Create system to protect human rights of immigration detainees

The treatment of foreign nationals in immigration detention facilities has come under intense scrutiny from abroad. The immigration authorities must urgently change the system to protect the human rights of such individuals.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee, which checks the human rights situation in each country, has recommended that the treatment of foreign nationals detained in Japanese immigration facilities be improved.

Noting that multiple detainees have died, the committee urged that appropriate measures be taken to ensure that those being held receive adequate medical care.

The committee’s review was conducted by human rights experts based on a report submitted by Japan. The government should take seriously the fact that Japan’s immigration administration is considered inadequate even by international norms.

In the 15-year period since 2007, 17 detainees have died in immigration detention facilities. In some cases, the response of staff and the medical system have been found to be problematic.

In its September ruling in the case of the death of a Cameroonian man at an immigration facility in Ibaraki Prefecture in 2014, the Mito District Court ordered the government to pay compensation on the grounds that staff failed to take necessary measures.

The man had complained of chest pain, but was not given emergency transport to a medical institution and was found in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest. The court argued that the man’s life could have been prolonged if he had been rushed to a medical institution.

In the case of the death of a Sri Lankan woman at an immigration facility in Nagoya last year, it was found that there was no system in place to allow detainees to receive outside medical attention on holidays.

It goes without saying that immigration facilities, which restrict physical freedom, have a responsibility to protect the lives and health of detainees. The fact that the lessons of the past have not been learned may be due to a lack of awareness on the part of the staff at these facilities.

The U.N. recommendation also calls for the elimination of prolonged detention.

In principle, illegal aliens are deported, but while they are applying for refugee status, their deportation is suspended. As a result, there are many cases of detainees who refuse to return home and repeatedly apply for refugee status, with some being detained for longer than three years.

Last year, the government submitted to the Diet a bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law to allow detainees who have applied for refugee status three or more times to be deported, in principle, while allowing them to live outside the immigration facility if they have a supporter, but the bill was scrapped.

It is unacceptable to leave the current situation of long-term detention unchecked. The bill should be reconsidered so that the system can be reformed as soon as possible.

The universal value of human rights is under threat in the world, as evidenced by such situations as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It is troubling that Japan, which is in a position to contribute to the improvement of such a situation, has become subject to criticism for human rights violations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 13, 2022)