With the advancement of globalization, the number of Japanese nationals staying overseas has been increasing. The government needs to strengthen measures to ensure their safety.
In the wake of the spread of infections with the novel coronavirus, a succession of countries have closed their borders and suspended flights. In many areas, people have faced difficulties maintaining their daily life due to restrictions on going out.
The government has provided Japanese nationals residing abroad with information and dealt with inquiries from them about how to return home. Of those who hope to return, about 10,000 people have come home so far.
As nations are working together in this respect, Japan and South Korea have cooperated to evacuate their nationals from such areas as African countries by jointly using flights chartered by each government.
The global spread of virus infections remains far from being contained. The government is urged to continue its support in arranging for nationals to come home and providing them with necessary information.
The number of Japanese nationals living overseas has doubled in 30 years, reaching 1.39 million as of 2018. Last year, 20 million people traveled abroad for business or leisure.
Security levels and legal systems overseas are different from those in Japan, and in many nations the hygienic environment and medical standards are relatively poor. Protecting Japanese nationals abroad and supporting their activities are important tasks for the state.
As a response to the novel coronavirus, the Foreign Ministry has appropriated ¥3.5 billion to strengthen measures for protecting Japanese nationals in a supplementary budget for fiscal 2020.
The ministry will expand and improve its teams for contingencies to deal with emergency situations. When Japanese nationals are in imminent danger in areas where there are no overseas diplomatic establishments, staff from nearby embassies or the ministry in Tokyo will be dispatched. These staff members will be signed up in advance, and receive training in such matters as how to secure means of transportation during such a mission.
As there is no Japanese Consulate in Hubei Province, China, where the first outbreak of the novel coronavirus emerged, Japanese Embassy staff in Beijing were among those who traveled there overland. Using this case as a lesson, the government should make preparations to flexibly respond to a given situation.
An email system will also be enhanced to confirm the safety of Japanese nationals. The system will be revised to make it possible to send emails all at once to Japanese nationals in several countries and regions, upgrading it from the current system where emails are sent separately in each country. It is important to swiftly grasp the circumstances of Japanese nationals so as to take support measures for them.
In foreign countries, the idea to “protect yourself” is the basic principle. Every Japanese national abroad needs to pay attention to security information about the country in which they are staying and take actions to avoid danger.
The Foreign Ministry has operated since 2014 an email service system for short-term overseas travelers known as Tabireji. The system provides updated information in Japanese about the country the person is in. In emergencies, it becomes an important communication tool between people registered with the system and overseas diplomatic establishments for such actions as confirming their safety.
The number of people who have registered with the system has steadily increased and reached 6.5 million as of February. The government should enhance its efforts to make the public aware of the system, persistently encouraging its use.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on May 25, 2020.