Our sisters in Japan have brought to our attention the urgent need of refugees and asylum seekers in their country. They asked us to sign on to a statement of the Joint Christian Churches prepared by the Center for Minority Issues and Mission. After reviewing it along with the report issued by the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet agreed to sign the statement. We were able to engage in dialogue with our partners at the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St Joseph and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and they also agreed to sign.
The congregation is happy to be part of this international effort to address one of the most significant issues of our time. Climate change, nationalism, and racism continue to exacerbate this problem globally.
The Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet and the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St Joseph, based on our ongoing concerns and written statements in support of migrants, have signed a joint statement by churches opposing the proposed revision of Japanâ€™s Immigration and Refugee Recognition Act.
Compelled by the Gospel and by our heritage to be responsive to the â€œdear neighbor,â€ we urge the government of Japan, a country with more than 3 million residents with foreign citizenship, to review its international obligations as a signatory of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on Human Rights, and the International Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, as well as an endorser of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. A careful review of these documents shows that several aspects of the proposed amendments to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act currently under consideration by the Diet (Japanese national legislature) are in conflict with international obligations:
- The detention of migrants would become mandatory, could be for indefinite periods of time, and the terms of provisional release would be challenging for most migrants to meet.
- It is not permitted under international law to return asylum seekers to their country of origin when there are substantial grounds for believing that the returnee would be at risk of irreparable harm.
- There is no prohibition of immigration detention for minors nor provisions for a separate and speedy process for minors and unaccompanied children.
We join with the UN Special Rapporteur in urging changes to amendments that specifically resort to detention as an exceptional measure rather than the norm; that those detained be granted judicial review consistent with international standards; and that the best interest of the child is the guiding principle in designing and implementing policies for migrant and asylum-seeking children.
We join with the UN Special Rapporteur in urging Japan to develop a system that has the protection of refugees and asylum seekers and raises the number of refugees approved for resident status, as well as a review process for those who overstay their visas.