Japan accepted just 28 refugees last year when a record number applied for asylum, a government document dated for release on Friday showed, throwing a spotlight on the nation’s reluctance to accept foreigners.
In 2016, 10,901 people sought asylum in Japan, up 44% from a year earlier, when the country accepted 27.
Of the accepted refugees, seven were from Afghanistan, four from Ethiopia and three from Eritrea, according to the document seen by Reuters. It was not clear whether any Syrians had applied for, or won, asylum.
Immigration is a controversial subject in Japan, where many pride themselves on cultural and ethnic homogeneity, even as the population ages and its workforce shrinks. Although a major donor to international aid organisations, Japan has been reluctant to relax asylum policies or allow in migrant blue-collar workers.
Human Rights Watch last month called Japan’s record on asylum seekers “abysmal,” urging it to accept more and strengthen protection for migrant workers.
Japan’s low acceptance of refugees is in contrast to European countries, which last year saw hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers arrive from war- and poverty-stricken countries such as Syria, Iraq and Eritrea.
Germany received 745,545 asylum applications last year, data from its Interior Ministry showed. In the same period, Berlin approved more than 256,000 requests.