Narita security guards accused of beating detained foreigners

by Takuya Asakura

Foreigners who are refused entry to Japan at Narita airport have been the subject of violent attacks from security guards with a private company who are forcing them to hand over expenses to cover the cost of guarding them, as well as for their meals and accommodation, until they are deported, a former company official told a news conference on Monday.

Former employees of I’M Inc., a security firm based in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, said they were encouraged by the company to make detainees being held pending deportation at lodging facilities operated by the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau cover the costs for their detention. The former employees were speaking on condition of anonymity.

Such expenses are normally collected by security firms on behalf of and at the behest of the airline that brought the individuals to Japan.

Representatives of I’M Inc. said its employees have never committed any violence against individuals who are detained.

The Asahi Shimbun reported Friday that two Tunisian men allege they were physically abused and money was extorted from them by the company’s security guards en route to a facility at the airport which houses deportees refused entry to Japan.

Thameur Mouez, 21, and Thameur Hichem, 20, who arrived in Japan aboard a Turkish Airlines plane on June 20, claimed guards forced them to pay $600 after kicking and throwing them against a wall at the security company’s office at the airport.

The guards returned the money after the Tunisians filed complaints with police. Police said the case is under investigation.

The immigration law stipulates that people who are refused entry are to be deported, and the airline that brought them to Japan is also responsible for transporting them out of the country.

In 1997, about 12,000 foreigners were refused entry at airports and ports across the country.

Although the Narita facility was owned by the Immigration Bureau, airlines and approved security companies are responsible for the detainees, according to immigration officials.

These passengers are ordered to remain at the immigration facilities or designated hotels if they cannot depart on the day of their arrival.

Deportees are responsible for covering the costs of their stay until they depart, including fees for security guards as well as accommodation and food expenses, according to the rules of the International Air Transport Association.

“Security companies collect such costs from deportees under contracts with airlines,” I’M said through lawyer Haruo Kobayashi, adding that the company has informed its employees that they cannot force deportees to pay such expenses.

A former employee who worked for the firm for the last three years, however, said the company is eager to collect money directly from deportees because they can get more out of individual detainees than they can by charging the expenses to airlines.

Meanwhile, human rights groups, including Amnesty International, asked the ministry on Monday to consider legal measures so that the rights of detainees at such facilities are fully guaranteed.

They also claimed that the ministry should be obligated to adequately monitor the treatment of detainees.

An Immigration Bureau official, who received the request, said he is aware of various problems concerning the facilities, adding that he is not in a position to comment on revising the law.

“If there are any concrete measures (to solve the problem), we are ready to listen to opinions and will study them,” he said.

Experts on immigration affairs have often criticized the Japanese government for being irresponsible over the treatment of deportees, pointing to violence against deportees and mistreatment at holding facilities.

“It is irresponsible for the Immigration Bureau to say they have nothing to do with treatment of the detainees while they order them to be physically restrained,” said Hideki Morihara, of Amnesty’s Japan branch.

Lawyer Koji Kodama called for alterations to the current system, which gives private companies the task of detaining deportees.