TOKYO — Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, who has been visiting Poland to assess how Japan can help displaced Ukrainians, said Monday that he will bring 20 back to Japan with him, as Tokyo seeks to play a greater role in international support for Ukraine.
During three days in Poland, Hayashi visited facilities for Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw and held talks with Polish officials, international humanitarian organizations and civil groups to assess how Japan can provide support.
“As I observed the severe situation faced by Ukrainians who were forced to flee their country because of the Russian invasion, I have renewed my resolve that Japan should cooperate with international society and provide the utmost assistance so they can return to ordinary lives as soon as possible,” Hayashi told reporters.
Japan has an extremely strict refugee policy and has been reluctant to fully accept migrant workers, making its offer to accept Ukrainians unusual. However, the government has carefully called them evacuees, and it is still unclear if the Ukrainian situation will change its immigration policy.
Tokyo expects the 20 evacuees will stay in Japan for at least six months, and will provide further support if needed, said Deputy Justice Minister Jun Tsushima, who is traveling with Hayashi.
Tokyo has previously accepted about 300 other Ukrainians, all relatives of about 2,000 Ukrainian residents in Japan who arrived on their own since the Russian invasion began.
Hayashi said he was impressed by the high level of care and support being given to refugees in Poland, including food, medical care, counseling for those with trauma and support for children. “What we observed here will certainly help us plan our support for them in Japan,” he said.
The 20 people previously contacted Japanese embassies in Ukraine or Poland but had difficulty arranging their own transportation to Japan, Hayashi said, declining to give further details because of privacy reasons.
Hayashi and the refugees are expected to arrive in Tokyo today.
He met with them on Monday to assure them of their safety and support in Japan, where several cities, including Tokyo and Osaka, have offered to provide housing, jobs, education for children and other necessities.
Japan, which has a territorial dispute with Russia, took milder steps when Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014.
But this time, due to fears of the impact of the Russian invasion on East Asia, where China’s military has become increasingly assertive, Tokyo has taken tougher measures in line with the United States and Europe, while providing support for Ukraine.
Japan has pledged $100 million in emergency humanitarian aid to Poland and its neighbors that are accepting war-displaced Ukrainians, in addition to an earlier pledge of $100 million in humanitarian aid.