Concerns persist over long-term detention of asylum seekers in Japan

When a Middle Eastern man in his 50s walked out of Omura Immigration Center in Nagasaki Prefecture on October 4, it was his first taste of freedom in four years and 10 months.

He took a deep puff of a cigarette and took a sip of canned coffee, savoring the moment as he left the pre-trial detention center.

“It’s like a dream,” he said, looking up at the blue sky. “I will never make the same mistake again.”

From 2010, he served a six-year prison sentence after being convicted of involvement in illegal drug-related activities.

At the time of his release in late 2016, he no longer had valid resident status to stay in Japan, so he was detained separately at an Osaka Immigration Office facility. He was transferred to the Omura Immigration Center in 2018.

The provisional release which was finally granted to him did not come until after his 17th attempt.

The man fears that if he returns to his country of origin, he will be persecuted for religious reasons. So he plans to stay in the Chubu region of Japan, where he has friends and others he can count on.

Jin Matsui, a lawyer at the Fukuoka Bar who assists asylum seekers, said a review of the provisional release system would allow them to work for a living.

Man released from Omura center has been granted temporary release as Japanese immigration authorities come under increasing scrutiny following the death of a Sri Lankan woman while detained at a center in immigration to Nagoya in March.

In a report released by the Immigration Services Agency (ISA), which deals with asylum seekers’ cases, authorities admitted that an officer at the detention center where the woman was being held made fun of her when she became unable to drink, vomiting the liquid through her nose.

“It was an inappropriate remark that ignored human rights,” the report stressed.

The Sri Lankan woman’s death was not an isolated case. Two years ago, a Nigerian in Omura center starved to death while on a hunger strike to protest his long-term detention.

There has been criticism at home and abroad over the long-term detention of those over-visaed, some of whom have been held for more than nine years, and the practice has been called a violation of human rights. ‘man.

The Middle Eastern man also remembers his time in detention as “painful”. He said he was verbally harassed by officers for trivial matters. A leg injury while in detention has yet to heal, he added.

“I just wanted them to treat me like a human being,” he said.

Since last spring, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rapid increase in the number of inmates on temporary release to prevent the spread of infections within institutions. Due to the policy review, the number still held rose to October 10 to 15, down from around 130 in the summer of 2019.

However, advocates and supporters of asylum seekers see it as a temporary measure rather than a fundamental solution to the problems posed by the long-term detention of those who have exceeded their stay in Japan. There is also no sign that the government is using its political resources to influence.

Kunihiro Kawada, a long-time supporter of detainees, has exposed the occurrence of even more harmful practices, which affect not only detainees but also detention officers.

“I don’t know everything, but it’s not just the inmates who suffer mentally,” he said. “Some of the younger officers who have been forced to harass inmates by their superiors also suffer from a bad conscience.”

When asked about their position, an official at the Omura Immigration Center said that while they are not aware of specific harassment cases caused by senior officers, it is possible that detainees are not satisfied with the way they are treated.

The prospects for Japan’s program of detaining people who have exceeded their long-term stay who could face persecution if they are deported, once the pandemic is resolved, remain unclear.

This section presents topics and issues from the Kyushu region covered by the Nishinippon Shimbun, Kyushu’s largest daily newspaper. The original article was published on October 18.

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