• Kyodo

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Japan will allow Myanmar residents to extend their right to stay here for an additional six months as an emergency measure due to the unrest following the February military coup in the Southeast Asian country, Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa said Friday.

Those who wish to stay longer in Japan will be allowed to work as well, and the emergency measure can be extended again if the situation in Myanmar does not improve, immigration authorities said.

According to the Immigration Services Agency, 35,049 individuals from Myanmar resided in Japan as of the end of last year, and 13,963 of them, the largest group, were technical interns under a government-sponsored program.

“We will flexibly respond to the situation by fully taking into consideration the circumstances of individual foreign residents,” Kamikawa told a news conference.

For the time being, the agency will allow Myanmar residents who wish to extend their stay to switch their status to foreign nationals who are allowed to engage in “designated activities,” a status that is given based on individual circumstances.

The extension period will be six months, but for those aiming to obtain the status of “specified skilled workers,” established in April 2019 for the purpose of expanding employment opportunities for blue-collar foreign workers, the period will be one year.

The emergency measure will also cover people from Myanmar who are seeking refugee status in Japan, who as of the end of March numbered 2,944.

The government aims to expedite the screening process and is set to permit asylum-seekers to remain in Japan as an exceptional case even if their applications are turned down.

“It is good news. We can’t go back now because it is dangerous,” said a 44-year-old Myanmar woman who lives in Tokyo.

“I hope (the government) will give me refugee status instead of a permit with time restrictions,” said the woman, who is waiting for her third refugee status application to be granted.

She pointed out that Japan seems to be following other countries that have already implemented similar relief measures.

The United States has reportedly provided a temporary protected status for Myanmar nationals so that they are shielded from deportation and can obtain work permits.

The Australian government announced visa extensions for Myanmar nationals living in the country until it becomes safe for them to return.

Japan is also arranging to allow two Myanmar diplomats in Tokyo, fired by their country’s military junta for joining the anti-coup movement, to remain in Japan.

One of the diplomats’ credentials, issued by the Japanese Foreign Ministry, expires on July 15.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi recently said that Japan has not revoked their visa status, as the ministry does “not perceive their actions as having been inappropriate.”

The decision comes after the pair requested that Japan maintain their diplomatic visas and credentials, citing their legitimacy as officials assigned by the democratically elected government led by civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, which was toppled by the Feb. 1 coup.

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