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Friday, Jan. 13, 2006

Compromised Kurds file again for safe haven


Staff writer

Six Kurdish asylum-seekers, whose identities were revealed to Turkish authorities in 2004 along with those of eight of their family members, reapplied for refugee status Thursday at the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau in Minato Ward.

The six Kurdish men had previously sought refugee status between 1996 and 2001, but all were turned down and they have been issued deportation orders. The asylum-seekers have taken their cases to court, seeking to have the decisions by the immigration authorities reversed.

"We hope that the Justice Ministry will reconsider its decision and recognize (the asylum-seekers) as refugees," their lawyer, Takeshi Ohashi, told reporters Thursday after the papers were filed.

"Because of the immigration officials' action, the asylum-seekers have been placed in even more danger than before," he said.

According to Ohashi, immigration officials visited Turkey to investigate the cases of more than 10 Kurdish asylum-seekers. Their identities were disclosed to Turkish authorities there, Ohashi said.

Immigration officials also "visited the homes and villages of the asylum-seekers with (members of) the Turkish military or the police," he said.

Last month, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations issued a warning -- the strongest admonition the group can level -- to the Justice Ministry over the 2004 probe conducted in Turkey. The federation stressed that leaking personal information to the Turkish government could infringe on the rights of the asylum-seekers and put them in danger.

"The Japan Federation of Bar Associations recognized the graveness of this issue," Ohashi said. The federation "stated that (the investigation in Turkey) was a serious human rights violation."

Ohashi added that he and other supporters of the Kurdish asylum-seekers collected 7,500 signatures on a petition asking the Justice Ministry to either recognize the Kurds as refugees or issue them special residence permits. Ohashi said he plans to submit the petition to the ministry in the near future.



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