CGHE Webinar

Refugees by Another Name: Ukrainian Evacuees and Displaced Learners in Japanese Higher Education

Date: Thursday, 9 November 2023 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Location: Zoom webinar, registration required
Speaker(s):
  • David Green, Nagoya University (Japan)
  • Lisa Unangst, SUNY Empire State College (US)
  • Eriko Tomita, independent researcher

Event Materials

This event is now archived and we are pleased to provide the following event media and assets, along with the original event overview.

Despite being one of the world’s largest economies and making significant financial contributions to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, admissions of asylum seekers to Japan as formal “refugees” are strikingly low, with only 0.1% of asylum applicants approved in 2020 (UNHCR 2021). This very low admissions rate persists despite international criticism, and standards for refugee admission remain very strict. However, there is an apparent side door for asylum seekers in Japan, where people who may qualify as refugees according to international standards can be admitted into Japan through other non-refugee visa statuses. For example, in 2016 the Japanese government pledged to admit 150 Syrian evacuees and their families as students rather than admitting them as permanent refugees. In the wake of Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, this side door to admission to Japan increased dramatically. As of March 2023 Japan has admitted a total of 2,211 Ukrainian “evacuees” since the onset of the conflict (MOJ, 2023), far outstripping the number of officially-recognized refugees entering the country.

This presentation aims to better understand the situation of displaced persons entering Japan as students, mainly from Ukraine, who would normally qualify as refugees. Through interviews with international student officers in Japanese universities, we examine whether university staff assisting international students are able to identify students who would fit the mold of displaced persons or potential refugees, what their needs may be, how universities are acting to address these needs, and the degree to which universities collaborate with local actors such as NGOs in assisting these groups. As Japan expands efforts to admit refugees from Ukraine and other conflict zones without formally labeling them as such, it is essential to understand how the institutions responsible for their welfare identify and support them.

Event Notes

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