Photo/IllutrationRefugees converse with each other in front of Osaka Nanmin House in Osaka’s Yodogawa Ward. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Despite only recognizing 42 people as refugees in 2018, Japan should be cautious before committing to accept more, a slight majority of respondents to a government poll said.

The Cabinet Office survey, released Jan. 17, showed 54.6 percent of respondents think the number of refugees Japan accepts is low. Only 10.6 percent said the number is high.

But 56.9 percent said the country should think carefully before deciding whether to accept more refugees in the future.

Twenty-four percent said Japan should actively accept more refugees.

The poll, which is conducted every five years, for the first time asked about granting refugee status and permanent residency to foreigners.

The latest survey, conducted in November, contacted 3,000 men and women across Japan age 18 or older. Valid responses were received from 1,572, or 52.4 percent of the total.

Respondents could choose multiple responses for each question and were also asked to select reasons for their answers.

Of the respondents who said Japan should not readily accept refugees, 67.2 percent answered that doing so “can lead to a deterioration of public safety if there are criminals among them,” the most common response chosen among those respondents.

Among respondents who said the country should accept more refugees, the most, 62.3 percent, said accepting refugees is Japan's “responsibility as a member of the international community.”

As of June 2019, there were about 780,000 permanent foreign residents in Japan. Asked about what kind of requirements are needed to grant foreigners permanent residency, more than 70 percent said “having no criminal record,” while another 70 percent or more cited “paying taxes and social security premiums.”

Respondents were also asked to indicate in which cases permanent residency should be revoked if the government introduces a program to do so.

The response “having been sentenced to prison” topped the poll at 81 percent, followed by “failing to pay taxes and social security premiums” at 73.2 percent.

Asked for an opinion on what Japan should do to improve the environment for foreign residents, 72 percent of respondents selected as the top priority “multilingual services where they can ask about procedures needed to live in Japan, medical and welfare services, childbirth, child-rearing, among other things.”