Hurry to End Long-Term Detention of Foreigners

The situation in which foreigners who have illegally stayed in this nation are detained in immigration facilities for long periods of time has been viewed with distrust both domestically and internationally. The central government must speed up the improvement of the operation of such facilities while taking into consideration the human rights of the detainees.

A bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law to reform the treatment of foreigners subject to deportation has been passed by the House of Representatives. In order to avoid prolonged detention, a provision was included in the revision bill to review the necessity of detention every three months.

In addition, the revision bill limits the number of times a person may apply to stay in Japan with refugee status to two times. After the third application, deportation would be possible even while the application is being processed. Under the current law, deportation is suspended while the application is being processed, which has resulted in many people repeatedly applying for the status, contributing to prolonged detention.

Many of the inmates at immigration facilities have been detained for more than half a year; some have been detained for more than three years. It is hoped that the revision of the law will improve this situation.

The revision bill was also submitted to the Diet two years ago, but it was scrapped after a Sri Lankan woman died at an immigration facility in Nagoya and opposition parties argued that priority should be placed on investigating the cause.

In recent years, other detainees have died at immigration facilities, and a U.N. committee has recommended that the treatment of foreigners detained in immigration facilities be improved.

The world’s interest in human rights issues has been growing. The perception that Japan is ignoring the human rights of foreign nationals undermines international trust in the nation.

The immigration authorities and facilities must be aware of their responsibility to protect the lives and health of detainees and work to dispel the negative image.

The revision bill would also allow detainees to live outside the facilities until their repatriation, provided that they are overseen by persons approved by the central government. While this step reflects consideration for their living environment, there is concern about a shortage of overseers. It is essential for the government to seek cooperation from support groups for foreigners and other entities.

Those who refuse repatriation include about 200 people under the age of 18 who were born and raised in Japan. Is it really appropriate to repatriate even children who know nothing but life in Japan? Measures should be taken to provide relief, such as allowing them to stay in Japan at the discretion of the justice minister.

The ruling and opposition parties negotiated to amend the revision bill in the lower house. The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan called for the establishment of a third-party organ to screen refugees neutrally, and the ruling parties presented a proposal to consider the establishment of such a body. However, they were unable to reach an agreement.

The art of politics is to pursue better legislation through interparty negotiations. Even if the revision bill is not adequate, if it would lead to improvements to a certain extent it should be passed as soon as possible.

It is hard to understand the CDPJ’s response of opposing the revision bill itself just because all of its demands are not being met.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 10, 2023)