The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – refugees acceptance

Coming from a country that has taken lots of refugees, especially in the years after the second world war (although not any more), and while living in Japan still feeling connected to Europe and what is going on there, the current situation of refugees from the near east gives lots of material to think about. One of these things recently was passed around on various SNS sites. It is about the number of refugees a “country can accept”.


The situation is difficult, and after an initial wave of empathy it seems that especially governments are retracting and trying to stop the influx of refugees:

We cannot accommodate any more refugees in Europe, that’s not possible.
Manuel Valls, Prime Minister of France

I am well aware about the difficult situation in Europe, and consider the dealing with the refugee crisis the biggest challenge of these decade.

In this blog, without many words, I only want to focus on how Japan deals with refugees. Europe might be bad, but Japan – I am bare of words.

Lebanon European Community Japan
Population 4.467.000 (2013) 503.000.000 127.300.000 (2013)
Refugees 2015 ~1.000.000 850.000 27
Ratio 4.4 : 1 590 : 1 4714814 : 1

Sources of the data:

No words are necessary.

16 Responses

  1. Jonathan says:

    Thanks for sharing the data so clearly, and linking to the sources, too, which heads off some of the immediate knee-jerk rebuttals you might otherwise have got. What a sad state of affairs.

  2. Gordon says:

    The refugee/population ratio table is at best misleading: Lebanon built a gigantic UN sponsored tent city in the middle of nowhere. I am sure you are proposing of segregating immigrants in a secluded place with no sweres.

    As for Japan: it is a quasi monoethnic society so it is very difficult for them to integrate new persons (imagine a grown up Syrian learning Kanjis). Also they are the 1st donor of foreign aid in the whole world. Why do we, as europeans, feel entitled to force our views on other societies?

    • Gordon says:

      s/I am sure you are/ I am sure you are not

    • Hi Gordon,
      thanks for your comment. I might have to add that myself I am living in Japan, so I have a rather good insight into the local politics and society. And I learned Kanji, can read and write – why should a Syrian not be able to learn it?

      You mention that Japan is the biggest donor of foreign aid in the whole world? Do you have data for this? I am quite sure that Japan has one of the lowest percentages of their GDP dedicated to development work considered to the rest of the industrial countries. So please, as I did, provide references.

      If you mean that “insisting on humanity” and “helping refugees” is something like “force our (European) views on other societies” – you might be right. But think about it, Japan has signed several treaties in this direction, so it not only me.

      Finally, one last thing – from reading your comment I got the impression that you consider Syrians as lesser humans. I hope this is only a wrong impression.

  3. Anonymous says:

    OTOH Lebanon has been at war, in one way or another, for 40 years.

    • Not quite. It mostly ended in 1991. However with the Syrian civil war, it has partially resumed (again: partially. It is mostly peace with occasional skirmishes and more so bombs. A far cry from the civil war of 1976-1991).

  4. Lebanon is hardly a good example. It is on the brink of a civil war (the Syrian civil war has slightly spilled into Lebanon) and the country is even worse than Belgium in that they haven’t managed to decide on a president. Which shows you how torn apart that country is.

    I recently read an interview with one Syrian refugee living in Istanbul[1]. He lived in Lebanon for two weeks and realized this was just another civil war. He moved to Turkey and now he’s doing well.

    Jordan may be a better example (it is actually a fully-functioning country). And it, too, resists more refugees lately due to the stress they pose on the infrastructure.

    [1] Yes, the plural of anecdote is not data. I know.

    • Hi Tzafrir
      indeed, the situation in Lebanon is disastrous, but one reason is that the refugees don’t have any other place to go. Turkey has taken a huge share already, a few European countries, too. The rest of the world, including many European countries, are just watching and enjoying the show.

      No, Lebanon is on the brink, and sure enough any refugee that manages to reach a different place is most of the time better off. It does not invalidate my comparison of numbers of accepted refugees.

  5. umij says:

    these are numbers of _accepted_ refugees, and hence, in some sense somewhat misleading. E.g.
    approx. 800.000 refugees are accepted to reach Germany in the year 2015 alone. Sure it’s unclear on what ratio will be accepted, but it kind of distorts the whole view…

    • Yes indeed, the numbers that have entered the European area is probably larger, I cannot make a guess, though. Discussion of the number of refugee applications is a different topic, and the view might looks slightly different, but I strongly believe that it will still follow the same trend.

  6. lverns says:

    Ouch. Those aren’t pretty numbers. Note that Europe is a very natural place for Syrian refugees to head, simply because it is peaceful, wealthy, and *close*. Japan is wealthy and peaceful, but it is a long way away from the crisis. If the nation wants to accept more refugees it will have to actively work to provide transportation from the middle east.

    • Looking at the numbers, the second biggest source of refugees is Afghanistan, which is not really far from Japan. Also, the number of refugee applications in Japan was much higher (see the full report I linked to), but the number of accepted is low.

      That means, the real problem is the missing political will to accept refugees.

  7. Martin says:

    We should not accept refuges. We should help instead. All help should be planed in a 30 year perspective. Build schools, sponsor families with their kids in schools, massive modern open research in ethics and religions, build universities, and so on.

    Let people die if it help in a 30 years perspective. The main problems in the middle east: Family planing, the numbers of kids, lack of modern quality education.

    • Hi Martin,
      I agree about 50 percent with you, we definitely need to improve the situation in the concerned countries in the long run. Especially since Europe carries, via the history of colonies, a huge responsibility.
      But that is not enough, we cannot let people die now, here I disagree with you.

  1. 2016/02/25

    […] the constant talk about the number of refugees a “country can accept”. Norbert Preining sets that right (he includes Japan because he lives and works […]

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