Revise law to end long-term detention of foreigners at immigration facilities

p>The long-term detention in immigration facilities of foreigners who have illegally stayed in this nation has become the norm. The postponement of legal revisions has put off resolution of the issue, but it is important to improve the situation as soon as possible, taking human rights into consideration.

The government and the ruling coalition have given up on passing a bill during the current Diet session to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law to reconsider the detention of foreigners. The bill has been deliberated at the House of Representatives, but opposition parties strengthened their resistance due to the death of a Sri Lankan woman at an immigration facility in Nagoya in March.

The woman came to Japan on a student visa, and after quitting school because she could not pay her tuition, she overstayed her visa. She left the house of the man she lived with and reported herself to the police. She was detained at an immigration facility for half a year.

Her bereaved family said she did not receive necessary medical care, even though her health deteriorated. The Justice Ministry should investigate, with the involvement of an outside third party, whether there was a problem with the immigration facility’s treatment of the woman and disclose the facts as soon as possible.

The ministry’s interim report on the issue did not mention that a doctor was concerned about the woman’s condition and recommended her provisional release. The government’s explanation to the Diet cannot be said to be sufficient, which also caused confusion in the Diet deliberations. This could lead to distrust in immigration administration as a whole.

Many of the inmates at immigration facilities have been detained for more than half a year, and some have been detained for more than five years. Since 2007, 17 foreigners have died in detention and there have been hunger strikes protesting prolonged detention. It is necessary to verify the supervisory and medical system set up for them.

Behind these prolonged detentions is the fact that an increasing number of foreigners are refusing to return to their home countries even after receiving a deportation order. As of the end of 2020, 70% of the nearly 350 detainees held at immigration facilities refused to be deported.

The revision bill submitted by the government to the current Diet session was aimed at eliminating their long-term detention. The bill also included a system that would revise the principle of detaining all foreigners before being deported, instead allowing them to live under the supervision of supporters and others.

It is noteworthy as a flexible system that would improve their living environment.

At the same time, the revision bill stipulated that foreigners who had applied for refugee status three or more times could be deported, even while such applications are being processed. This is because cases have arisen in which foreigners try to evade deportation by repeatedly applying for refugee status.

Under the current law, deported foreigners cannot reenter Japan for five years, but this was planned to be reduced to one year if foreigners voluntarily leave Japan for their home countries. This is thought to be an effective measure to end their illegal status and enable them to reenter Japan legally.

It is not desirable to leave the current situation as it is just because the law’s revision has been postponed. Ruling and opposition parties need to continue to deepen their discussions on the issue.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on May 20, 2021.