Thank you very much for creating time to access my fundraising post.
I launched this fundraiser to provide a well-prepared shelter for refugees/asylum seekers in Japan. More specifically, I would like to collect funds to purchase a refrigerator for a small non-profit called RAFIQ (‘friend’ in Persian), which is the only organization that provides comprehensive assistance for refugees in Kansai area.
We regularly visit a detention center to talk with asylum seekers, help refugees go through legal processes, provide them temporary shelter, distribute them food from the Food Bank, offer them Japanese lessons, and raise public awareness through organized workshops and events.
Although RAFIQ has been increasingly recognized by the media and public, its resources have been still scarce.
(RAFIQ’s website in English: http://rafiq.jp/eng/index.html )
Here I’ll try my best to describe some ideas about the refugee policies in Japan and some context and the reason why we need a fridge, explaining the refugees’ situations in the detention centers and Japanese society.
I know it’s pretty long, but I really want you to be informed about the adversity that the refugees in Japan are faced with.
I’ll appreciate if you can take time to read through this, share this with your friends, and/or donate for the refugees in Japan. No amount is too big or small.
< The policies on refugees in Japan >
28 out of the more than 10,000 asylum seekers who applied for the status were granted refugee status in 2016. This is less than 1% of the entire applicants, and Japan is notoriously known as one of the most stringent countries to accept refugees despite its ratification of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Unlike the U.S., which has a third-party organization that assess and determine if the asylum seekers are actually refugees or not, Japan doesn’t have such a third-party organization or experts that independently make decision based on the Convention. Instead, the decision-making is attributed to one individual, the Minister of Justice, whose decisions are subjective and susceptible to the political relationships/affiliations between Japan and other countries.
This past summer, the Minister of Justice denied one asylum seeker’s refugees status although they won the lawsuit challenging the first refusal of the application for a refugee status.
Although Japan might be known as one of the most developed, peaceful, and humanitarian countries, the situations of the people from other countries are harsh because of the country’s strict, exclusive policies and widespread racism.
More about the refugees in Japan:
Lives in limbo: Why Japan accepts so few refugees, Aljazeera.
Not welcome: Japan refuses more than 99 percent of refugee applications , Japan Times
< The life in detention centers >
Despite the principle of non-refoulement, which bans the deportation of those who seek refugee status and have the fear of persecution in their countries, the Japanese government often detains the asylum who will eventually be deported. The detention can vary from months to years. The detainees can apply for provisional release from the detention center, with the assistance of lawyers and the organizations like RAFIQ. However, provisional release does not allow the refugees to work legally, and their places to live and mobility in the country are also strictly restricted. In the first place, the chances of getting the permission for provisional release are extremely low.
In the detention center in Osaka, 6 individuals with different nationalities, languages, religious faiths, and reasons for the detention were put in one room. They live on the floors where they are unable to the view the outside world. Deprived of proper medical care, many of the detainees developed severe physical and mental conditions threatening their lives. Not knowing when they will be released, the detainees’ mental and physical conditions increasingly get worse. A significant amount of detainees have attempted to kill themselves (14 cases only in the Tokyo detention center in 2015) because of their seemingly endless despair and pain. Those extreme situations are rarely recognized by the public.
This summer I had the chance to visit and interview a number of refugees in the detention center. It was such a painful experience hearing through the glass about their experiences and the concerns they had for their families. Above all, it was very frustrating to know how little I could do for them.
< Why refrigerator?>
These refugees are faced with even more difficult situations once they are permitted for provisional release from the detention center. As I mentioned earlier, having been detained for so long, many of the refugees suffer from illnesses due to physical and mental suffering, for which they sometimes get released for ‘humanitarian’ consideration. However, they are not allowed to work during provisional release. Although a small amount of financial assistance is provided based on the refugee policy in Japan, they undergo a difficult situation without money or place to live for months while they apply and wait for the approval for financial assistance from the government.
RAFIQ temporarily accepts those refugees in the shelters in their office for several months. Now it is helping 2 refugees, who have been detained for about 2 years, with asking the Minister of Justice for the permission of their provisional release. Most of the time, these requests are rejected although the system of provisional release is supposedly based on humanitarian value. Overwhelmed physically and mentally, the refugees continue making phone calls to us saying, “Help me, help me get out of here, I want freedom.” RAFIQ alone cannot make a phone call to the detention center because of its system. The refugees call us desperately, paying for telephone fees from the small amount of money they brought with them when they fled from their countries.
In the Osaka detention center, the refugees are provided with cold lunch boxes of Japanese food, with several other detainees locked up in the room without windows, stuck in the deepest hopelessness. Although RAFIQ wants to offer them food, food is only allowed to be brought them because of the detention center’s rules. For this reason, refugees always want to cook the food from their own countries when they are provisionally released. It may sound nothing special, but they just want to enjoy their ordinary homemade cuisines. In order for them to do that, we need a refrigerator to store food. We hope to provide a shelter as the first place where they can feel like they are being treated as humans. However, because of a lack of resources, RAFIQ has not been able to purchase a fridge, which is one of the most expensive appliances and yet indispensable in everyday life, from its very tight budget.
Additionally, because those who are provisionally release but not living in the shelter are still unable to work, RAFIQ provide food from the Food Bank. A lot of food arrives every other week, but under current condition of the shelter, we cannot store the food even for one day.
I sincerely thank you very much for reading and your kind support.