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Japan immigration admits flaws over Sri Lankan woman’s death

  • August 10, 2021
  • , Jiji Press , 1:43 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Aug. 10 (Jiji Press)–The Immigration Services Agency of Japan admitted medical care system flaws in an investigation report on the death of a Sri Lankan woman under detention at an immigration facility, which was released Tuesday.

 

The report also pointed out that repeated requests for medical care from the woman, Wishma Sandamali, had not reached senior officials of the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau. She died at the age of 33 at the facility in the central Japan city of Nagoya in March.

 

It concluded that there are “many points that should be improved and reflected on” regarding how immigration authorities responded to the case.

 

“I sincerely apologize for the loss of a precious life at a detention facility that was supposed to protect lives,” Japanese Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa told a press conference Tuesday.

 

The Immigration Services Agency announced punishments of officials of the immigration facility, citing their failure to put in place and operate a system necessary for executing their duties. Taketoshi Sano, chief of the facility, and Shinichi Watanabe, then deputy head, were admonished, while two senior officials were reprimanded.

 

“I feel really sorry,” Shoko Sasaki, head of the agency, told a press conference. She said the agency will give explanations about the investigation report and disclose surveillance video footage of Wishma under detention to her bereaved family.

 

Wishma came to Japan in 2017 to learn Japanese. She entered a Japanese language school but was later expelled due to her frequent absence.

 

She was detained at the facility in Nagoya for illegal overstay in August 2020 and became sick later.

 

After her death, the justice minister instructed the Immigration Services Agency to conduct an investigation joined by external experts into the case. The investigation included interviews of some 60 people, including staff members and senior officials at the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau.

 

The report noted that a part-time doctor was deployed to the facility in Nagoya only twice a week on weekdays, for two hours each time.

 

It came to light that Wishma died on Saturday, when there was no medical staff at the facility.

 

The Sri Lankan woman repeatedly requested to allow her to see a doctor at an outside medical facility and receive an intravenous drip as she had been vomiting many times since mid-January.

 

But her requests, which needed to be approved by the facility chief to be realized, ended up not being heard by any of senior officials as detention officers and other staff members with whom Wishma had contact concluded that there was no need for her to see a doctor, according to the report.

 

Many detention officers suspected that Wishma had exaggerated her symptoms in hopes of getting released temporarily, the report showed.

 

It also found that a detention officer made fun of her when she happened to spill her drink out of her nose.

 

There is a possibility that Wishma had been subjected to violence by her Sri Lankan boyfriend before being detained. But immigration authorities did not conduct necessary hearings on the matter as required under internal rules, the report said.

 

In order to prevent similar cases from happening in the future, the report presented a plan to draw up new operational guidelines on the temporary release of ill people at detention facilities and called on an expert panel to devise ways to strengthen medical care systems at such facilities.

 

The report also noted that the Immigration Services Agency will newly set up an information counter to allow those supporting detainees to provide information about illegal or inappropriate behavior by immigration officers. The agency will also establish a new division responsible for inspecting and directing immigration officers.

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