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SOCIETY > Human Rights

Editorial: Revise immigration system to avoid long-term detention of deportees

  • June 29, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 11:52 a.m.
  • English Press

Foreign nationals who are under a deportation order due to illegal stays and other reasons should be repatriated as quickly as possible in principle. It is essential to correct the current situation of long-term detention in immigration control facilities.


A panel of experts for the Immigration Services Agency has compiled a set of proposals to eliminate long-term detention. It calls on the government to punish people who refuse to leave Japan and introduce a system to encourage them to return to their home countries voluntarily.


At the end of last year, there were about 1,000 foreign nationals detained in the 17 immigration control facilities nationwide. More than 40% of them had been in detention for more than six months, and some for as long as seven years.


This was because they refused to return to their home countries, on the grounds that their families were in Japan or they were in the process of applying for refugee status. In some cases, home countries are uncooperative about accepting such persons. Hunger strikes against prolonged detention have resulted in deaths. It must be said that this is an abnormal situation.


The majority of foreign nationals who are under a deportation order leave Japan at their own expense. For those who refuse to return to their home countries, the government sends them back accompanied by escort officers, or in groups via chartered planes, at the government’s expense. However, these measures are not keeping pace with the situation.


To encourage people who have been ordered to leave Japan to return their home countries, the panel called for the establishment of a system to make it easier for them to later return to Japan. If they accept departure quickly, the period during which they are prohibited from reentering Japan will be shortened, as an exception. It is reasonable for their illegal status to end with their departure and accept them back into Japan.


There are concerns that the introduction of penalties for people who refuse to leave without a reason to stay would just result in round trips between immigration control facilities and prisons. It is necessary to carefully examine the effectiveness of introducing penalties.


In some countries, the maximum periods of detention are stipulated by law. It may be necessary to have a system in which a third-party organization examines and judges the appropriateness of detention in cases where detention exceeds a certain period of time.


The problem is that many long-term detainees seeking refugee status have repeatedly applied to be recognized as refugees. Under the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, a person cannot be deported while applying for refugee status. The panel pointed out that this provision is being used as a means to continue refusing to return to one’s home country.


The proposal calls for revising that provision of the law so that foreign nationals can be deported even while applying for refugee status. It is hoped that the agency will work toward legislation in that regard.


In recent years, an increasing number of foreign students and technical intern trainees have been coming to Japan. Last year, foreign workers started being accepted under the specified skilled worker system. People who need to be protected must be protected, and those who must be deported must be deported.


Appropriate immigration control is most important.


— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on June 29, 2020.

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