Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Tuesday that his country would contribute $1.6 billion in aid to assist Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and to usher in peace and development in the Middle East and Africa. However, he said Japan would, for now, stop short at sheltering refugees fleeing conflict in these regions.
Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, Abe said that his government has promised $810 million in aid to help Syrian and Iraqi refugees, which according to the New York Times, is triple the amount Japan pledged for the same cause last year. Japan pledged an additional $750 million to usher in stability in the Middle East and Africa, which includes paying for water systems in Iraq, according to the Times.
However, Abe later told reporters that his country would not be willing to take in any refugees before resolving its domestic issues, according to Reuters. Abe stressed on the need to improve Japan’s own workforce, which included empowering old people and women. He reportedly underlined the need to boost domestic GDP and to facilitate social security for Japanese families.
“As an issue of demography, I would say that before accepting immigrants or refugees, we need to have more activities by women, by elderly people and we must raise the birthrate. There are many things that we should do before accepting immigrants,” Abe said at a New York news conference, according to the Japan Times.
Last year, Japan only accepted 11 of the 5,000 people who had applied for asylum in the country. Although Japan has shied away from hosting refugees, the country is one of the largest aid donors to the United Nations, according to the Japan Times. Japan reportedly contributed $181 million to the United Nations refugee body in 2014. The country is also looking to play a broader role in U.N. peacekeeping efforts, and is vying for a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council, according to BBC.
Some critics have argued that Japan could benefit from the refugees as it could help control its shrinking population, which stands at 126 million, ABC News reported.