20 Ukrainian evacuees arrive in Japan from Poland as FM Hayashi completes journey

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Evacuees from Ukraine arrive at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on April 5, 2022. (Mainichi/Naoaki Hasegawa)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — A group of 20 evacuees from Ukraine arrived in Japan from Poland on Tuesday on a Japanese government plane, a landmark move that comes as people fleeing Ukraine have faced skyrocketing airfares following the Russian invasion.

Five men and 15 women, aged 6 to 66, hoped to travel to Japan but were unable to find their own transport. Government assistance includes housing, employment and language classes.

“Now I am in a safe environment, but sometimes things come to mind in Kyiv that make me feel uncomfortable,” said one of the evacuees, Olga Ruban, 34. She fled to Poland late last month, leaving her parents in the Ukrainian capital.

After learning kendo, a Japanese discipline of wooden sword fighting, Ruban traveled to Japan for a tournament in 2018. She expressed her hope that “the war will end as soon as possible, that the ‘Ukraine returns to normal and people live in peace’.

Victoria Romashova, 37, arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport with her 13-year-old son.

“I will say that a war is really horrible,” she told reporters, adding that she wanted the Japanese to know how different the real situation in Ukraine is from what they see on the internet.

The couple quickly left Tokyo for Osaka prefecture where her mother lives with her Japanese husband.

The 20 evacuees arrived in Japan shortly after Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi returned from his trip to Poland as Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s special envoy.

Japan is trying to show its commitment to global efforts to help Ukraine and Poland, which has seen the largest influx of refugees from Ukraine after the Russian invasion.

Like other evacuees who have already entered Japan, the 20 evacuees will be granted short-term residency for 90 days and will be allowed to later change their visa to “designated activities” status for one year under which they are allowed to work, according to the Japan Immigration Services Agency.

Those who do not have guarantors in Japan, such as relatives or acquaintances, must stay in government-organized hotels until municipalities or companies provide new places to stay.

On Monday, 321 companies, 147 municipalities and 17 non-governmental or non-profit organizations offered to provide support, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference.

They will also receive financial assistance for living expenses, medical care and professional training, as well as linguistic assistance such as the provision of an interpreter.

On Monday, Hayashi pledged to accept “as many (Ukrainians) as possible” from a humanitarian point of view when he spoke with his Polish counterpart Zbigniew Rau in Warsaw, before meeting Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

To see what help Tokyo should provide to Ukrainian evacuees, Hayashi also visited a border checkpoint and refugee reception center in Medyka and Japan’s temporary liaison office in Rzeszow, both in southeastern China. Poland, during his stay in the country.

In the same vein, Japan has decided to send four officials to Moldova, another country sharing a border with Ukraine, for a week from Tuesday to explore the possibility of human resources contribution in the health and medical services sector.

By Sunday, 4.21 million refugees had fled Ukraine since the start of the conflict, including 2.45 million to Poland and around 395,000 to Moldova, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine, Japan accepted 404 evacuees from Ukraine on Sunday, according to the Japanese government.

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