30% of foreigners refusing to leave Japan have criminal records

About 30% of foreign nationals who refused to be deported have been convicted of crimes in this nation, the Immigration Services Agency of Japan has announced.

A total of 3,103 foreigners refused to return to their home countries despite overstaying their visas or other problems, the agency said Tuesday. Of this number, 994 had been found guilty of crimes in court.

The agency said there are problems with the current legal system’s handling of such foreign nationals — for example, it cannot repatriate foreign nationals, even if they have committed crimes in Japan, if their applications for refugee status are pending.

Japan’s government therefore plans to submit a bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law during an ordinary session of the Diet next year.

According to the agency, a yearly average of about 17,000 foreigners are investigated by immigration authorities, mainly over illegal stays. Most leave Japan in compliance with repatriation orders.

However, an interim report showed that 3,103 foreigners had refused to leave as of the end of December 2020. Of this number, 994 had received guilty sentences that had been finalized.

The largest number of 630 cases were related to illegal drugs, followed by 34 cases of sexual assault and seven murders. These figures include situations in which a single person faced two or more charges.

Of the 994 foreigners, 466, or more than 40%, were awaiting the result of their applications for refugee status. The agency believes some people may have applied specifically to avoid deportation.

The government intended to revise the immigration law during this year’s ordinary Diet session. However, after a 33-year-old Sri Lankan woman named Wishma Sandamali died in March while being detained by the Nagoya Regional Immigration Service Bureau, Diet deliberations on the subject were thrown into turmoil, and the government gave up on revising the law.

Also Tuesday, the agency announced progress on measures to prevent a recurrence of cases like the one involving Wishma. It officially revealed a plan to establish in April next year a new office that will supervise the actions of agency officials.

Additionally, the agency will set up a channel for receiving information, and based on this information, the new office will look into complaints and statements from detainees and convey necessary instructions to officials. It also plans to compile operational guidelines for creating emergency manuals and deciding more flexibly on whether to temporarily release detainees with health problems.

The agency said it will make more progress in preventing similar incidents in the future.

Shoichi Ibusuki, a lawyer representing Wishma’s bereaved family, criticized the agency’s announcement at a press conference on Tuesday in Tokyo.

“I’m doubtful about how the agency emphasizes the criminal records of foreign nationals and tries to justify the revision of the immigration law. The content of the announcement is extremely improper, as it fans prejudice and discrimination against foreign nationals,” he said.