Tokyo immigration authorities prevented a Turkish detainee from seeing a doctor for nearly a day despite him suffering acute abdominal pain that was later diagnosed as appendicitis and peritonitis, his supporters said Monday.
Doctors said the man could have died if the peritonitis had further progressed to sepsis and warned against letting detention officials make medical decisions.
The 29-year-old man developed symptoms and asked for medical assistance on June 3 last year, but officials at the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau just took him to a separate room and said they would “monitor” his condition.
The man began banging on the walls of the room in the early hours of the following day due to the pain, but the officials told him to stop, saying he would be alright, according to his lawyers and other supporters.
After he was returned to the room he was sharing with three other detainees around 9:30 a.m., the roommates noticed his abnormal condition and demanded the officials let him see a doctor. He was subsequently taken to a hospital in Tokyo and underwent an emergency operation.
“We monitor conditions as a preventive step to prepare ourselves for a sudden change in medical conditions,” said Shigeo Ogata, an external-affairs official at the immigration bureau.
The man also asked to see a doctor following the operation because the pain persisted, but he was not allowed to receive medical attention again until July 24, about a month after his initial request, they said. He has since recovered.
An official at the facility compiled a report for the July 24 medical check stating the man started to experience pain from July 21. Lawyers criticized the report as a falsification of data that could have misled doctors.
The man was taken into custody at the facility in November 2016. After recovering, he was provisionally released last autumn.
“There is no way immigration officials can monitor conditions when they are not medical experts,” said Jumpei Yamamura, a doctor at Minatomachi Medical Center in Yokohama, calling the case “extremely dangerous and malicious.”
In March last year, a Vietnamese man at an immigration center in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, died due from subarachnoid hemorrhage, or bleeding in the brain. His supporters said the officials at the center might have failed to take the man’s claim of an acute headache seriously, preventing him from seeing doctors in time.
The Justice Ministry, which oversees the immigration bureau, has compiled a report on the case, saying there was no problem with the officials’ response at the time.
“It is very unfortunate that we hear this kind of story often,” said lawyer Chie Komai, noting there has been a series of cases in which detainees have died under circumstances that created suspicion that immigration officials failed to let them receive proper treatment.
While the ministry has established a panel to inspect the nation’s immigration detention centers, its members and the records of its meetings have not been made public.
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