Japan's immigration agency said Tuesday that foreigners fleeing conflict zones such as war-hit Ukraine will be eligible for long-term resident status with a working visa under a revision to the immigration law, starting from Dec. 1.

The new system is designed to help enable the approval of residence for individuals from conflict zones whose circumstances do not conform to the requirements for refugee approval.

The 1951 U.N. convention on refugees defines a refugee as "someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion."

Japan is a signatory to the convention, which obliges member states to give them protection, but evacuees from Ukraine and similar displaced persons do not meet the criteria.

Some 2,091 Ukrainian evacuees were in Japan as of Sept. 20, of whom 1,931 reside in Japan under a "designated activities" visa for one year, according to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan.

Permission for their stay in Japan was given under the discretion of the justice minister.

An evacuee from Ukraine (3rd from R) reunites with her family at Narita airport in Chiba Prefecture on March 26, 2022. (Kyodo)

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