Foreign Refugee Flows into Japan: Asylum Seekers’ Circuitous Path - Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation
Time & Location
About the Event
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.
Professor David H. Slater is Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Sophia University, Tokyo. He is a scholar of urban ethnographies and oral narratives, who has worked on youth, labour and new forms of capital. Since 2011, his work has focused on oral narratives of Tohoku disaster survivors. Now he is turning his attention from the Fukushima refugees to foreign refugees, leading a service learning project in conjunction with this research. This project is supported by the Japanese Government Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (Kaken) and the Abe Foundation.
Naoko Hashimoto (chair) is an Associate Tutor / PhD candidate at the University of Sussex, and a Research Associate of the Refugee Law Initiative, University of London. She has 15 years of practical experience in refugee and forced migration issues, working for the Government of Japan, UNHCR and IOM in New York, Geneva, Sri Lanka, and Tokyo, among others. She has numerous publications on refugee and migration issues both in English and Japanese, has served many projects as an independent advisor, and regularly appears in the media commenting on refugee and immigration issues, particularly those facing Japan. She holds a Master of Studies in Forced Migration from the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, and an LLM in International Human Rights Law from the University of London (Queen Mary and UCL). She is also currently serving as a fellow on global refugee and migration challenges for the Robert Bosch Foundation’s Global Governance Futures 2030 programme.
The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation is a UK charity supporting links between Britain and Japan. It carries out its work through three main activities: awarding scholarships, giving grants to individuals and institutional partners to encourage UK-Japan collaboration; and organising a series of seminars, book launches and exhibitions at the Foundation’s headquarters in central London. The Foundation has provided substantial support for the arts in both countries since its inception, supporting exhibitions, artist-in-residence schemes, tours, education programmes and the Daiwa Foundation Art Prize