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International relations

Japan weighs accepting more Asian refugees from 2020

Government considers settlement in areas outside of Tokyo

A Rohingya refugee girl watches other children ride on human-powered ferris wheels in the Kutupalong camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh Aug. 24.   © Reuters

 TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan will consider accepting more Asian refugees from 2020, with an eye to doubling the current annual ceiling of around 30 to strengthen its response to regional humanitarian needs, government sources said Monday.

 The government will review its current policy of receiving refugees only from Myanmar under the UNHCR-led third country resettlement program, while promoting their settlement not only in Tokyo and surrounding areas but in other parts of the country, according to the sources.

Tokyo is expected to convey the idea to U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, who is scheduled to visit Japan from Wednesday, the sources said.

Japan has accepted a total of 174 Myanmar refugees including some Rohingya Muslims from the western Rakhine State since 2010 under the third country resettlement program. They had been persecuted and moved to neighboring Thailand and Malaysia.

The government will consider encouraging refugees to live in areas other than major urban areas where support measures tend to be more widely available. The move comes as the government plans to accept more foreign workers to deal with a labor shortage in such industries as nursing and construction.

Japan has been known for its tight immigration policy. In 2017, the country accepted only 20 of about 20,000 people who applied for refugee status and allowed 45 to stay in the country on humanitarian grounds, according to the Justice Ministry.

Some critics view the plan to accept more foreign workers as a way to import cheap labor, given that foreigners from developing countries who receive on-the-job training under government programs are often found to have been made to work under poor conditions.

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