Detainees launch hunger strike over conditions at Osaka immigration detention center


Staff Writer

About 50 detainees being held at the Osaka Regional Immigration Bureau went on a hunger strike Wednesday to protest what they call “inhumane” treatment by Immigration Bureau officials, a group supporting them said.

The detainees believe officials at the facility are using intentional mistreatment to make them want to return to their home countries, said Nobukazu Nagai of the detainee support group Provisional Release Association in Japan (PRAJ).

Those being held are mainly individuals who have been ordered to leave and are appealing their deportation ruling or asylum seekers whose applications are under consideration.

The government cannot force them to return home.

According PRAJ, one group of 25 detainees at the Osaka Immigration Bureau submitted a petition to officials on Jan. 6 asking them to improve conditions at the facility, citing insufficient medical services, unhealthy food and mental and physical distress caused by prolonged detention.

In response, officials on Jan. 19 said the detainees had already been offered proper medical treatment by doctors and they were not allowed to receive food from their supporters due to safety concerns, according to PRAJ.

Officials also said they would not allow the temporary release of detainees because they would then have even more reason not want to return to their home countries.

Another group of 27 detainees at the Osaka Immigration Bureau also submitted a similar petition on Jan. 22, which had not been commented on by officials as of last Friday.

Frustrated by the lack of response, the two groups decided to jointly launch an indefinite hunger strike until they receive a satisfactory answer, said Nagai.

In one complaint, a detainee who had previously suffered a mild cerebral infarction reportedly complained of severe headaches and experienced paralysis on the right side of the body in January.

Although the detainee and supporting parties requested that the person be examined by a doctor, the immigration bureau has so far refused to comply, the group said.

A spokesperson for the Osaka Regional Immigration Bureau was not immediately able to confirm the story when contacted by The Japan Times on Wednesday.

Officials have reportedly said in the past detainees do not have the right to make demands due to their status, and they must follow the rules set by the bureaus.

The alleged maltreatment at the Osaka Immigration Bureau only became clear after the West Japan Immigration Control Center in the city of Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, shut down last September, Nagai said.

That is because detainees held by the Osaka Immigration Bureau were normally housed there for shorter periods of stay. But as a result of the Ibaraki facility’s closure, detainees have been forced to remain at the Osaka bureau, which was not built to accommodate people for long periods of time, he said.

Nagai said the Immigration Bureau is intentionally trying to cause physical and mental distress to get those held at the Osaka facility to voluntarily return to their home countries.

“It had been an old practice at immigration bureaus (in order to coerce detainees),” he said, adding that protests at the Osaka Immigration Bureau had not occurred extensively until now.

Update (Feb.12, 2016)
A spokesman at Osaka Regional Immigration Bureau confirmed Friday that 19 of the 75 detainees at the detention center were rejecting food provided by officials since Wednesday morning. But he also said it is not clear whether it is indeed a hunger strike, as some of them seem to be eating food they bought themselves. No health problems were confirmed as of Friday evening, the official said.

  • Paul Martin

    I can affirm as a frequent visitor and single father of 2 sons both who have been married to Japanese for many years and whose grandchildren are part Japanese that I have never known more anti-foreigner immigration in the whole World than Japanese !

    Let’s NOT pull any punches here, Japan’s immigration department makes life as miserable and difficult for gaijins as they possibly can every foreigner living here is well aware of all the red tape hoops they make us jump through, it’s a big game to them !

    On the one hand the government says they want to make access to Japan easier and on the other they in fact instruct the immigration department to do the opposite !

  • I was in the Osaka immigration detention center for 43 days just over 3 years ago. I was accused of doing voluntary work (interpreting for a Canadian film crew in Taiji making a documentary about dolphin killing) while only on a tourist visa. Breakfast was a piece of white bread with some jam and a small box of milk. Lunch and dinner was the same as each other. They were a Japanese style bento box. I am pretty sure they were from the day before and never got eaten from some takeaway outlet. They were not so bad. We were able to order / buy biscuits and bananas,cup noodle, low grade supplements, sweets and they came each week. We were not allowed anything else from outside. The food was many times better than in the Japanese prison where they held me for 11 days before the detention center. After about 40 days I got really bad chest pains and my heart rate was really strange. So they examined me with a machine and could find nothing wrong. I was happy enough with the way I was treated.
    There were about 50 guys in the detention center with me. There were another 50 or so on the same floor who were divided from us and we never met. The guys were there for a wide wide variety of reasons. One was about 70 years old and had been running a business in Osaka making jewelry for over 35 years with no visa. One was a PHD from Congo who had had his student visa revoked because of a difference in opinion with his University. Only one was a refugee applicant. Many were visitor visa holders accused of working. Including a boy band from Korea whose agent had lead them to believe it was OK to be singing in clubs in Japan. Pretty harmless essentially. Several were there en route from Japanese prison to their own countries and were trying to get out asap but had been given no chance to apply for passports by the Japanese authorities. Just saying that you cannot really generalise about the people in these centers.
    They actually do Halal meals in the Osaka detention center. One of the 200 or so I was in with (50 guys at a time over 6 weeks so there was coming and going) was Iranian. He was actually in the same cell as me. There were a maximum of 6 in a cell. He never complained about the food. We were allowed to hang out outside on the roof for 2 hours a day if it was not raining.
    There was a library with many books. Staff were friendly to me. There was BS satellite TV from 7 am to 9 pm (lights out). We could have visitors 30 mins each visitor from 10 to 12 and 1-4 from memory including presumably a doctor. We could also call out anywhere during those times. Visitors could bring books and newspapers and clothes. Not a hotel as no girls, alcohol or internet but all in all not so bad. Several guys were putting on weight as there was little to do.