Japan will allow Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion to enter the country even if they have no relatives or acquaintances in residence, marking a major shift in Japan’s recognition of refugees previously criticized by the International community.
Hirokazu Matsuno, chief cabinet secretary, told a cabinet meeting on Friday that Japan would “always accept Ukrainians who wish to evacuate to Japan.”
He told reporters that relevant ministries and agencies would discuss and coordinate ways to provide assistance so that displaced people can stay in Japan more easily.
The government had previously required Ukrainians to have relatives or acquaintances in Japan to act as guarantors. Nearly 1,900 Ukrainians have Japanese resident status, according to the government.
The crisis is pushing the Japanese government to revise its traditionally strict policy towards people fleeing the conflict, including refugees and asylum seekers.
In 2020, 3,936 people applied for refugee status in Japan, but only 47 were accepted, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, triggering a backlash from international human rights organizations.
Matsuno said the documents needed for visa applications for Ukrainians would be simplified to facilitate their entry, while the government would connect evacuees who have no connection in Japan with local governments and businesses.
He said they would also be exempt from having to submit a negative Covid-19 test result when entering the country.
Meanwhile, Japan also moved on Friday to freeze the assets of 15 Russian people and nine organizations, including government officials and oligarchs, as the country expands its sanctions against Russia.