National

Tokyo rally protests prolonged detention of foreign nationals at immigration facilities

JIJI, Kyodo

A rally was held in Tokyo on Thursday calling for an end to the prolonged detention of foreign nationals at immigration facilities across the country, with a woman pleading for the immediate release of her detained husband, who is on a hunger strike.

“My husband believes a hunger strike is the only way for him to be released, and he has lost 8 kilograms since he was detained again,” the Japanese wife of the 24-year-old Kurdish asylum-seeker said at a news conference after the rally. “I want him back as soon as possible.”

In July, her husband launched a hunger strike to seek provisional release during his detention at the East Japan Immigration Center in the Ibaraki Prefecture city of Ushiku.

He was provisionally released in October, more than two years after he was confined for unauthorized labor. But the authorities detained him again just two weeks later, even though a doctor determined he requires long-term treatment for epilepsy.

“Nothing bad will happen if he is released. He’s not a criminal,” said the woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The number of foreign detainees subject to long-term detention of more than six months has been on the rise since the predecessor of the Immigration Services Agency tightened conditions on provisional release in 2015.

This triggered hunger strikes at immigration facilities across the country, including a case in June in which a Nigerian man starved to death.

According to the Catholic Tokyo International Center’s Kozue Osako, who supports asylum-seekers and provisionally released detainees, more than 90 percent of detainees at the Ushiku facility had been held for over six months at the end of June.

The number of hunger strikers at the facility reached about 100 at one point between July and August, and the immigration authorities started granting provisional release to avoid further fatal starvation cases, though it detained them again soon afterward.

“The practice is mentally damaging detainees and their families,” Osako said at the rally, calling on the authorities to seriously consider the human rights of foreign detainees.

Nearly 100 people gathered at the rally, which was jointly hosted by eight organizations.

Earlier this month, about 10 foreign nationals detained at the Osaka Regional Immigration Bureau conducted a hunger strike to protest their protracted detention, according to their supporters. Almost all of the detainees taking part in the protest have been held at the facility for over two years, the supporters said.

In April last year, more than 40 detainees at the Ibaraki facility staged a hunger strike days after an Indian man killed himself there.