RRT Case No. 1200203

Geographical Area
Case Name
RRT Case No. 1200203
Case Reference
1200203 [2012] RRTA 145 (DIAC Ref: CLF2011/199630)
Name of Court
Refugee Review Tribunal of Australia
Key Facts
In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami resulted in explosions at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. This nuclear disaster in Japan led to the release of nuclear radiation into the environment, a deterioration of living conditions in certain parts of the country, potential contamination of food, air, and water in various regions, and an increase in medical problems.

The applicant expressed concerns about the prevalence of power plants throughout Japan, stating that a nuclear accident could occur at any time. He feared the potential for further contamination of food and water. Additionally, he mentioned having serious allergies that would be exacerbated by contaminated air and water, negatively impacting both his psychological and physical well-being. The applicant asserted that returning to Japan would render him unable to sustain his life and function adequately.

He claimed that the authorities were neglecting to control the distribution of contaminated food, forcing the Japanese population to consume it without transparency. According to him, there was a lack of honesty regarding the effects of the nuclear power industry in Japan. He expressed concern about potential future catastrophic events associated with nuclear power plants, asserting that the government was not taking sufficient measures to prevent them. Furthermore, he argued that the government was inadequately managing nuclear waste, and despite this, had intentions to build more nuclear plants.

The applicant claimed to meet the definition of a refugee set out in the 1951 UN Refugee Convention on the basis of his race and nationality, asserting that Japan’s frequent earthquakes affected all of Japan, aligning with his belief in meeting the specified criteria. Furthermore, he contended that he qualified as a refugee based on political opinion due to politicians promoting an environment leading to contamination of food and air, posing a direct threat to his life and liberty.
Decision and Reasoning
The Refugee Review Tribunal of Australia affirmed the decision not to grant the applicant a Protection (Class XA) visa. While acknowledging the potential for the applicant to face serious harm, such as from a natural hazard like an earthquake upon returning to Japan, the Tribunal was not convinced that the harm would be systematic and discriminatory based on the applicant’s race or nationality.

The Tribunal rejected the applicant’s claim of persecution based on race or nationality upon return to Japan. The applicant cited various potential harms, including exacerbated allergies, lack of access to clean air, food, and water, as well as deprivation of liberty and rights. He attributed these potential harms to the Japanese government’s actions, including its nuclear power policies, regulations, dissemination of information, and crisis management, all of which he deemed systematic. The Tribunal, however, emphasized that for an act to constitute Convention persecution, the persecutor must engage in discriminatory conduct. Even if the Japanese government were guilty of the alleged conduct, the Tribunal argued that, since Japan is a functioning democracy, such conduct is related to the governance of the country rather than being specifically aimed at the applicant or any particular individual. Consequently, the conduct was not deemed discriminatory, and any harm resulting from it would not qualify as persecution. Regardless of the nature of the harm considered, as it arises from governance, it would not fall under a Convention reason.

Moreover, the applicant presented evidence suggesting that any harm he might endure due to an earthquake would have an official quality or be officially tolerated. However, the Tribunal, relying on independent information, concluded that the Japanese authorities have taken significant steps to assist those affected by earthquakes. There was no evidence to suggest the applicant would be deprived of such assistance in the future.
The Refugee Review Tribunal of Australia was not satisfied that the applicant was a person to whom Australia had protection obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. Therefore, the applicant did not satisfy the criterion set out in s.36(2)(a) for a protection visa.
This case law summary was developed as part of the Disaster Law Database (DISLAW) project, and is not an official record of the case.