TOKYO, March 26 — The International Organization for Migration has launched a program in Japan to help foreigners hard hit by the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami to leave the country, its office in Tokyo said Saturday.
The IOM has already helped more than 100 foreigners leave Japan since the disaster and its Liaison Mission in Tokyo said it estimates the number of people who potentially need its support at several thousands in ravaged areas in northeastern and eastern Japan.
It is the first time for the Geneva-based organization, which provides assistance to refugees and others having difficulties returning to their homelands, to start such a program in Japan following a disaster, the mission said.
The IOM assistance is targeted at foreigners who were living in Aomori, Iwate, Yamagata, Miyagi, Fukushima, Tochigi, Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures when the disaster hit and were "directly affected" by the quake, tsunami or the radiation threat caused by the series of accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The IOM will help those who it judges from a humanitarian viewpoint are in dire need of its support, such as widows and minors who lost their guardians, by shouldering the cost of transportation from the current shelter to the nearest airport and buying one-way flight tickets to their home countries.
Applicants who clear the IOM's screening can get help from staff members speaking Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, Portuguese and Thai, the mission said.
William Barriga, head of the mission, said it launched the program as foreign nationals who have been affected by the unprecedented devastation are particularly vulnerable "due to…difficulties in retrieving contacts with their families back home in their country of origin." (PNA/Kyodo) scs/rsm