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  • A group of migrants queue to cross the border into Spielfeld in Austria from the village of Sentilj, Slovenia, Oct. 28, 2015.

    A group of migrants queue to cross the border into Spielfeld in Austria from the village of Sentilj, Slovenia, Oct. 28, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Published 24 January 2016

Figures released by Japan come as a stark contrast to the number of people granted asylum by Turkey.

Japan rejected 99 percent of asylum applications in 2015, accepting only 27 refugees, government statistics reveal.

The country's Justice Ministry said Saturday that a record 7,586 people sought asylum in Japan last year, representing a 52 percent increase from 2014.

Asylum seekers from Nepal, trying to flee extreme poverty, made up the majority of the applicants with 1,768 submissions, although none were granted asylum.

Of the 27 people approved in 2015, six were from Afghanistan and three from Syria.

In 2014, Japan accepted just 11 refugees from 5,000 applications.

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Saori Fujita, an official for the Immigration Bureau of Japan, told the Japan Times that the increase in applications last year was due to a rise in the number of Indonesians filing for asylum.

Fujita said 17 Indonesians applied in 2014, compared to 969 last year.

Japan’s Refugee Recognition Act does not include war refugees in its interpretation of the International Refugee Convention.

On Wednesday, Japan's parliament approved US$350 million in humanitarian aid for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, which is in addition to the US$810 million package approved last year, yet comments from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the U.N. General Assembly last September suggest it is unlikely Japan will see an influx of refugees from war-torn nations in the Middle East in the near future.

“As an issue of demography, I would say that before accepting immigrants or refugees, we need to have more activities by women, by elderly people and we must raise (the) birth rate," he said.

Despite being in the midst of a demographic problem, due to an ageing population and declining birth rates, Japan runs one of the tightest refugee recognition systems in the world.

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The statistics are in stark contrast to the number of migrants accepted by countries like Lebanon, from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

In 2015, EU member countries gave protection status, which includes refugee status and authorization to stay for humanitarian reasons, to approximately 185,000 asylum seekers. Germany granted residency to over 1.1 million migrants mainly from Syria, a country that has been gripped by a civil war for close to five years.

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