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Sri Lankan man dies at Shinagawa detention center

by

Staff Writer

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.

  • Ron NJ

    “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.”
    Hasn’t this guy heard? Foreigners don’t have human rights in Japan – after all, the basic rights (which we would consider “human rights”) are only conferred upon Japanese citizens, per the constitution of Japan. Any of those rights which you enjoy (or don’t) are exercised at the whim of whatever entity has control over you at a given point in time; their use cannot be said to be based upon law as long as the constitution exists in its current wording, nor can it realistically be said that they are conferred to non-citizens – the fact that you have not been placed in a situation in which were you a citizen your rights had been “violated” does not mean that you have those rights in question, but rather that no one has yet bothered to act upon you in such a manner, and should not be confused with holding the rights. In other words, don’t confuse “being ignored” with “having rights”.

  • Justin Thyme

    Japan doesn’t do human rights whether foreign or Japanese. The police and judiciary are actually lawless and will act on a whim, treating their captive with an inhumanity and brutality, echoing their revered war criminal heroes.

    I speak from personal experience: I was pounced on by 6 cops at my local station; they had me in a choke hold so tight I may have suffocated but for a member of the station staff who told the police I couldn’t breathe; they cuffed me so tightly that blood stopped flowing to my hands and I had cuts on my wrists; they kicked my abdomen and ribs and broke them; they literally threw me in a police cell; I coughed up blood and pleaded for medical assistance but I was ignored. The next morning, they falsely accused me of assaulting a policeman and said they wouldn’t charge me if I apologized and went quietly. Luckily, I survived to tell the tale.

  • K T

    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.

    Um… WHAT? On multiple occasions, detainees have been screaming in pain, sometimes for hours, and the guards don’t interpret this as worthy of calling an ambulance???
    Until guards get basic training, and one or more are charged, fired or put in prison for this obvious neglect leading to multiple deaths. why would anything change?

  • Mike

    Maybe not murder, but culpable homicide. Someone should be held responsible for not getting this man medical attention. Its not like he commited some violent act! For all we know he simply stayed somewhere beyond the time limit allowed

  • http://registeredalien.weebly.com gpiper

    “In the clutches of the immigration service“ is a good turn of phrase. I`m surprised that the word “clutches“ made it into print. It`s outrageous that the Immigration Bureau simply “rejects allegations of negligence.“ No attempt even to discuss the issue. “Rejecting“ does not mean that the government is denying the charge of negligence. It is just ignoring the charge, which some might say is a substitute for effectively admitting it. I think the prevailing view in Japan for a long time has been that “rights“ are for citizens. Human rights be damned. There are only citizen rights specific to each polity and in Japan foreigners are not citizens and therefore do not merit … well, do not merit anything at all, really.

  • Steve Novosel

    You are being extraordinarily, willfully obtuse on this matter. I cite a passage from the official MOJ website that very clearly states the government’s position on the human rights of foreign nationals in Japan and you dismiss it simply because you disagree.

    It EXPLICITLY gives examples of situations the MOJ considers human rights violations of foreigners.

    It could not possibly be clearer what the government’s official stance is on the issue.

    You are simply wrong on this point, and you have provided absolutely no evidence to contradict what is said on the MOJ website other than a meaningless quote from some random ex-prosecutor. And you have yet to offer any credentials to show you are an expert on Japanese law such that you would know better than what is posted on the official MOJ website.

  • Balkan

    “There was nothing improper in the way we handled his situation” The guy died and they see nothing strange in stating this? Truly shameless? It’s also interesting they no names were mentioned – saving face is obviously more important than repairing a broken system.