TOKYO (AP) — Japan should be doing more to help with the global catastrophe of asylum seekers, the head of the U.N. refugee body said Wednesday.
Antonio Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Tokyo that he was discussing the problem with Japanese officials and "would like the Japanese government to push its actions ... to increase the number of people resettled in Japan, and especially now to look into the humanitarian admissions of Syrians."
Japan is a major donor of humanitarian aid but accepts very few refugees each year, and the country's reluctance to allow in more is raising controversy given the crises festering in Europe and elsewhere.
Past efforts to resettle Vietnamese and later Myanmar refugees were viewed as not terribly successful. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe raised eyebrows recently when he suggested Japan needed to first deal with its own problems before taking in newcomers.
Japan needs to "progressively improve the asylum system here ... to make it more effective in the reception and in the recognition and integration of refugees in Japanese society," Guterres said. He also noted that Japan's location far away from the front lines of the crisis was a factor behind the scant number of refugee arrivals.
The UNHCR chief praised Japan's aid efforts overall, however, and the courageous efforts by non-governmental groups based in Japan to help, often in "very dangerous locations."
Guterres spoke at an event where the Japanese apparel company, Fast Retailing, announced a partnership with the UNHCR to expand its support for refugees, which includes internships and donations of funds and of recycled clothing.
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