Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed the Syrian refugee crisis before the United Nations General Assembly being held in New York on Tuesday, Sept. 29. While Japan is committing over a billion dollars in assistance to the Middle East refugee crisis, Abe says that his country is not ready to accept asylum applications en masse.
The Guardian reports that Japan has pledged to provide $1.6 billion dollars in helping Iraqis and Syrians who have been displaced. According the Al Jazeera America, $810 million will be devoted to financial aid for the refugees while the other $750 million will be spent on peace-building efforts across the Middle East and Africa.
“Japan would like to contribute by changing the conditions that give rise to refugees,” says Abe. “The cause of this tragedy is the fear of violence and terrorism, and terror of poverty. The world must cooperate in order for them to find a way to escape poverty.”
According to Al Jazeera, Japan has been generous with its financial contributions to the Syrian refugee crisis, the most severe displacement of a population since World War II. Last year, they gave $181.6 million to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), second only to the United States.
However, Japan has not welcoming to refugees seeking asylum. The Guardian reports that in 2014, the Japanese government only accepted 11 out of the 5,000 applications for asylum.
The Guardian reports that Japan is among the least welcoming high-income nations for refugees, ranking in the bottom alongside Russia, Singapore and South Korea.
Prime Minister Abe argues that Japan must first address its own problems before accepting immigrants.
“It is an issue of demography,” says Abe. “I would say that before accepting immigrants or refugees, we need to have more activities by women, elderly people and we must raise our birth rate. There are many things that we should do before accepting immigrants.”
Al Jazeera reports that Japan is facing economic difficulties thanks to a falling birthrate. While some have argued that accepting immigrants would help boost Japan’s flagging population, bringing in non-natives is a sensitive issue.
“To publicly broach mass immigration – and the multicultural adjustments in Japanese life that it would necessarily entail – as a means of solving the country’s looming demographic crisis is something that verges on sacrilege,” Shizuoka University professor MG Sheftall tells The Guardian.
“For an important national figure to do so would be an act of political suicide.”