The Refugee Studies Forum aims to undertake interdisciplinary research that focuses on the domestic and international refugee situations and policies. The Forum will share the results of its research to various stakeholders in hope that the information will be used to improve the lives and situations of refugees and asylum seekers.
As of 2009, there are 43.3 million people seeking asylum globally, including 15.2 million refugees and 27.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Since the 1990s, the number of refugee applications and recognitions in Japan has increased considerably. As a consequence of the amendment of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act in 2006, there has been a rapid growth in the number of refugee applicants. The figures peaked in 2008 when 1,599 people applied for refugee status. In 2009, 30 people were granted refugee status, and 501 people were granted special permission to stay on humanitarian grounds.
We must point out, however, that in Japan it takes approximately two years, on average, for refugee status applicants to receive a final determination of their status. During this time, applicants are generally not permitted to engage in employment, thus making them dependent on social assistance. However, the social assistance provided is rarely sufficient to meet the basic needs. Furthermore, recent budget cuts caused the government to suspend its financial assistance to asylum seekers. Also, the detention of asylum seekers has increased substantially in recent years.
Despite these challenges refugees are recently facing, there has also been some positive developments. Beginning in 2010, the government is conducting a three-year pilot program under which refugees will be resettled in Japan.
While some individual academics and civil society actors in Japan have conducted research in refugee situations and policies, a specialized research institute is yet to be seen. It is our strong belief that the aforementioned reasons (namely, the increasing influx of asylum seekers, the new pilot program for refugee resettlement, and the recent domestic difficulties relating to the position of refugees in Japan) all create a need for a permanent research institute, comparable to those already established in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The Forum therefore aims to conduct research on domestic and international refugee protection and the impact of the dynamics of the refugee's social environment from multiple fields. In doing so, it will publish an annual academic journal. The Forum also hopes to promote a wide participation of various stakeholders by establishing links with refugee experts around the world and by assisting young researchers devoted to refugee studies.
Through the activities mentioned above, the Forum will strive to provide useful information to researchers, service providers and refugees themselves and to play a vital and long term role in influencing domestic and international policy.
B. Activity Outline
1. RESEARCH AND STUDIES
The Forum will conduct in-depth research on the situation of refugees and refugee policies in different countries.
The Forum will hold workshops (approximately 6 times a year) on designated themes. The seminar's multidisciplinary nature will allow participants (including lawyers and civil society representatives) to discuss a wide range of issues. The results of the seminars will be published as papers or reports and will serve as a tool for the dissemination of information.
International Conferences and Field Trips
- Participation in international meetings including annual UNHCR-NGO consultations, Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement (ATCR), and conferences of International Association of Refugee Law Judges (IARLJ)
- Field Trips within Japan or in other countries that maintain refugee programs
- Consultations with local government officials representing refugee host cities in Japan
- Presentations of research papers in public lectures (starting in 2011)
2. INFORMATION COLLECTION AND DISSEMINATION
The Forum will document and issue country of origin information on refugees. It will also collect information on international judicial precedents worldwide and current trends in the International Association of Refugee Law Judges (IARLJ).
The Forum plans to publish an academic journal annually to serve as a venue for the dissemination of research results. Each issue will have a featured theme and will include papers elaborating in-seminar discussions. It is also envisaged that the journal will include Japanese translations of note-worthy research papers written by overseas scholars and practitioners. The theme of the first issue is 'Third Country Refugee Resettlement'.
The Forum will open a website and post up-to-date information about refugees in Japan and overseas, focusing also on the Asia Pacific area. The forum will also carry the up-to-date statistics from the Immigration Bureau and relevant NGOs, as well as the details of the deliberations of the Japanese Diet about refugee-related laws. All information will be provided in both Japanese and English.
The Forum will work in partnership with research centers, think-tanks, universities and other relevant institutions around the world in order to disseminate information on the situation of refugees in Japan and to share expertise and best practices. The Forum will collaborate with existing networks including the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) and will link scholars of various academic backgrounds (eg. Law, Sociology, Cultural Anthropology, Medical Science, Regional Studies).
4. Involving Young Scholars
The Forum will also strive to expand opportunities for young scholars to present their research results, develop their research skills and expand their knowledge by providing membership and research grants. The Forum's efforts will focus on scholars in Japan (research grants will be awarded beginning in 2012).
・ 【Co-chairperson】 Koki ABE (Professor, Kanagawa University Graduate School, School of Law)
・ 【Co-chairperson】 Yoshiyuki NAKAMURA (Professor, Meiji University, School of Information and Communication)
・ Hiroaki ISHII (Executive Director, Japan Association for Refugees)
・ Masashi ICHIKAWA (Attorney of Law)
・ Yasufumi MORITANI (Lecturer, Hokkaido University of Education, Course for Human and Regional Science Studies)
・ Toshiaki FUJIMOTO (Lecture, Kanagawa University)
・ Toshiaki FUJIMOTO (Chief editor)
・ Hiroaki ISHII
・ Shiho TSUTSUI
・ Eri ISHIKAWA
・ Kanako MATSUOKA
・ Katsunori KOIKE (PhD Student, University of Tokyo)
・ Kanako MATSUOKA (PhD Student, University of Tokyo)
・ Shiho TSUTSUI
・ Eri ISHIKAWA
・ Kanako MATSUOKA