Over 1 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion of the country, raising worries that the situation could devolve into the biggest humanitarian crisis of this century. Countries across the world urgently need to join hands and provide support.
Displaced Ukrainians have fled across the border into Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, and other nations, with about half of them going to Poland.
Ukraine’s reserve forces have been called to arms and adult men have been prohibited from leaving the country, so most of the refugees are women and children. They are arriving at the border after traveling for days in the bitter cold, and in some cases then must wait 20 to 60 hours to get across.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says the number of refugees could reach 4 million. In a worst-case scenario, the European Union has warned that the figure could swell to 7 million. That would top the 6.7 million refugees from the Syrian civil war.
Most of the support has been provided by the governments of neighboring countries, the United Nations, and international refugee support organizations, which have supplied accommodations, food and medical services as well as mental care.
The influx of refugees into European countries has outpaced 2015, when people seeking safety poured in from the Middle East and Africa. The sheer volume means support is not catching up with needs on the ground.
The 20th century, with its two world wars, was labeled “the century of the refugee,” and the “Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees” was adopted in 1951. Global parties to this convention, including Japan, have a responsibility to protect refugees.
The EU has agreed on emergency protection measures. For a set period, it will allow refugees to live and work in the bloc without having to go through the usual application procedures.
Japan has been criticized in the past for its reluctance to accept refugees. It is only natural that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has announced that Japan will accept refugees this time on humanitarian grounds.
The United Nations estimates that $1.7 billion (about 196.1 billion yen) will be needed to support people who have fled to neighboring countries. Japan has decided to supply $100 million (about 11.5 billion yen) in emergency humanitarian aid.
Rescuing refugees goes beyond national interests. We recall that during World War II, Chiune Sugihara, vice-consul at the Japanese Consulate in Kaunas, Lithuania, went against government orders and issued “visas for life” to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. After the war, he was lauded internationally.
The Japanese government should quickly move to support refugees in cooperation with European countries and international organizations, and show its solidarity with the people of Ukraine.