TOKYO (Kyodo) — Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi returned to Japan on Tuesday from Poland and brought with him 20 evacuees from Ukraine in a show of Tokyo’s latest support for the war-torn nation and its neighboring countries.
The 20 evacuees who boarded a backup government plane in the Polish capital of Warsaw had been hoping to travel to Japan but had been unable to secure their own means of transportation, according to Hayashi, who refrained from disclosing any further details, citing privacy concerns.
The exceptional move by Japan of using a government plane to airlift foreign evacuees comes as airfares have skyrocketed for Ukrainian people since Russia’s invasion of their homeland began on Feb. 24.
The government plans to provide support to the 20 evacuees for around six months, including housing, employment and language lessons, according to Senior Vice Justice Minister Jun Tsushima who accompanied Hayashi on his five-day trip to Poland.
The minister’s visit to Poland as a special envoy of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was aimed at showing Japan’s commitment to the global efforts to help Ukraine and Poland, which has seen the largest refugee influx from Ukraine following the Russian attacks.
On Monday, Hayashi vowed to accept “as many (Ukrainians) as possible” from a humanitarian perspective when he held talks with his Polish counterpart Zbigniew Rau in Warsaw, before meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
To see what aid Tokyo should provide to Ukrainian evacuees, Hayashi also visited a border checkpoint and a refugee reception center in Medyka and Japan’s temporary liaison office in Rzeszow, both in southeastern Poland, during his stay in the country.
In a related move, Japan has decided to dispatch four officials to Moldova, another nation sharing a border with Ukraine, for a week from Tuesday to explore the possibility of a human resource contribution in the health and medical services sector.
As of Sunday, 4.21 million refugees had fled Ukraine since the start of the conflict, including 2.45 million to Poland and about 395,000 to Moldova, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
Since Moscow launched military attacks on Ukraine, Japan had accepted 404 evacuees from Ukraine as of Sunday, according to the Japanese government.