Academia & Science
Seminar: Foreign Refugee Flows into Japan: Asylum Seekers’ Circuitous Path
14 March 2019
6.00pm - 8.00pm
Daiwa Foundation, 13 - 14 Cornwall Terrace, London NW1 4QP. Nearest tube: Baker Street
020 7486 4348
Japan has positioned itself in paradoxical ways on the issue of refugees. Although it takes very few refugees itself, last year it contributed more than $US 150 million to the UNHCR, the fourth largest behind the US, Germany and the EU. Closer to home, between 2010 and 2017 the number of refugees who made it all the way to Japan to seek asylum increased by 1,600%, with almost 20,000 applications received last year. For some in Japan, refugees are considered a valuable source of labour and a way to address the dramatic workforce and population decline from which the country is suffering. Yet in 2017 Japan granted refugee status to only 20 people. This seminar is an attempt to explore some of these paradoxes based on extended narrative interviews with current asylum seekers in the Tokyo area, part of a larger project by a refugee support group at Sophia University. Using digital video clips from the interviews, the speaker will allow the asylum seekers to speak for themselves and show us the circuitous path taken by asylum seekers, especially the relatively elite and educated from Africa and the Middle East, as they navigate Japan’s arcane immigration and support systems, try to find and keep work, endure incarceration in detention centres, and struggle with the vagaries of community connections and political positionality.