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Afghan evacuees to be allowed into Japan despite COVID border rules

In this Sept. 12, 2021 photo, several Afghan evacuees, left, are seen accompanied by Japanese Foreign Ministry officials at Narita International Airport near Tokyo. (Mainichi/Tadakazu Nakamura)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Afghan staff of Japanese organizations who wish to evacuate from Afghanistan will be granted special permission to enter Japan in an exemption from current COVID-19 border restrictions, government sources said Wednesday.

    The decision, which applies to staff at the now-closed Japanese Embassy in Kabul and workers of the Japan International Cooperation Agency as well as their families, is based on humanitarian grounds in light of the worsening situation in the Taliban-ruled country.

    Japan has banned new entries by foreigners from Nov. 30 as a measure against the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, and also tightened criteria permitting foreigners to enter the country based on exceptional circumstances.

    As of Nov. 26, a total of 423 Afghans had taken refuge in Japan since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in mid-August, according to the Foreign Ministry. There are still over 100 who hope to evacuate to Japan.

    Dozens of the hopefuls are expected to enter Japan via Qatar in the near future, the sources said.

    The first group of such evacuees arrived in Japan in mid-September. As the 90-day limit for their short-term visa is approaching, those who wish to remain in Japan are in the process of switching to a different visa to stay longer.

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