Connect with us

Economy & Tech

Why is Kurdish Immigration to Japan on the Rise?

Professor Saburo Takizawa exposes an illicit network smuggling Kurds to the West and explains Japan's appeal as a more affordable immigration destination.



The building housing Japan's Immigration Services Agency. April 25. (©Kyodo)

On May 4, Saburo Takizawa, former UNHCR representative and professor emeritus at Toyo Eiwa University, revealed the existence of an illegal immigration ring. This network facilitates the smuggling of Kurdish minorities from Turkey to Western countries for a high fee. 

It is highly uncommon for academic research in Japan to uncover the circumstances of Kurdish immigrants. Additionally, it is evident that Japan, with visa exemptions and relatively low travel expenses, has become a frequent destination for Kurdish migration.

Analysis and Concerns

Takizawa's report indicates that certain Kurds, openly endorsing the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), maintain legal employment within Turkey. The Turkish government has designated the PKK as a terrorist organization. 

In Japan, there has been a notable increase in Kurdish refugee status applications stating their support for anti-government factions as the reason for seeking asylum. However, this has prompted concerns about the potential misuse or abuse of refugee applications.

In March, Takizawa conducted an on-site survey of Kurds living in Turkey for several weeks. He reported his findings at the Association for the Study of Political Society's immigration and refugee research committee. 

According to Takizawa, Turkey's economic decline has led to widespread illegal immigration by Kurds with relatively low incomes. These immigrants are making their way to North American countries like the United States and Canada, where visas are required.

Takizawa discovered that people can enter these countries illegally for a fee of around $15,000 USD without a regular visa. Conversely, in Japan, Turks, including Kurds, are exempt from short-term stay visas. This allows them unrestricted entry. With airfares priced at just several hundred thousand yen, Takizawa says Japan has become a "more affordable [immigration] destination compared to North America." 

Japan's Appeal

Some Kurds in Japan are seeking refugee status, claiming they fear persecution in Turkey due to their support for the PKK. Among those PKK supporters Takizawa met, some had been previously arrested. Yet they continued living in Turkey, openly expressing their support despite warnings against participating in terrorist activities.


"While there is discrimination against Kurds in Turkey, persecution is limited to certain PKK members," Takizawa says. "We need immigration policies that reflect this reality." 


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: The Sankei Shimbun