Japanese language school president reportedly resigns after calling Ukrainian students “elite refugees” who receive more than they deserve from the government.
The Nippon Academy in Maebashi, Japan, announced on Monday that Masumi Shimizu would step down, local newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported Thursday.
The Shimizu school accepted 38 Ukrainian students, who objected when management asked them to start paying tuition after receiving several months free. Speaking at a press conference last month, Shimizu called the students “thieves” and “elite refugees”, who enjoy free rent and tax exemptions while Asian students struggle to make ends meet.
Shimizu’s comments became public and the school was reprimanded by prefectural authorities. These authorities then announced that Ukrainian students who wished to continue learning Japanese would receive payments for doing so, while continuing to receive free housing and assistance with living expenses, the Mainichi newspaper reported.
The school’s former headmaster refused to apologize when he quit, insisting the “the prefectural government is doing much more than it should” for Ukrainians. Shimizu added that the refugees – some of whom told the Mainichi his remarks had caused them emotional damage – act as a “privileged class”.
Shimizu said he was asked to resign by the school board.
The Asahi Shimbun reported on a similar incident last year in which an Afghan asylum seeker in Japan condemned the government’s apparent double standard regarding Ukrainian refugees. He claimed that Tokyo gave preferential treatment to Ukrainians in a “extremely political movement”.
Japan has taken in about 2,300 Ukrainian refugees since last February, the majority of whom speak little or no Japanese. An ethnically and linguistically homogeneous society, Japan has traditionally closed its doors to refugees and immigrants and accepted a record 74 asylum applications in 2021, up from 27 the previous year.
Ukrainians in Japan are technically not recognized as “refugees,” a designation that would grant them five-year visas. Instead, they receive one-year work permits with the possibility of extension.
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