Osaka court orders gay man from North Africa to be recognized as refugee

A court in western Japan has ordered the government to grant refugee status to a man who said he fled his country in North Africa after facing persecution for being gay.

The Osaka District Court handed down the ruling on Thursday.

The man in his 30s said he was placed under confinement and abused by his family, and the local police threatened him with arrest when he consulted them for help.

The man applied for refugee status after he came to Japan five years ago. His application was rejected in February 2021 and he filed a lawsuit.

Presiding judge Tokuchi Atsushi said gay people are the target of social hatred in the man's country, and are exposed to dangers such as violence by third parties, including police officers.

The judge also said that if the man returns home, there is a real possibility of harm from his family, and it can be recognized that it will be difficult for him to get protection from the state as his country has provisions to punish gay people.

The judge said the man qualifies as a refugee, and ordered the revocation of the decision not to grant him the status.

The Immigration Services Agency said it will closely examine the ruling and respond appropriately.

The plaintiff spoke to reporters after the ruling. He said through an interpreter that he had experienced a hard time even after entering Japan, but he is very happy today.

He expressed his gratitude, and said he hopes to stay in Japan and work like other people.

His lawyer, Matsumoto Ado, expressed hope that the government will reconsider the refugee recognition system based on the latest ruling.