• Jiji, staff report


In the three months since the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital of Kabul on Aug. 15, evacuations of Afghans who worked for Japan and their family members have progressed thanks to Qatar's cooperation.

Of local staff members of the Japanese Embassy in Kabul and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, and their family members who wished to leave the strife-torn country, 395 have arrived in Japan so far, according to Gen Nakatani, who has been recently appointed as special adviser on human rights issues to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Cooperation by the Qatari government, which has closer relations with the Taliban, allowed Japan to fly evacuees from Afghanistan.

"It's natural to provide maximum support to local staff members who worked with Japanese people," Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said at a news conference on Friday. "We will do what it takes to support evacuations."

Nakatani told reporters on Monday that in addition to accepting evacuees from Afghanistan, the government will consider ways to allow Afghans who have studied in Japan to come to Japan if they so wish on a case-by-case basis.

Also being considered is a way to allow Afghans who are already in Japan but who lost their student status after finishing their studies to remain in the country, Nakatani said.

Amid growing tensions in Afghanistan in August, 12 Japanese staff members from the embassy evacuated from the country, but a total of some 500 local workers for the embassy and JICA and their family members were left stranded.

In an effort to rescue Afghan staff members and Japanese nationals, Japan dispatched Self-Defense Forces aircraft to Kabul. As the local security situation worsened, however, the government was only able to bring home one Japanese national.

The government then switched to seeking cooperation from Qatar, sending a representative to Doha.

Toshimitsu Motegi, then-Japanese foreign minister, met with his Qatari counterpart, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, and called for support for Japan's efforts to evacuate Afghans. The Qatari foreign minister pledged maximum cooperation.

Since October, commercial planes arranged by the Qatari government have brought Afghan evacuees to Japan. Nearly 80% of those who wished to evacuate from Afghanistan are now in Japan.

A senior official from the Foreign Ministry said the foreign ministers' meeting played a key role in realizing the evacuations. "We are doing well thanks to Qatar," the official said.

The Afghans who have arrived in Japan are mostly staying on short-term visas valid for 90 days.

Many of the evacuees hope to work in Afghanistan again, according to Japanese officials. It is not yet clear when Japan will be able to resume embassy and other operations in Afghanistan, however, making it an urgent task for the Japanese government to consider how to support them for the time being.

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