Op-ed: Japan must learn to see refugees not as ‘useful’ subjects, but human beings

Published February 15, 2017
By Moe Suzuki
Source: Open Democracy

When US president Donald Trump issued his executive order on 27 January, halting the admission of refugees for 120 days and banning the entry of nationals from seven Muslim countries, it sparked protests and boycotts across the country. A number of heads of states came forward to condemn the action, including the chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, and even the British prime minister Theresa May who initially refused to denounce the ban.

One of the notable exceptions was Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe who, when questioned on the subject in the National Diet on 30 January, answered: “I’m not in the position to comment, but the international community should cooperate in dealing with the issue of refugees”. The lacklustre statement was a stark reminder not only of Japan’s stance towards refugees (or absence of it), but also of the country’s peculiar sense of indifference and withdrawal from any and all issues purportedly requiring “international effort”.

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