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The Immigration Services Agency announced Tuesday a set of measures to prevent the recurrence of deaths from detention center hunger strikes and called on an expert panel to study how it can expedite often prolonged deportation procedures.

The proposals from the agency include improving counseling to persuade hunger strikers to eat, forced medical treatment and information sharing and monitoring by detention workers.

The agency compiled those measures after a Nigerian man in his 40s died on June 24 following a hunger strike at a detention center in Omura, Nagasaki Prefecture.

“I have already given instructions for the Immigration Agency to make the most of all available measures in the existing legal system to address issues surrounding deportation,” Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai said during a news conference after receiving the report from the agency.

Kawai also said it was “regrettable” that immigration authorities and police could not track down some detainees who have been provisionally released. He said the problem was critical as Japan has started accepting more foreign workers under a new visa system launched in April.

The Immigration Agency also plans to conduct studies on detainees on provisional release, which the agency says often hinders speedy deportation. In some cases, such foreign nationals again violate laws while on provisional release, Kawai said.

“I see it as one of the critical issues in the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,” he said. He added that he hopes that the newly unveiled measures will draw public attention to the immigration issue and its gravity.

“If the country’s deportation system — with deportation being the last resort in immigration control — stops working, the foundation of the entire immigration system may collapse and Japan’s social order and its security may be put at risk,” he said.

The death of the Nigerian man, whose name is being withheld for privacy reasons, prompted immigration officers to launch an investigation and draw up the proposed measures to cope with similar hunger strike cases at detention centers.

According to the agency, officials were unable to deport the Nigerian man without the man’s consent as they were still negotiating with Nigerian counterparts over deportation procedures.

Kawai said the man was among a growing number of detainees going on hunger striketo call for their early release.

According to the agency, the Nigerian man had overstayed his visa and had also been sentenced to more than five years in prison for violating laws related to drugs and theft — the reason why he could not be released.

Immigration officials became aware of his protest on May 30. Initially the man was under observation and underwent medical checks at a hospital, where he received intravenous fluids. However, after June 5 he refused to eat or receive any medical treatment. The man died after he lost consciousness and was taken to a hospital.

The agency has concluded the handling of the Nigerian man’s case wasn’t inappropriate given his refusal of medical treatment.

Kawai claimed that hunger strikes have become a common tactic to seek provisional release. As of Sept. 25, 198 detainees were on hunger strike across Japan.

As of June 30, 1,147 foreign nationals had received deportation orders while in detention, and another 2,303, who also received deportation orders, were on provisional release, the officials said.

Kawai believes that some foreign nationals with criminal records on provisional release may pose a threat to citizens.

He said the police and immigration officers are looking for 332 foreign nationals who escaped or are in hiding after being granted provisional release.

According to the agency, 858 of the 1,147 detained foreign nationals refuse to leave Japan despite having no compelling reason to remain. Among them, 366, or 43 percent, have criminal records and have been convicted. Also, 10 percent have been convicted of committing crimes while on bail.

Of the 858 detainees, 582, or 68 percent, have applied for asylum in Japan. The immigration law suspends deportation procedures when a detainee applies for asylum.

The announcement came amid criticism of poor medical care in detention centers.

Kawai also said that he was planning to take steps to improve medical care available to detainees and ensure that detention centers have full-time physicians.

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