Burmese Refugees in Tokyo: Livelihoods in the Urban Environment
This paper explores the consequences of Japan's refugee policy for Burmese refugees living in Tokyo by examining refugees' livelihoods and responses to the immigration/ refugee legal system. It begins with a description of Japan's legal framework as it pertains to immigrants and refugees, then examines four elements of refugees' livelihoods in Tokyo: employment, housing, health care and education. Tokyo's urban environment enables Burmese refugees from all backgrounds to generate income and make a living. Finding a place to live is possible with the help of the Burmese community, both legal and illegal. Education is only partially successful, but will prove more challenging as the refugee population grows. The present system is woefully inadequate to meet the health needs of asylum seekers. While refugees manage adequately, this is largely due to the Burmese community's strength and to some extent the response of Japanese civil society in the form of volunteer organizations. This success is in spite of Japan's rusty immigration and refugee system, which, slow to recognize that its temporary population is gradually becoming more permanent, is in need of more than a cosmetic makeover.
Journal of Refugee Studies