National

Japanese bar association says long-term detainments of foreign nationals on the rise

Kyodo

The long-term detainment of foreign nationals at immigration centers in Japan is an infringement upon human rights and it’s a growing problem, the country’s bar association warned Wednesday.

Confinements for over six months were on the rise at the Omura Immigration Center in Nagasaki Prefecture with no reasonable explanation given for the detentions, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations said in a news conference. The immigration center has been under scrutiny after the death in June of a Nigerian man who went on a hunger strike to protest his detainment. He had been detained since July 2016.

As of the end of June, the number of foreign nationals who have been detained at immigration centers totaled 1,253, of which 679 had been in detention for over six months, according to the Immigration Services Agency.

“Human rights violations in immigration centers are on the rise,” said Shogo Haku, vice chairman of the JFBA. “We would like to work to advance human rights for foreigners as much as we can.”

In an advisory report submitted to the agency and the Omura facility earlier this month, the JFBA said detainments should not exceed six months, and that those refused provisional release should be given a written explanation as to why.

The longest detainment at the facility had lasted 1,575 days as of Aug. 1, the JFBA said.

The report follows an appeal submitted to the JFBA in May 2017 by 37 male detainees at the Omura facility who claimed their human rights were being violated.

“We believe that detainment (in immigration centers) is solely for the purpose of sending those people back to their countries,” said Shinya Tsuji, a member of the JFBA’s committee on the protection of human rights.

“Long-term internment goes beyond that initial purpose, which we therefore conclude is an infringement upon human rights.”

The 37 claimants, from 16 countries, stated they had been detained at the center indefinitely as they had not been granted provisional release. Subsequent interviews by the JFBA found many of them were struggling with depression and insomnia, among other ailments.

“It is difficult to identify reasons behind each individual refusal, as each case is determined in view of the various reasons behind their circumstances,” the Omura Immigration Center said in a reply to the claims, according to the JFBA.

The immigration center only permitted 13 provisional releases out of 182 applications in fiscal 2017, compared with the previous year’s 47 out of 188 requests, the bar association said.

Although the amount of time a country can legally detain a foreign national differs from nation to nation, Japan does not stipulate a limit, the JFBA said.