Immigration Authorities Implement Improvement Measures Following Death of Sri Lankan Detainee

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Then Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa apologizes in August 2021 following the death of a Sri Lankan woman at the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau.

Under the revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, the immigration authorities are required to take human rights of detained foreign nationals into consideration while at the same time taking firm action against those who have received deportation orders but are refusing to leave the country.

Since 2007, 18 detainees have died at immigration facilities, including Wishma Sandamali, a 33-year-old Sri Lankan woman who died at the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau in March 2021.

Inadequate handling of detainees by facility staff and flaws in medical services have been discovered in some cases.

Wishma’s health deteriorated over six months she was at the facility, and senior staff were allegedly not informed of her requests for intravenous drips and hospital treatment.

Some staff members even joked about Wishma and said they thought she was exaggerating about her condition, leading to criticism that the facility violated her human rights.

In response to Wishma’s case, the immigration authorities compiled a code of ethics to raise awareness among staff and prevent a recurrence.

In addition to preparing manuals for medical emergency and enhancing staff training at each facility, a system was also introduced under which the Immigration Services Agency is responsible for scrutinizing decisions on the detention of people who fall ill.

Doctors and nurses have been assigned full-time at immigration facilities in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, to enhance medical services, as the facilities had been understaffed on weekends and national holidays.

Cooperation with outside medical institutions is also being improved.

“We cannot have situations in which detainees die or their health deteriorates,” said a senior Justice Ministry official. “We will continue to work to restore trust and properly implement the revised law while recognizing the severe public scrutiny.”