Japan accepts more than 1,000 Ukrainian evacuees

Japan accepts more than 1,000 Ukrainian evacuees

Ukrainians arrived at Narita Airport on April 9 on a commercial flight from Poland. Asahi Shimbun file photo Japan's acceptance of 1,000 Ukrainian evacuees to date stands in stark contrast to its reluctance to offer shelter to other foreign nationals fleeing persecution.

After Russia's invasion on March 24, the prime minister Fumio Kishida announced on March 2 that he will take in evacuees from Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi visited Poland in April for a first-hand look at how the country was helping evacuees from Ukraine and brought 20 Ukrainians aboard a government aircraft when he returned.

The government has seats on the LOT Polish Airlines direct flight to Japan every weekend for Ukrainians hoping to take refuge in Japan.

As of May 18th, Japan had accepted 995 Ukrainians, including those who flew on their own to Japan. Five more arrived on May 21.

Of the 1,000 people, 758 were women.

They entered Japan on a 90 day visa, but they are eligible to switch to a designated activities visa, which will allow them to work in Japan for a year.

The government has also set up a website for Ukrainian evacuees to help them find clothes, appliances and furniture, as well as interpreters, listing goods and services provided by businesses and other organizations.

Ukrainians with no friends or family in Japan are allowed to stay in hotels on a temporary basis with the government footing the tab.

As of May 18, 61 were doing so.

The government has also been working with local authorities to take in evacuees and Ukrainians trying to secure housing.

Three families consisting of seven Ukrainians decided this month to move to local communities in Tokyo, Kyoto Prefecture and Aichi Prefecture, making them the first batch of evacuees to take advantage of the government service.

If you check out of a hotel, the government provides a lump sum payment of up to 160,000 yen $1,250 per person.

Fiecare evacuee gets 2,400 yen a day to cover basic living expenses.

The government does not treat Ukrainians as evacuees, rather than as refugees who face persecution in their home country due to ethnic issues, religion and other reasons.

Between 1982 and 2021, Japan granted asylum to only 915 foreign nationals. In addition to that, 3,289 foreign nationals have been allowed to stay in Japan on humanitarian grounds, although their applications for refugee status were denied.

The special treatment given to Ukrainians is markedly different from the government handling of people from other countries, said an official with the Japan Association for Refugees JAR, a nonprofit organization that has helped evacuees from Africa and the Middle East.

The JAR said that an official support program for asylum seekers provides a per diem rate of 1,600 yen and 40,000 yen a month per person for a single-bed apartment while the government examines their applications.

Only a fraction of the asylum seekers end up getting the support they need. It takes three months on average for the program to kick in, according to the JAR official.

A government official defended the preferential assistance policy for Ukrainians, saying it received broad support from the public. The conflict was an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, according to the official.

The government takes into account how the public views evacuees, in a nutshell, the official said.