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Three Afghan Refugees Stranded Two Months at Airport Hotel

November 12, 1985

TOKYO (AP) _ Three Afghan nationals have been confined to a Tokyo airport hotel room for two months after being refused temporary entry into Japan as refugees, authorities said Monday.

Mohammed Sameh, 32; Abdul Rahman, 32; and Abdul Jamil, 26, have been allowed two weekly 15-minute walks around the hotel, but are not permitted to contact anybody except representatives from refugee organizations, officials of the Justice Ministry’s Refugee Recognition Section said.

Guards are stationed in front of the hotel room, said the officials, who declined to be identified.

The three, who are not related, applied for temporary ″protective″ entry in Japan as refugees Sept. 14. But the ministry refused their applications, ruling that their motives were economic rather than political.

″As far as the ministry is concerned, their case is closed,″ said one ministry official.

Japan Air Lines, which brought them to Tokyo, was held responsible for taking them to another country.

″We are looking for recipient countries, but we have had no luck so far,″ said Nobuyuki Kano, assistant to the director of JAL’s public relations department.

The three arrived Sept. 10 aboard a JAL flight from Malaysia. They were given 72-hour temporary visas to transfer to planes to Canada.

Justice Ministry officials said the three Afghans originally had air tickets bound for Canada but apparently decided to see first if Japan would accept them. Because the officials refused to allow reporters to talk to the refugees, it was not possible to determine when or why they changed their minds.

The nationwide newspaper Asahi Shimbun said the three went to the Immigration Office in downtown Tokyo and applied for refugee protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention, where their papers were not accepted. They were put on a plane to Malaysia.

Ministry officials denied that the three filed for refugee status and permanent stay, and said the three decided voluntarily to take a plane to Malaysia.

In Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian government refused to allow entry, saying their papers were not in order. They were flown back to Japan and locked in the hotel room ″because they have not technically entered Japan,″ a ministry official said. They then applied for a temporary stay as refugees.

Asahi said its reporter interviewed them at their hotel room. Sameh said his brothers and sisters were killed by Soviet troops in Afganistan, where Islamic insurgents are battling an estimated 115,000 Soviets. He said he felt his life was in danger if he stayed in the country, Asahi reported.

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