Japan grants Turkish Kurd refugee status

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Japan grants Turkish Kurd refugee status

According to the secretariat of the Japan Lawyers Network for Refugees, SAPPORO Kyodo Japan has recognized a Turkish Kurd as a refugee for the first time.

The Sapporo Regional Immigration Services Bureau granted the 30-year-old man the status on July 28 after an appeals court ruled in May that he would be at risk of prosecution if he returned to Turkey.

It felt as if I had exhausted all of my strength in this long fight. "I hope that justice will give others hope," Kurdish man said in a statement read by his lawyer to reporters on Tuesday.

A lawyer, Koji Yamada, said it was an extremely big step for a country that has a poor record in recognizing refugees.

In 2014, the Turkish national entered Japan and applied for refugee status, but was rejected in 2018. He filed a lawsuit in 2019 seeking revocation of the decision, which was eventually ruled in his favor by the Sapporo High Court after being dismissed by a lower court.

The high court said objective circumstances that would lead to a fear of persecution and recognized the man as a refugee on the basis that he had been tortured by the military for providing food to members of a Kurdish independence group in Turkey.

Kurds in the country have been subject to political repression for more than a century and have been banned from using the Kurdish language until recently.

According to the lawyers' group, while this is the first case of a Turkish Kurd being given refugee status, there have been cases of Iranian and Syrian Kurds being recognized as refugees in Japan.

Japan accepts only 1 percent of refugee applications and is criticized by human rights lawyers, activists and U.N. experts for failing to meet international standards.

According to government data, in 2021 it granted refugee status to 74 people, the highest number since it began recognizing refugees in 1982.