UCA News

Refugees from Myanmar resettle in Japan

Some 11 refugees have received language and skills training to find employment
Nonnon, a 47-year-old Myanmar refugee and nail artist, working at a nail salon in Tokyo

Nonnon, a 47-year-old Myanmar refugee and nail artist, working at a nail salon in Tokyo. (Photo: AFP)

Published: September 12, 2023 09:55 AM GMT
Updated: September 12, 2023 10:22 AM GMT

A group of refugees from Myanmar who fled their war-torn country are gradually resettling in Japan thanks to support from a business group, says a report.

The Soka Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Saitama Prefecture has helped 11 people from Myanmar settle in Japan under a third-country resettlement program, The Asahi Shimbun reported on Sept. 10.

The chamber has offered training to the refugees to help them find employment in various companies since their arrival in Japan last September, the report stated.  

Japan’s third-country resettlement program allows employers to accept refugees recognized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Osamu Yamazaki, the executive director of the chamber said that they aim to support as many refugees as possible.

“Our aim is to support refugees throughout the region, so they feel glad about coming to Japan,” Yamazaki said.

The refugees are expected to receive formal employment once their training period ends this September. 

The chamber took up the initiative after its chairman Tomoyoshi Nozaki and other officials learned about the third-country resettlement program and contacted the government-approved Foundation for the Welfare and Education of the Asian People.

Yamazaki pointed out that the refugees were able to find new jobs due to an ongoing “labor shortage” in the Soka area.

As part of its initiative, the chamber has assisted refugees from an internal conflict-torn Myanmar to acclimate themselves to the Japanese language, culture, and job environment.

As the first step, the refugees underwent a mandatory six-month-long study of Japanese language, culture, and customs at a Tokyo facility operated by the Refugee Assistance Headquarters which works under the refugee foundation.

Once the language study is completed, nonprofit organizations, individuals, and companies help them to find employment.

Tomoyuki Yoshida, head of the refugee foundation said that the chamber’s support was encouraging, and the model was something that could be used nationwide.

“The support of the chamber, which is the core of the community, is very encouraging. We want to use Soka’s case as a model and spread it to other regions,” Yoshida said.

As per the chamber’s request, local companies in Soka and Yashio agreed to accept refugees as employees into their workforces.  

The companies where trainees worked included an automobile repair shop, a furniture manufacturer, and one that provides logistics services.

The chamber even took in one of the refugees as an employee.

Nor Halisah Munir Ahmad, 28, who works at the chamber answering phone calls and accompanying her colleagues on company visits, said that she hoped to establish her own business or career in Japan.

“My dream is to run a restaurant or work in a trading company,” she said.

Ahmad also assists and advises foreign nationals living in areas under the chamber’s jurisdiction.

Japan began accepting refugees under the UNHCR program in fiscal 2010.

Japan accepted up to 30 refugees per year until 2019 and has increased the intake to 60 per year across all its prefectures.

In 2021, the country granted refugee permits to only 74 out of 2,413 asylum-seekers, The Japan Times reported.

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