Photo/Illutration The Osaka Regional Immigration Services Bureau (Takuya Asakura)

OSAKA--A Sudanese man in his 30s who came to Japan in 2017 is among those facing the prospect of being deported back home as a conflict rages in his country in northeastern Africa. 

Many Sudanese have been forced to flee their country as fighting continues between the Sudanese armed forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

But in Japan, there are Sudanese who came to the country before the fighting began in April and have had their refugee applications rejected.

The Sudanese man in his 30s said he was detained by the Sudanese public security authorities for around two months in 2016.

He believes the Sudanese authorities were suspicious of him because he had worked in South Sudan, which became an independent state in 2011.

“When Sudan is that dangerous, are (the Japanese authorities) really saying I have to return there?” he said.

Supporters of the Sudanese have been calling on the government to let them live in Japan, saying that returning to Sudan now is effectively impossible.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) predicts that up to 860,000 people will have fled Sudan to surrounding countries by October.

Even before the fighting began, many Sudanese became refugees because of the long-standing dictatorship and unstable political situation there.

Britain’s Home Office reported in 2017 that opponents of the dictatorship had been persecuted in various ways.

In Japan, data from the Immigration Services Agency states that only one person of Sudanese nationality was granted refugee status in both 2019 and 2020.

Not all data about the number of refugee applicants by nationality is made public, but it’s known that when relatively many Sudanese applied for refugee status, 15 and eight did so in 2018 and 2021, respectively.

RAFIQ, an Osaka-based organization supporting refugees, is helping 11 Sudanese, including children.

All of them, excluding one family who came to Japan only recently, have had their refugee applications rejected in Japan.

They have been issued deportation orders but are reapplying for refugee status or appealing the rejections in court.

The Sudanese man in his 30s was forced to sell his land to pay his bail after being detained by authorities in his country. 

With help from his friend who worked at an airport, he came to Japan after having gained a visa for the country by chance.

Upon arrival, he immediately applied for refugee status in Japan, but the application was rejected in 2021.

He said eight relatives or friends of his died or were injured in the fighting in his country.

The area where his wife and two small children live is relatively safe but has been subjected to air attacks. 

“When I talk with my wife on the phone, she always says she’s scared,” he said.

He is currently applying for refugee status for a second time. But he has been issued a deportation order and cannot work to make a living.

The man lives in a room at his acquaintance’s home. He spends his days doing things such as walking in his neighborhood.

He hopes to gain a status of residence in Japan and bring his wife and children to live with him.

RAFIQ and lawyers will soon make a request in writing to Justice Minister Ken Saito for the government to grant special permission to let the 11 Sudanese whom they help, including the man in his 30s, stay in the country.

The lawyers said it is inhuman to leave the refugees in a state where they can be deported at anytime.