• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

UNHCR protection chief applauds Japan and South Korea, asks them to be better Asian role models

News Stories, 18 May 2009

© UNHCR/Y.Moriy
UNHCR's Erika Feller, at left on the stage, at the Tokyo symposium.

TOKYO, Japan, May 18 (UNHCR) UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller has applauded Japan's expanding hospitality towards refugees and called on South Korea to become a leading asylum country during a visit to the two Asian countries last week.

Speaking to a packed Tokyo symposium on asylum in Japan last Friday, Feller acknowledged Japan's asylum space is getting bigger and said the fact that Japan will become a resettlement country is very positive.

She added, however, that it can still be difficult for asylum seekers to enjoy basic rights and live decently in Japanese communities while waiting to be recognized as refugees. Feller stressed that detention practices needed to be reviewed.

The Assistant High Commissioner said Japan has a refugee protection system in place, but suggested the country consider improving reception and assistance for asylum seekers, as well as better integration of refugees.

"The system works for the present. Now there has to be real investment in asylum for the future in Japan," she said, adding that there were new challenges to adjust to, including the demands of global burden-sharing."

Observers said the high turnout for the symposium, where Feller was the keynote speaker, was testimony to the growing interest of the Japanese public in refugee protection. Former UNHCR High Commissioner Sadako Ogata also spoke at the event about refugees, asylum seekers and foreign workers in Japan.

Japan is not only a major donor to UNHCR, but also accepted 11,000 Indochinese refugees after the late 1970s. It has announced plans to become Asia's first resettlement country when it begins accepting Myanmar refugees from camps in Thailand under a pilot scheme next year.

Earlier last week, on her first official visit to South Korea for UNHCR, Feller called for more support from both government authorities and the Korean public to become a leading asylum country in the region.

"South Korea is a very important country in this region. It can offer very good examples to the rest of the region in terms of integrating protection cases. A lot of experience has been accumulated by helping North Koreans who came into South Korea," she said. "We hope that some of this experience will also be used to develop integration programs for third country nationals. We are looking to South Korea to play a leadership role in this region."

She welcomed recent improvements such as new asylum legislation coming into effect in June that will grant the right to work to asylum seekers and humanitarian status holders. However, she still called for a "separate refugee law which would put in place a more comprehensive and reliable system for refugee protection in this country."

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Advocacy

Advocacy is a key element in UNHCR activities to protect people of concern.

Capacity Building

Helping national authorities meet their obligations to the uprooted.

Livelihoods and Self-Reliance

We help refugees, refugee returnees and internally displaced people tap their potential and build a platform for a better future.

The High Commissioner

António Guterres, who joined UNHCR on June 15, 2005, is the UN refugee agency's 10th High Commissioner.

2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented Sister Angélique Namaika of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award at a gala ceremony in Geneva on Monday night.

Sister Angélique, through her Centre for Reintegration and Development, has helped transform the lives of more than 2,000 women and girls who had been forced from their homes and abused by fighters of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) or other armed groups. Many of those she helps suffered abduction, forced labour, beatings, murder, rape or other human rights abuses.

The Roman Catholic nun helps survivors to heal by offering them the chance to learn a trade, start a small business or go to school. Testimonies from these women show the remarkable effect she has had on helping turn around their lives, with many affectionately calling her "mother."

The Award ceremony featured a keynote speech from best-selling author Paulo Coelho and musical performances by singer-songwriter Dido, Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna and Grammy-nominated Malian musicians, Amadou and Mariam.

2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

UNHCR chief meets Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

On 1 August, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres travelled to northern Burkina Faso with the United States' Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BRPM), Anne Richard. In Damba camp, they met with Malian refugees who had fled northern Mali in the past six months to escape the ongoing conflict and political instability. To date, more than 250,000 Malian refugees have fled their homes and found refuge in neighbouring countries, including 107,000 in Burkina Faso alone. The UN refugee agency has only received one-third of the US$153 million it needs to provide life-saving assistance such as shelter, water, sanitation, health services, nutrition and protection to the refugees. UNHCR fears that the volatile political and humanitarian situation in Mali could lead to further outflows to neighbouring countries.

UNHCR chief meets Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

Angelina Jolie meets boat people in Malta, Lampedusa

Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie joined UNHCR chief António Guterres on the Italian island of Lampedusa, where they met with boat people who have fled unrest in North Africa.

More than 40,000 people, including refugees and asylum-seekers, have crossed the Mediterranean on overcrowded boats and descended on the small island since the beginning of the year.

The UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador flew to Lampedusa from Malta, which has also been a destination for people fleeing North Africa by boat.

Angelina Jolie meets boat people in Malta, Lampedusa

Iraq: High Commissioner visits Arbat campPlay video

Iraq: High Commissioner visits Arbat camp

Concluding a visit to Iraq, UNHCR chief António Guterres met with Syrian refugees in Arbat camp in the Kurdistan region. Guterres noted the recent proliferation of humanitarian crises, but urged the international community not to forget about Syria, "the mega protracted crisis of our times."
Iraq: High Commissioner visits displaced IraqisPlay video

Iraq: High Commissioner visits displaced Iraqis

This week UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres is visiting Iraq to meet with families displaced by conflict in recent weeks. After listening to accounts of their difficult journeys to safety, Guterres called for more support to help deal with the crisis. He will also visit some of the 300,000 Syrian refugees currently living in camps in northern Iraq.
Jordan: UNHCR and Host Countries Discuss SyriaPlay video

Jordan: UNHCR and Host Countries Discuss Syria

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres meets in Jordan's Za'atari refugee camp with leaders of countries hosting Syrian refugees in the region. He again urged the international community to do more to help these countries shoulder the burden.