Tokyo Bar Association

President's Statement Calling For Drastic Improvements in the Operation Of Detention Of Foreigners And An Immediate Stop To Unnecessary Detention


July 1, 2019
Chikara Shinozuka,
Chairman, Tokyo Bar Association

On June 24, a Nigerian man in his 40s died at the Omura Immigration Center (Omura City, Nagasaki Prefecture) (hereinafter, "the present case"). According to reports, the man was on a hunger strike at the time.
On February 28, 2018, the Director-General of the Immigration Bureau of the Ministry of Justice cited eight categories of detainees as "persons who are not permitted to be allowed provisional release" and stated that, "unless a person who is not expected to be deported is injured or has an illness, in principle, we will continue to detain and seek deportation until it is possible."
In addition, the instructions also included the following four types of people who have been punished for serious crimes: (i) those who are found to have committed crimes; (ii) those who are recognized as repeat offenders; (iii) those who have difficulty adapting to social life (such as perpetrators of domestic violence or those who are expected to have trouble because they fail to observe social norms); and (iv) those involved in malicious disguised stays, illegal entry, etc. As long as there are no serious injuries or other conditions, detention will continue.
However, the original purpose of immigration detention is to prevent the escape of a detainee in order to facilitate deportation - and it is limited to this purpose. The detention of a person for whom there is no fear of escape or whose deportation is impossible falls outside the purpose of the law and should not be permitted. Thus, the above instructions clearly deviate from the purpose of the law.
Such detention can be said to be an abuse, and the prolonged detention periods used in recent years are extremely serious.
If the present case did indeed stem from a hunger strike, it has to be said that it is the administration's operation of long-term detention, a policy which provides no prospect of liberation, that has pushed detainees to their deaths.

Looking back, on April 13, 2018, an Indian national who was pessimistic about his long-term detention, committed suicide at the East Japan Immigration Center.
In response, on March 25, 2019, the Tokyo Bar Association called for the prompt release of detainees who were not scheduled to be deported and an investigation into the cause of death by the Immigration Detention Center Inspection Committee.
On April 18, this year, the Tokyo Bar Association protested against the repeated disregard for the life, health and death of detainees in immigration detention facilities, and called for timely and appropriate medical care, and appropriate operation of provisional release; however, the death of the Nigerian man in question occurred shortly afterwards.
Of course, a strict investigation of the present case, including the preservation of evidence (video footage from surveillance cameras, medical records, journals, etc.), should be conducted by the Immigration Detention Center Inspection Committee.
However, the reason why the situation has not improved at all, even in the wake of this heartbreaking incident in which a life was lost, is the erroneous operation methods which deviate from the purpose of the law concerning detention. The Immigration Service Agency should immediately withdraw the above instructions and the operations related to the detention of foreigners in Japan should be drastically improved, and unnecessary detention should be stopped at once.