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Ukraine war

Japan foreign minister brings back 20 Ukraine evacuees

Government plane used to carry people who fled war-torn country into Poland

Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi returned to Japan on Tuesday from Poland, bringing 20 evacuees from Ukraine in a show of support for the war-ravaged nation and its neighboring countries.   © Kyodo

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A group of 20 Ukrainian evacuees arrived in Japan on Tuesday with Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi as he returned from his visit to Poland in a show of Tokyo's latest support for war-torn Ukraine and its neighboring countries.

The 20 evacuees who boarded a 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 further details, citing privacy concerns.

The exceptional move by Japan of using a government plane to airlift foreign evacuees comes as people fleeing Ukraine face skyrocketing airfares 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 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 biggest refugee influx from Ukraine following the Russian invasion.

The male and female evacuees range in age from 6 to 66, a government source said.

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

Those who do not have guarantors in Japan such as relatives or acquaintances are expected to stay at hotels arranged by the government until municipalities or businesses provide new places to stay.

They will also receive financial aid for living expenses, medical care and vocational training, as well as language assistance such as arrangement of an interpreter.

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 its invasion of Ukraine, Japan had accepted 404 evacuees from Ukraine as of Sunday, according to the Japanese government.

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