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Monday, June 22, 2020

Japan’s Attempt to Ease Strict Entry Bans for Foreign Residents Too Little, Too Late

Above, Asya and I having lunch in Santa Monica a week before I moved to New Mexico. Now she's been stranded in Denmark.

Gaijinpot.com has posted an interesting article on expats who have been left stranded in other countries during the coronavirus outbreak when Japan and some other countries imposed entry bans.

One such country is Denmark (which caught my attention). My Russian artist friend, Asya, has been stranded in Denmark since the imposition of travel restrictions. She hasn't been able to get back to her home in St. Petersburg, Russia.

According to the article:
Many expatriates living in Japan consider themselves to have two homes. For some, though, the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic left them choosing between their home country and the country where they have built their lives. An associate professor at Tohoku University told us, under the condition of anonymity, they have been stranded in Denmark since early March—just before the coronavirus reached pandemic level. 
Japan began closing its borders to certain countries in early April. More nations were added to the ban on April 29, bringing the total to over 100 countries, including all of Europe, most of Asia, and North America. The ban included foreign residents of Japan, regardless of whether they had a working, student, or spousal visa.  
Far away from home 
In the Tohoku University professor’s case, they left Japan to attend a work conference in Sweden and then continued onto Denmark for further business meetings. 
“There were only a few cases in Denmark at that time,” they told us over the phone. “I arrived on a Monday, by Wednesday the Prime Minister was holding a press conference, and by Thursday, people had stopped going to work. We shut down pretty quickly.” 
In stark contrast to Japan, however, Denmark has allowed residents and work permit holders to re-enter. Japan is reportedly the only country on the G7 Summit to impose such harsh restrictions. 
“Even though Denmark shut down quickly, they allowed residents back in and not only residents but anyone with an important reason, for example, to attend a funeral,” the professor said. “I assumed that because I have a work permit and legally reside [in Japan], I would be able to return.” 
That assumption would prove to be wrong. 
In response to criticism, on June 12, the Immigration Services Agency released updated guidelines for foreign residents to be allowed to re-enter Japan under “exceptional circumstances.” Exceptions include those who left Japan to attend a funeral or who received court summons overseas. Residents with children enrolled in Japanese schools will be allowed re-entry as well. 
But the damage has already been done. Many foreigners in those circumstances have been affected for months. Moreover, those who were traveling for work have received no such consideration. 
“There are a lot of [foreigners] where it was a question of being torn if they needed to return home in the case of an emergency, but I was out for work, and I’m stuck,” the professor said. “There was no choice to make.”
 To read more, go here.

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