Refugee Support

NOTE: Refugees/asylum applicants can NOT receive any livelihood/housing assistance by calling or visiting us at the JELA Foundation’s office. (So don’t waste money on phone calls or transportation.)

  • If you are a first-time asylum applicant in Japan and have financial/housing needs, you should first contact the Refugee Assistance Headquarters (RHQ).
  • Other counseling/consultation services are listed here. (You may get a security warning from your browser, but the webpage is safe to visit.)

for those who are considering traveling to Japan to apply for refugee status

JELA’s Refugee Support offers two types of assistance to refugees and asylum seekers currently residing in Japan: housing and scholarships.


JELA provides support to people who have fled from their own countries and come to Japan to seek protection from political, religious, and other types of persecution.

JELA’s Refugee Support Program began in 1984 in response to a request from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. In the course of consultation and discussion with the Japanese government and other NGOs, JELA came to recognize the need for housing that asylum seekers could use without financial concerns.

Now JELA owns two apartment buildings in Tokyo and runs them as rent-free shelters for refugees and asylum seekers whose vulnerability is deemed high. Another pillar to JELA’s Refugee Program is providing scholarships to refugees and asylum seekers in Japan who have been admitted to a Japanese college but cannot afford tuition fees.

JELA House

JELA owns two apartment buildings named “JELA House” in Tokyo to provide shelter primarily to needy asylum seekers. One of them, located in Itabashi Ward, has been in operation since 1991, and the other in Edogawa Ward since 2011. A total of 15 separate apartments are available, and each resident has access to a kitchen, a refrigerator, a washing machine, a TV, and other daily necessities. Living in a JELA House is completely free of charge, and utilities costs are also covered by JELA. Residents in the Houses are allowed to stay there until they are financially independent or start receiving public housing assistance.

In each House lives a Japanese custodian, who is there to answer questions from residents and respond to emergencies quickly.

In JELA House in Edogawa, there is a shared room available to all residents. There, residents have access to two computers connected to the Internet. The room is also used for free Japanese lessons for residents, offered by volunteers.

We select who to house in JELA Houses based on recommendations from the UNHCR, the Refugee Assistance Headquarters (an affiliate of the Japanese Foreign Ministry), and other refugee-supporting NGOs, and the two Houses are almost always full. The Japan Association for Refugees (JAR), a Tokyo-based non-profit, helps us with running the shelters.

Partnership with other organizations

JELA is a member of the Forum for Refugees Japan (FRJ), a network of major NGOs that provide different kinds of support to refugees in Japan. We also host a triannual round-table meeting on refugee relief, in which people from refugee-supporting NGOs, the UNHCR, and government sections involved in refugee-related policies gather and exchange opinions in an informal setting.

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