A Muslim woman from a West Asian country who had applied for refugee status in Japan was deported via Narita airport last week, despite the fact that preparations for legal action on her behalf were under way, it was learned Monday.

The 32-year-old woman’s deportation came on the same day that her objection to the refusal of her refugee status application was rejected by the Immigration Bureau.

The deportation procedure was called into question by lawyer Satoko Kitamura, who was preparing to file a lawsuit against the government, seeking a reversal of its decision to deny the woman refugee status.

“It was very regrettable that she was deported before the case was taken to court, as she wanted, and I think it was quite inhumane,” Kitamura told The Japan Times.

The woman first came to Japan in 1995. She had proper visas up until October 2001, according to her supporters.

She had been detained at various facilities, including the East Japan Immigration Detention Center in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, since June 2002.

During this period, she was separated from her two infant sons, who were placed in the care of a children’s institution.

The woman sought refugee status in April on the grounds that she would be persecuted for religious reasons if she returned to her own country. Her application was denied in July, and she was appealing against the decision, Kitamura said.

Neither the Justice Ministry nor the Tokyo Immigration Office could be reached for comment Monday evening.

When an appeal is filed, immigration authorities interview the asylum-seeker to hear his or her case. Even if this is rejected, he or she can file a lawsuit, for example, seeking the cancellation of a deportation order.

The woman’s case was monitored closely by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Japan, by Amnesty International Japan and by support organizations such as the Japan Association for Refugees.

The case was scrutinized because she had been separated from her children during her detention and because of her deteriorating health.

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