Is State Sovereignty Declining? An Exploration of Asylum Policy in Japan

Hideki Tarumoto

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Abstract

The case of asylum seekers is a good test of whether or not, and if so why, state sovereignty is declining in advanced countries owing to the rise of the international human rights regime. Some researchers argue that the international asylum regime based on the 1951 Refugee Convention, its 1967 Protocol and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has had an impact on the state in asylum policy. Others insist that the state restricts its sovereignty because of domestic factors: pro-asylum constitutions or powerful parliaments. In comparison, Japan retains tight asylum policy through its “singular bureaucratic sovereignty” led by the Ministry of Justice. Since the late 1990s the numbers of refugee status grantees have increased. This has resulted from changes in the domestic political system after the collapse of one-party dominance, rather than by the effect of the international regime. In addition, inter-state relations with China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea involving Japan’s international reputation, triggered by the Shenyang incident in 2002, entailed the setting up of a special committee on refugee issues within the ministry, which is leading Japan towards a slightly laxer asylum policy.

Suggested bibliographic reference for this article:

Tarumoto, Hideki. Is State Sovereignty Declining? An Exploration of Asylum Policy in Japan. IJMS: International Journal on Multicultural Societies. 2004, vol. 6, no.2, pp. 224-242. UNESCO. ISSN 1817-4574. www.unesco.org/shs/ijms/vol6/issue2/art2

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