Thursday, October 29, 2009

Burma: Calls for Japan to protect Rohingya asylum seekers

Human Rights Watch - Japan's new administration should protect Burmese Rohingya asylum seekers in Japan and press Burma to end abuses against the minority group, eight Japanese and international organizations said today. The groups sent a joint letter to the newly inaugurated justice minister, Keiko Chiba, and foreign minister, Katsuya Okada.

"Tokyo's silence sends a message to Burma's generals that their horrendous persecution of the Rohingya can continue," said Kanae Doi, Tokyo director at Human Rights Watch. "Japan's new government should urgently review its policies to protect the Rohingya both in Japan and in Burma."

The organizations urged Chiba to rescind deportation orders that would return asylum seekers to Burma and to grant Special Residential Permits to Rohingya in Japan. Over the past decade, more than 110 Rohingya have made their way to Japan, mainly by air, and petitioned the Japanese government for asylum. While there have been no reports of forcible repatriation of Rohingya asylum seekers to Burma, many Rohingya in Japan have been denied refugee status, detained, and issued deportation orders.

The organizations called upon Okada to press the Burmese military government to end human rights violations against the Rohingya and grant them full citizenship rights. Abuses against the Rohingya include extrajudicial killings, forced labor, religious persecution, and restrictions on movement, all exacerbated by a draconian citizenship law that leaves the Rohingya stateless. Japan has long been reluctant to exert pressure on Burma's senior leadership on human rights issues.

The letter was signed by Amnesty International Japan, Arakan Rohingya Organization-Japan (JARO), the Lawyers' Group for Burmese Refugee Applicants, the Burmese Rohingya Association in Japan, the Christian Coalition for Refugee and Migrant Workers (CCRMW), the People's Forum on Burma, BurmaInfo, and Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch also issued the Japanese translation of the 12-page photo essay and report, "Perilous Plight: Burma's Rohingya Take to the Seas," today. The report examines the causes of the exodus of Rohingya from Burma and Bangladesh, and their treatment once in flight to Southeast Asian countries. The report documents the persecution and human rights violations against the Rohingya inside Burma, especially in Arakan state, persisting for over 20 years, with insufficient international attention.

The eight organizations will hold a public event today in Tokyo around the report and the treatment of Rohingya asylum seekers in Japan.

"The Rohingyas have faced persecution in Burma and mistreatment in the countries where they seek refuge," Doi said. "The Japanese government should ensure their protection in Japan."

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