Data from Japan's Justice Ministry show that the country received a dramatic surge in applications for refugee status last year, with the total figure almost doubling to 7,586. But despite this surge in applications, Japan only granted refugee status for 27 people.

That means that, in total, just 0.4 percent of applications for asylum status were accepted. While that is an ever-so-slight increase in the rate of acceptance for refugees (the year before, when just 11 people were accepted, the rate was around 0.2), it's still remarkably low. These 27 people didn't necessarily apply for refugee status last year, either. Some may have been waiting for years to have their case granted. According to Japanese news agency Kyodo, as of June last year, there were 10,830 applicants stuck in immigration limbo.

That number looks especially bad given the scale of the global refugee and asylum crisis. Japan may have pledged millions of dollars in aid to help refugees displaced by the Syrian civil war, but a recent report from Oxfam suggested that given the size of its economy, it simply wasn't doing enough. Damningly, the country is also one of the few high-income countries in the world that has not pledged to resettle any Syrian refugees at all, though a handful of Syrian refugees have been granted refugee status in the country over the past few years. Instead, almost 80 percent of applicants for refugee status come from Asia, Asahi Shimbun reported last month, with Nepalese by far the largest national group.

Outside of the standard Japanese asylum system, the Justice Minister is able to grant special permission to remain in the country for humanitarian reasons, though the numbers also remain low here. Last year, 79 people received this status.

As The Washington Post's Tokyo bureau chief Anna Fifield wrote last year, some Japanese are concerned about the low numbers of refugees being allowed into the country. Japan may be a remarkably homogenous nation, but many in the country also think their country should pride itself on being a good actor on the world stage.

"Japan needs to sympathize with those children who became refugees," Yasunori Kawakami, a former Middle East correspondent for Asahi Shimbun, wrote on Twitter last summer. Kawakami also noted Japan's own wartime horrors, writing that "Japan has been asking for empathy for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, after all."

The Justice Ministry is blaming the backlog on changes to asylum laws. Since 2010, those applying for refugee status in Japan are legally allowed to work once their case has been considered for over six months. According to Kyodo, many cases last far longer than this: The average processing time for initial applications was over eight months in the first part of last year. Remarkably, the processing time for appeals was even longer – as much as two years and five months, the news agency reports.

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