In his remarks before the U.N. General Assembly, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a large increase in aid money for Middle Eastern refugees, but notably declined to allow migrants to resettle in Japan.
The New York Times describes Abe’s offer as $810 million for “assistance to refugees and internally displaced people in Syria and Iraq this year, about triple the amount from last year.” Japan is said to be the second-largest donor to the United Nations refugee relief agency, behind the United States.
Additionally, he said Japan would provide $750 million “to help build peace and fully ensure this peace across the Middle East and Africa” through infrastructure and development projects, such as water delivery systems in Iraq.
This would be substantially more than the $700 million in humanitarian aid Saudi Arabia claims to provide for those refugees. The Saudis have also been criticized for refusing to allow Syrian refugees to resettle on their land, packing them off to Europe instead. The standard Saudi response is to assert that they allow some 100,000 Syrians to reside in the Kingdom temporarily but more-or-less indefinitely with work and residency permits.
There actually are some Syrian refugees in Japan—sixty of them to be exact, according to the UK Guardian. Only three of them have been given official refugee status, while another 30 have been “given permission to stay long-term for humanitarian reasons.” Japan received 5,000 applications for asylum last year, but accepted only 11 of them.
Some European leaders have told their populace to welcome the vast tide of Middle Eastern migrants because their native populations have been dwindling, sometimes leaving empty buildings, or entire villages, that could be effectively handed over to the new arrivals. Japan is gripped by one of the worst demographic death spirals in the world, but still has no interest in taking on the sort of refugee population European countries and the United States are expected to accept.
“It is an issue of demography,” the Guardian quotes Abe explaining after his U.N. address. “I would say that before accepting immigrants or refugees, we need to have more activities by women, elderly people and we must raise our birth rate. There are many things that we should do before accepting immigrants.”
The New York Times notes that earlier in the day, Abe said Japan would “give substantially more support to those mothers and fathers that bear many children.”