The Tokyo High Court annulled the forced deportation of a stateless man seeking refugee status, declaring it illegal on grounds he could face persecution because of his ethnicity if he returned to the country of his birth.

The 52-year-old man was born in Georgia when it was part of the Soviet Union and is ethnically Armenian. He arrived in Japan on a forged passport in 2010 and later applied for refugee status, which was denied.

At issue during the lawsuit were the rights and wrongs of the Japanese government's refusal to recognize him as a refugee and its decision to deport him.

In overturning a Tokyo District Court ruling that rejected the man’s request for refugee status, the high court's presiding judge, Hiroshi Noyama, criticized the government’s decision to order deportation, saying, “It is evident he will have no place to live in this world.”

As an adult, the man experienced the collapse of the Soviet Union and oppression against Armenians by the Georgian government. He fled the country as a stateless person to avoid persecution.

He initially sought refugee status in Germany, France and other European countries, but his requests were denied.

Having arrived in Japan illegally, he was ordered deported to Georgia in 2012. In 2015, he filed a lawsuit seeking to cancel it.

The Jan. 29 high court ruling acknowledged that the man was physically attacked and his home ransacked before he left Georgia. It said he should be acknowledged as a refugee because he “could be persecuted due to his ethnic background.” It added that the man's fears for his safety if he was sent back were rational.

The ruling said forced deportation was fundamentally wrong because the government had overlooked the fact the man is a refugee and stateless.

After the ruling, the man expressed his relief at the decision during a news conference.

“I could not believe the court acknowledged me as a refugee," he said. "Now I am free from stress and can move toward the future.”

An official of the Immigration Services Agency of Japan commented, “We plan to examine the ruling carefully and take appropriate action.”