Fri 30 Jan 2009
Filed under: News,Regional
The number of asylum seekers in Japan doubled last year amid turmoil in Myanmar but only a small number of them were granted refugee status, government figures showed Friday.
Japan imposes tight restrictions on immigration and has faced international criticism for not granting sanctuary to more asylum seekers, even though it is a major aid provider to refugees overseas.
The number of asylum seekers in Japan rose to 1,599 from 816 a year earlier, the immigration office said. Japan granted refugee status to 57 of them — more than 90 percent of whom were from Myanmar.
Japan also gave a record 360 people permission to stay temporarily on humanitarian grounds.
Japan late last year also agreed to accept a handful of Myanmar refugees living in camps in Thailand, marking the first time it has joined a UN-led resettlement plan.
The increase in asylum seekers follows a deteriorating situation in Myanmar, where the military junta crushed pro-democracy protests in late 2007.
Impoverished Myanmar was also hit last year by Cyclone Nargis which killed 138,366 people, according to UN figures.
Of the asylum seekers, 979 were from Myanmar, followed by 156 Turks and 90 Sri Lankans, the immigration office said.
By comparison, the United States resettles up to 50,000 refugees a year.