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Seven Afghan men seeking asylum in Japan are again facing the possibility of detention after the Tokyo High Court earlier this month nullified a lower court decision to release them.

It would be the third detention for four of the men and the second for the rest. All are currently under provisional release, and it is unknown when a new detention might begin.

A re-detention would likely draw criticism both domestically and internationally. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and a number of human-rights watchdogs have expressed concern over the Japanese government’s treatment of the detainees since last year.

“I am tired of this life,” said one of the asylum seekers last week, visibly frustrated. He said he does not understand the legal procedures of the country that has been trifling with the men’s fates since last fall.

The man was first released from detention in November when the Tokyo District Court voided the detention warrant that was issued by immigration authorities. He was sent back to the custody, however, after the Tokyo High Court approved the Justice Ministry’s appeal about a month later. Again, in March, he won provisional release when the district court ruled against his detention based on a deportation order by the authorities.

“The health conditions of Afghan asylum seekers, including the seven, have deteriorated over the long-term detention, and a doctor has said they are unable to endure further detention both mentally and physically,” said lawyer Kensuke Onuki.

A team of lawyers have been negotiating with the authorities over the detention since last week, when the authorities asked the seven Afghans to visit them.

The seven have reportedly been suffering from symptoms such as insomnia, depression, and headaches at the detention center. Some have also attempted to harm themselves by swallowing soap.

“We are afraid of going to jail,” said another of the seven, referring to the immigration center. “We request the Japanese government not to detain us again.”

The Afghan refugees are all of the minority Hazara ethnic group. They had applied for refugee status here before they were arrested, apparently in connection with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States, according to the lawyers.

A Justice Ministry official said they have no choice but to detain them since deportation orders have been issued and the court supports it.

Meanwhile, the local UNHCR office recently issued “person of concern” status to those of the seven whose applications for refugee status were rejected. The UNHCR says that Afghanistan is not yet safe for them.

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