2017 Morrison & Foerster Pro Bono Report

JAPAN AND REFUGEES: OPENING CLOSED DOORS Japan immigration authorities reject nearly all refugees who seek asylum, admitting less than one percent in 2015. MoFo lawyers in Tokyo devote thousands of pro bono hours advocating on behalf of those rejected for asylum. Japan is not welcoming to asylum-seekers. In 2015, the country granted refugee status to only 27 out of 7,586 applicants — just 0.3 percent. In comparison, the United States took in 69,933 refugees during roughly the same period, and Germany granted asylum to 140,910. MoFo attorneys in Japan are assisting the Japan Association for Refugees by providing legal counsel to some of the more than 5,000 asylum-seekers from Africa, Southeast Asia, Syria, and other countries — devoting thousands of pro bono hours to help refugees and immigrants avoid danger in their homelands and relocate safely to a new country. Yukihiro Terazawa is a partner in MoFo’s Intellectual Property Group and worked on refugee issues even before joining MoFo in 2009. Associate Yuri Inoue has been involved in refugee assistance for three years. Other team members include associates Judd Abramson, Pieter de Ganon, Naoyuki Fukuda, Naoko Ishihara, Shinsuke Kaneko, Yoshitaka Katayama, Kana Kobayashi, Akinari Nakano, Hisatada Ohashi, Agnes Petrucione, Ken Sakane, Kyoko Sato, and Yosuke Yamamoto. Together, Yukihiro and Yuri have represented more than 20 asylum- seekers in the past eight years and have beaten the odds to win refugee status for two of the 20 — a testament to the critical importance of experienced legal assistance. YEARS OF WAITING AND HOPING In a recent case, Yukihiro and Yuri worked with a 25-year-old refugee from Afghanistan. The young engineer was threatened and kidnapped in his homeland but managed to escape and come to Japan. NINETY-NINE PERCENT OF ASYLUM-SEEKERS DO NOT MAKE IT PAST THE INITIAL INTERVIEW…. THIS IS WHEN OUR REAL WORK STARTS. YUKIHIRO TERAZAWA The first step for an asylum-seeker is to file an application for refugee status and submit it to examination by the Immigration Bureau. “Ninety-nine percent of asylum-seekers do not make it past the initial interview,” says Yukihiro. Applicants who are rejected are eligible to be represented by a Japanese attorney. “This is when our real work starts,” says Yukihiro. The attorneys submit an appeal to the Ministry of Justice. If the high court decides the initial ruling was erroneous, it is overturned and the person is granted refugee status. It can often take five to six years to complete the application process, during which time the applicant cannot get a job. “The biggest challenge is the long wait time between hearings. The lawyers have to keep the refugees’ spirits up during the application process,” says Yukihiro. An attorney can devote 5,000 hours to guide an applicant through the process. The young Afghan was one of the few successful asylum-seekers. He was granted a certificate for refugee recognition and a five-year visa by the Immigration Bureau. Our client can now work and begin to build a new life in Japan. 23 | Morrison & Foerster Pro Bono Report