lichtenstein, population 36,000, has agreed to take 25.
Japan has the world’s third largest economy and a population of over 126 million people, which makes one wonder why they would be so strict on immigration, especially those who are trying to escape war-torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan. Japan’s aversion to immigration has a long history and is considered a very touchy subject in a society that continues to be extremely homogeneous, despite the globalization witnessed in the past several decades.
“In countries that have accepted immigration, there has been a lot of friction, a lot of unhappiness both for the newcomers and the people who already lived there,” said Japanese president Shinzo Abe when asked about his immigration policies on television in 2014.
Japanese apprehension to immigration stems from the philosophy of ‘nihonjinron,’ the idea that Japan is a racially homogeneous country made up strictly of those from Japanese descent, a belief referred to as ‘tanitsu hinzoku’ in Japanese. The belief of racial homogeneity is so fervent in Japan that a conservative columnist named Ayako Sono wrote what has been referred to as a “pro-apartheid” article in Japan’s Sankei newspaper.
The Japanese immigration issue received global attention when Ariana Miyamoto, who is half Japanese and half African-American, was crowned Miss Universe Japan. Even though Miyamoto grew up in Nagasaki and speaks fluent Japanese, there were still those who criticized her for not being “Japanese enough.” Miyamoto noted that in school her classmates would throw trash at her and call her ‘hafu,’ the Japanese term for mixed-race people.
Japan’s refusal to accept refugees comes as European countries who have recently taken in thousands continue to face problems integrating them into their respective societies.
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