Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ministry to increase advisers for refugees seeking appeals

Ministry to increase advisers for refugees seeking appeals

Kyodo News

The Justice Ministry will double the number of third-party advisers it uses to examine the objections of people seeking refugee status whose applications have been turned down, Justice Minister Keiko Chiba said Tuesday.

Currently, the ministry takes an average of more than two years to reach a final decision from the time an application for refugee status is filed. The upgrade in staff numbers is designed to speed up the process.

Chiba said her ministry will appoint about a dozen new advisers in January and more in April with the aim of eventually doubling the number of so-called refugee examination counselors from the current 28.

"I'd like to increase the number of the advisers so as to speed up the examination process," Chiba said, noting that the ministry is currently unable to reach swift decisions because has been inundated with petitions from people seeking refugee status.

Authorized in May 2005 under the immigration control and refugee recognition law, the counselors have the task of advising the justice minister on applicants' objections to ensure that the procedure is fair and even-handed.

Usually lawyers, academics and experts in various fields, all outside of the Justice Ministry, are appointed as counselors.

The number of people in Japan seeking refugee status rose more than 10-fold to 1,599 in 2008 from only 133 in 1998, mainly because of a sharp increase in applications from people fleeing the junta in Myanmar.