Japan should adopt its own idea and invite educated and motivated Syrian people for study and professional work (02/04/2016)

 In the 2 April 2016 issue of Asahi Shimbun, Professor Hasegawa suggested that a paradigm shift for Japan to adopt a new way to solve a new problem.

Source: www.theguardian.com

Source: www.theguardian.com

 Laith Rastanawi, 25, a former refugee from Hama in west Syria, is studying for a master’s in mathematics at the Free University of Berlin in Germany after winning a Daad scholarship. He says studying in Germany is a dream come true, and has changed the direction of his life. He fled from Alleppo in Syria two years ago, having graduated with high marks from university there, and travelled to Turkey with his brothers.



The following is a full English text of the abbreviated Japanese language opinion article
which appeared in Asahi Shimbun on 2 April 2016.


Japan should adopt its own idea and invite educated and motivated Syrian people
for study and professional work


Sukehiro Hasegawa
Former Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste


 Sixty years ago, when Japan joined the United Nations in 1956, Deputy Prime Minister and head of the Japanese delegation Mamoru Shigemitsu expressed emphatically the Japanese people`s “desire to occupy an honored place in the international society striving for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance, for all time from the earth.” This commitment to the universal laws of political morality may now be tested by the international community for Syrians and other people freeing from armed conflicts.[1]

 Since Shigemitsu declared Japan’s intention to behave as an honorable member of the international community, Japan has made its contributions in three stages. During the first phase, Japan steadfastly made financial contributions amounting to as much as 20 percent of the UN regular budget and acted as a benevolent donor to many of the development and humanitarian programs and projects. The second phase started with Japan’s support for peace missions—first with financial and then troop contributions to peacekeeping operations. But, due to the constitutional constraints and strong pacifist sentiment prevailing in the country, Japan’s military personnel participation in UN peacekeeping missions has remained sporadic. The third phase of Japan’s association with the United Nations was characterized by increased Japanese participation in advancing the concept of human security, peacebuilding in post-conflict countries, and African development.

 The declaration made by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his address to the UN General Assembly last year reflected the Japanese leader`s intention to continue the strategic use of Japanese financial resources for earning the honored place in the international community. Japan`s financial contribution would amount in 2015 to as much as $810 million to assist refugees from, and people displaced within Syria and Iraq. The package including a token amount of $2.5 million in humanitarian assistance for countries neighboring the EU that are grappling with the acceptance of refugees and migrants, such as Serbia and Macedonia.[2] Yet, as armed conflict continued in Syria, people were leaving the country in a large number. While the majority of those displaced persons have stayed in the neighbouring countries, a large number of them moved into Europe causing major social tensions in Europe.

 In February and March 2016, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) William Lacy Swing and new United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi visited Japan. They both acknowledged Japan’s valuable financial contributions to their humanitarian activities. There is no doubt that Japanese financial contributions to these international organizations are highly valued and appreciated. Neighboring countries of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan also expressed their appreciation of Japan`s financial contributions to address their needs for humanitarian and rehabilitation works. However, it is also clear that European countries feel Japan can and should do more than contributing financially to humanitarian activities. As Japan will host the G7 Summit at Ise-Shima in May, Japan may feel pressure to accept also some refugees.

 It is my view that it would be better for Japan to develop and implement its own new way of helping Syrian people in distress before Japan may have to accept a large number of refugees under external pressure from Europe and the United States. For that, it is necessary to make a paradigm shift and find a new solution rather than trying to resist implementing the old way of dealing with displaced persons with old policies and approaches. As Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Source: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/albert_einstein.html


 The international community has so far is trying to protect and accept only refugees who are defined by the 1951 Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees as someone who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” Reflecting moral and humanitarian principle that accords the highest importance to the protection of refugees as human beings, the 1951 Convention sets furthermore the principle of Non-refoulement, which prohibits any contracting State to expel or return a refugee to a territory where ‘his life or freedom would be threatened’ (Article 33, 1951 Refugee Convention). Moreover contracting States are obliged to provide social security to asylum seekers. These requirements are justifiable, but they cause enormous financial and social burden on any host country and society that accept a large number of refugees. Furthermore, the differences in languages, religious beliefs, social customs and habits make it extremely difficult and time consuming for integration of refugees in host society. Just as European leaders are feeling intense social tensions due to massive inflows of people with different religious beliefs and social habits with little common language to communicate, Japanese leaders are fully aware that their country will also face severe financial burdens and social tensions if a large number of refugees were brought in to the country at once. Their concerns are well justified but their lack of courage to find a way to share the burdens and pains sets Japan apart from Germany which is seen increasingly as an honorable country.

Then, how can Japan act as an honorable member of the international community? In my view, Japan can do so in three-ways.

 1. First, Japan should increase its independent contributions in ideas and approaches to the peaceful settlement of conflicts as a UN Security Council member. This year Japan became for the 11th time the non-permanent member of the Security Council. Japan should make its contribution in an imaginative way to resolution of the civil war in Syria.

 2. Second, Japan should assist in a tangible manner Syrian people as a whole who have been displaced within and outside the borders and not just those who are qualified to meet the conditions set forth by the 1951 Refugee Conventions and its 1956 Protocol. As Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau decided last November, you can be selective.

 3. Third, Japan can also be selective and concentrate on those who wish to engage in study or professional work for a certain period of time. The Government should treat them not as poor refugees but qualified persons who are engaged in academic and professional work. They should be provided the basic allowance for living and a proper place in educational institutions and private firms as university students, teaching assistants, researchers and interns. Many Syrians are highly educated and have various talents. It is possible to benefit from their skills. Those Syrian people who temporarily stay in Japan through such a scheme should return to Syria when the conflict is over and continue their work.

 Japan already has the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program, through which foreign youth are invited to work at local governments. This program aims at enhancing foreign language education and promoting international communication at the local level. Almost 5,000 language teachers come annually from several native English countries to work for around 1,000 local government institutions, including 47 provinces and 20 government-designated cities. Foreign participants of JET program work as paid temporal staff for a limited period of time. This JET program which has expanded to receive teachers from as many as 40 countries provides an adequate remuneration to maintain the basic living standard. If the Government of Japan provide those coming from Syria with a remuneration similar to JET workers, not only public institutions but also private firms would be interested in hosting them.

 In the 1970s, Japan was reluctant to open its doors to those who fled from the Vietnam War, but finally accepted over 10,000 boat people as refugees, following pressure from the US. In 1990, upon Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the UN decided to send multinational forces, but Japan could not provide self-defense forces and extended only financial assistance. Although it amounted to more than 10 billion dollars, Japan did not receive any proper acknowledgement of the international community. In order to avoid repeating such inconvenient endeavors, Japan can pursue its own approach. How about accepting 4,000 Syrians annually, totaling 12,000 over the coming three years. There are many educated and highly skilled Syrian people, who have a good command of English and French. 1,000 people can be accepted as university students or language assistants at high schools, and 3,000 people as trainees at private firms, public institutions or agricultural enterprise for the combined total of 12,000 for the period of three years. Japanese government should provide their travel fare, training fee on Japanese language and living cost worth 200,000 yen per month per person. It would cost roughly 4.2 million yen per person annually, which would be all together a project worth 16.8 billion yen or about $160 million at the current exchange rate. This amount compares with €11 billion or $12.5 billion Germany is expected to spend in one year alone for more than 1 million refugees and migrants who have entered the country during the last one year.[3]

 Japan will host the G7 Summit at Ise-Shima in May. This time, Japan should propose on its own a constructive plan to accept motivated Syrian students and professionals. By publicly announcing this plan as the President of the G7 Summit, Japan should be appreciated by Syrian people and gain some respect from other G7 members. It will be a small tangible step for Japan to take as an honourable country she aspired to become 60 years ago when it was admitted to the United Nations.

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[1] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Address of His Excellency Mamoru Shigemitsu, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Japan, before the United Nations General Assembly on the occasion of Japan’s Admission to the United Nations,” 19 December 1956.

[2] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Address by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Seventieth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations,” 30 September 2015.

[3] Spiegel Online International, 29 February 2016.



(*Unfortuntely, your browser does not support the PDF viewer. Instead, please download the PDF file or the Asahi-Shinbun website of Professor Hasegawa’s article in Japanese.)



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 Here are examples of Syrian students who are continuing to study and work in universities and institutions in Europe and North America as well as in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries.

The University of St Andrews in Scotland has provided scholarships for qualified Syrians.(Source: http://css.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/activities/scholarships/)
The University of St Andrews in Scotland has provided
scholarships for qualified Syrians.

(Source: http://css.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/activities/scholarships/)

Syrian medical students receiving a tutorial on SyriaScholar.com from doctors in the United Kingdom.(Source: http://syriascholar.com/about-us/history/)
Syrian medical students receiving a tutorial on SyriaScholar.com
from doctors in the United Kingdom.

(Source: http://syriascholar.com/about-us/history/)

According to Gareth Bayley, UK Special Representative for Syria, in 2015, 37 Syrians have been selected as Chevening Scholars, from among a field of nearly 1000. These scholars now have the opportunity to study for a one-year Master’s degree at any of the UK’s leading universities, across a wide range of fields.(Source: http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/garethbayley/2015/09/16/a-better-future-for-syria-chevening-2015/)
According to Gareth Bayley, UK Special Representative for Syria, in 2015, 37 Syrians have been selected as Chevening Scholars, from among a field of nearly 1000. These scholars now have the opportunity to study for a one-year Master’s degree at any of the UK’s leading universities, across a wide range of fields.

(Source: http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/garethbayley/2015/09/16/a-better-future-for-syria-chevening-2015/)

Nour Daoud from Syria earned her Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology in May 2014. She started full-time work at Goldman Sachs in June 2014.(Source: http://syriansfuture.com/2014/05/26/education-is-the-most-powerful-weapon-my-journey-to-illinois-institute-of-technology/)
Nour Daoud from Syria earned her Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology in May 2014. She started full-time work at Goldman Sachs in June 2014.

(Source: http://syriansfuture.com/2014/05/26/education-is-the-most-powerful-weapon-my-journey-to-illinois-institute-of-technology/)

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 The Japan Foundation Cairo Office annually holds the Japanese Language Education Seminar in the Middle East. In 2015, 40 teachers from seven countries participated, including two from Syria, a country that for several years now has been in the grips of civil war. Joji Ikezu, Japanese Language Education Advisor at the Japan Foundation Cairo Office has written a report “Hope for Syria” in the Japan Foundation’s online magazine Wochi Kochi Magazine.

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