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Thursday, Oct. 27, 2005
Refugees need more aid: UNHCR
By MASAMI ITO
Japan should not stop at being a financial donor to United Nations refugee assistance programs but also become a strategic partner in protecting the vulnerable group, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Wednesday.
Antonio Guterres, a former prime minister of Portugal who was elected as the 10th UNHCR in June, arrived in Japan this week and has met with various organizations and individuals, including Justice and Foreign ministry officials, to try to increase awareness and understanding about the issue of refugee protection.
Speaking at the Japan Press Center in Tokyo, Guterres said he spoke with Justice Minister Chieko Noono about how to improve the country's refugee protection program so it will meet international standards. Their talks included discussions about creating a resettlement program to enable recognized refugees to integrate more easily into Japanese society.
He said Noono agreed to cooperate with the UNHCR by having its specialists train Justice Ministry officials on asylum-granting procedures.
"Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish the problems of asylum-seekers and the problem of illegal migrants," Guterres said. "It's very important to clarify the difference and it's very important to preserve this institution of asylum and to make sure that all of those in need of international protection have access" to it.
Guterres also expressed concern over the increase in fear about terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, saying refugees are not terrorists but the first victims of terrorism.
When people seek asylum, they are put under a spotlight and scrutinized, Guterres said, adding "no terrorist would ever try to enter a country through the gates of asylum or acting as a refugee."