A Sri Lankan man died while in detention at the Shinagawa Immigration Bureau last month after the guards apparently ignored his repeated complaints about severe chest pain, a supporters’ group said Monday.
The death of Nickeles Fernando, 57, comes amid allegations that critically ill detainees are being neglected by the immigration service. It also attests to a tendency to disregard the rights of foreign detainees, lawyers and activists said.
“His death illustrates the immigration’s outrageous belittlement of foreigners’ human rights,” said Takeshi Omachi, a representative of Provisional Release Association in Japan. “They probably don’t care if foreigners die on their watch.”
According to PRAJ and fellow detainees’ accounts, Fernando was found dead, face-down, in a solitary confinement cell at the immigration bureau in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward at around 1 p.m. on Nov. 22.
He had begun to complain of severe chest pains at around 7 a.m., begging a guard to take him to a doctor.
The guard refused, on the grounds that a medical facility inside the detention center was not open on Saturdays.
Immigration officials moved him to a solitary confinement cell at around 8 a.m., where Fernando groaned in pain for about an hour before falling silent near 9 a.m., the presumed time of death, fellow detainees told The Japan Times in a phone call last week. The inmates initiated the call.
By the time other inmates went to check on him, Fernando was dead, his body cold and showing signs of rigor mortis. He had been drooling and had urinated on the mattress, PRAJ quoted an inmate as saying.
A devout Christian, Fernando had tried to make the guard understand the severity of his pain, swearing on his pocket Bible in broken English that he was not lying.
Fernando was admitted to the immigration center on or around Nov. 17. Police still have custody of his body and are investigating the cause of death.
“He was like my father. I still can’t believe he’s gone,” Jeorge Fernando, 27, a nephew of the deceased, told reporters on Monday.
Several foreign individuals have died in recent years while in the clutches of the immigration service.
In October 2013, Rohingya detainee Anwar Hussin, 57, died of a brain hemorrhage in the Shinagawa Immigration Bureau after his pleas for a doctor went ignored for about 50 minutes.
In March this year, an Iranian man and a Cameroonian man died in separate incidents at a detention center in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture. The Justice Ministry on Nov. 20 faulted authorities for not having medical personnel available around the clock. It vowed to boost staffing.
Fernando died two days later.
The Immigration Bureau rejects allegations of negligence.
“There was nothing improper in the way we handled his situation,” the bureau said in a statement on Monday.
“We call an ambulance if there is need to do so. It’s not correct to say we fail to take foreigners’ rights seriously,” it said.