Japan Data

Japan Accepts 47 Refugees in 2020 as Applicants Fall by 60% Due to Pandemic


Japan accepts only a handful of the thousands of individuals who apply for refugee status in the country each year. In 2020, it recognized a total of 47 refugees, putting it at odds with other leading democratic countries who accept tens of thousands of applicants each year.

Japan accepted 47 refugees in 2020, three more than the previous year and only 1.2% of individuals applying for refugee status in the country. The table below shows recent figures for refugee recognition applications and those granted status or special residence permits in Japan.

Applications for Refugee Recognition and Number Granted Status or Special Residence Permits in Japan

Year Applicants Granted refugee status Granted special residence permits for humanitarian reasons
2010 1,202 39 363
2011 1,867 21 248
2012 2,545 18 112
2013 3,260 6 151
2014 5,000 11 110
2015 7,586 27 79
2016 10,901 28 97
2017 19,629 20 45
2018 10,493 42 40
2019 10,375 44 37
2020 3,936 47 44

Compiled by Nippon.com based on data from the Ministry of Justice.

A total of 3,936 foreigners applied for refugee status in 2020, a 60% decrease compared to the previous year when 10,375 individuals applied. The decline was in large part caused by the dramatic fall in the number of persons entering Japan due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Applicants from 67 countries applied for refugee status. The largest number of applicants were from Turkey at 836 (37.2% decrease from the previous year), followed by Nepal at 466 (62.9% decrease), Cambodia at 414 (68.7% decrease), Sri Lanka at 370 (75.8% decrease), and Pakistan at 326 (66.4% decrease).

Although not recognized for refugee status—for which various protection measures apply—at the discretion of the Ministry of Justice, 44 people in 2020 received special residence permits as they could not return to their own country due to humanitarian-related issues. Among them, 19 received the residence permit due to the situation in their home country, while 25 were approved due to such circumstances as being married to a Japanese national and having a child with Japanese nationality.

According to a survey conducted by the Tokyo-based nonprofit organization Japan Association for Refugees, Japan’s acceptance of refugees was at the extremely low level of just 44 persons in 2019, with a recognition rate of just 0.4%. In contrast, Germany accepted 53,973 refugees (a recognition rate of 25.9%), the United States 44,614 (29.6%), France 30,051 (18.5%), and Canada 27,168 (55.7%).

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: Job-hunting seminar in Tokyo hosted by the Japan Association for Refugees in March 2018. © APF/Jiji.)

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