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SOCIETY > Human Rights

Lawyer urges Japan to end long-term detention of foreigners

  • November 9, 2019
  • , Jiji Press , 9:03 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Nov. 8 (Jiji Press)–A Japanese lawyer on Friday called for an end to the country’s practice of detaining foreigners at immigration facilities for a long period, saying that the state of immigration detainment “has reached its worst level in a quarter-century.”

The appeal from Koichi Kodama, 52, who specializes in issues concerning the detention of foreigners in Japan’s immigration centers, came after a recent rise in the number of detainees conducting hunger strikes to seek provisional release, with one such person dying of starvation in June.

Kodama cast doubt on the Immigration Services Agency detaining foreigners for indefinite periods after deportation orders are issued, saying it was often unnecessary to confine such foreigners for an extended time.

“Japan’s immigration law has not changed fundamentally since its enforcement in 1951,” he said. “A law made during the confusion of the postwar era, when it was impossible to tell on what date deportations could be conducted, is still around.”

Now it is possible for immigration authorities to set a reasonable detention period and arrange a flight for deportation, but the law “hasn’t changed,” he said.

According to data from the Justice Ministry, 1,253 foreigners had been detained in immigration centers in Japan as of the end of June. Of them, 679 had been detained for six months or longer, while over 90 pct of foreign detainees in South Korea’s immigration centers were held for under 180 days in 2017, Kodama said.

The detainee that died while on hunger strike this June at the Omura Immigration Center in the city of Omura, Nagasaki Prefecture, southwestern Japan, had been detained for about three years, the lawyer noted. The man in his 40s was stuck at the immigration center after his home country, Nigeria, declined to accept his return. He was detained for the extended period after the Japanese and Nigerian governments could not come to an agreement, Kodama said.

The lawyer called for reforms to the rules on detainment, such as setting a limit to how long foreigners can be held. He suggested that detainees should be granted provisional release if they cannot be deported during this period.

Meanwhile, the Immigration Services Agency apparently believes that expanding the scope of foreign detainees eligible for provisional release may lead to risking Japan’s security due to concerns such as a potential rise in crime.

To this, Kodama said the rules and processes behind granting, denying and revoking provisional releases were often arbitrary and opaque, saying there are many cases in which foreigners are detained for a long term even without security risks.

 “The aim of detainment now seems like it is to ban all activities of affected foreigners while they are in Japan, or something akin to preventive detention,” he said.

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