An LGBTQI person who was arrested, prosecuted, and jailed in their home country has become the first person granted legal refugee status and given asylum on the grounds of sexual orientation in Japan, according to the country’s Immigration Services Agency.

The unnamed person served two years in jail in their home country for consensual same-sex activity and was released on bail before traveling to Japan where they applied for asylum over fears they would be prosecuted again if they returned home.

Japan’s Immigration Services Agency found that the asylum seeker belonged to “a particular social group” as defined in the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees that was adopted in 1951, and granted them legal residency.

The decision was made in 2018 but only became public knowledge in late June this year.

The convention defines refugees that should be given asylum by signatories as people with a “well-founded fear of being persecuted because of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”

Japan only accepts a very small number of asylum seekers each year but is one of only a handful of Asian nations that have signed the UN refugee convention.

10,493 people applied for refugee status in Japan in 2018. Of those, only 42 were granted legal asylum.

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