Issues | THE FOREIGN ELEMENT

The technical side of visiting asylum-seekers in a detention center

by Rei Ando

Contributing Writer

If you want to visit a detainee at the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau in Minato Ward, there are a few bureaucratic procedures you are going to have to master.

First, be sure to have a valid form of identification on you. A driver’s license, residence card or passport all count as ID.

Follow closely: A list of rules is posted at the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau. | FIBHA MAHMOOD
Follow closely: A list of rules is posted at the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau. | FIBHA MAHMOOD

The detention center is open to visitors from Monday to Friday between 8:40 a.m. and 11 a.m., and again from 12:40 p.m. to 3 p.m. It is closed on weekends and national holidays.

Paperwork must be filled out in the lobby on the first floor and consists of one form per detainee that you want to visit. You may submit forms for visiting two detainees at a time under the condition they are living in the same block. That means if you want to visit with nine refugees and five of you are visiting, a total of 45 sheets must be filled out. Once these are processed you will be allowed to go to the seventh floor where the visitation rooms are located.

Visitors are allocated 30 minutes at the most per detainee. However, if you wish to visit more than one detainee you are given a shorter time frame to meet in order to meet all the detainees within visiting hours.

You are not allowed to bring your cellular phone or other forms of digital devices when you meet a detainee. Your belongings must be put into a locker beforehand, but you are allowed to bring in notebooks and writing utensils.

If you are bringing a gift to the detainees, food is prohibited. The center strictly monitors the gifts or supplies that visitors bring, and labels on any product must be in Japanese so that it is clear to the guards what they are.

If you have any questions regarding visits to the detention center, or the activities of the Sophia Refugee Support Group, contact SRSG at: sophia.srsg@gmail.com.

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