• Kyodo


The government plans to show to the family of a Sri Lankan woman who died in detention at a Japanese immigration center security camera footage of her final days, a source familiar with the matter said Friday.

The Immigration Services Agency is expected to release next week a final report on the death in March of Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali, 33, and the video footage will be disclosed to her family after the report is published, according to the source.

The agency is likely to admit there was a problem in the treatment of Wishma at the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau in Aichi Prefecture and discipline senior officials at the facility who were in charge, the source said.

Wishma, who came to Japan in 2017 on a student visa, was taken to the facility in Nagoya in August 2020 after overstaying her visa. She died on March 6 while in custody after complaining of stomach pain and other symptoms from mid-January.

She had applied for provisional release for hospital treatment, but her request had been refused.

Since the footage covers nearly two weeks of her life at the immigration center, the agency will show only selected parts. They are believed to include scenes immediately before her death and those mentioned in the report.

Some parts of the footage are likely to be edited for security reasons, the source said.

Whether to release the footage of Wishma in detention was a major focus of debate in parliament when it deliberated a bill to revise rules on how to handle foreigners facing deportation during an ordinary session from January to June.

The government withdrew the bill in May following protests over the alleged mistreatment of Wishma. The legislation would have made it easier to deport individuals ineligible for refugee status.

Wishma’s family and opposition lawmakers have been demanding the disclosure of the footage. Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa had rejected their request, citing the need to protect the woman’s dignity and security reasons.

But the government has changed its policy for humanitarian reasons out of consideration to the family, according to the source.

The final report will say that senior officials at the Nagoya immigration facility were not made aware of the deterioration in Wishma’s health condition or of her request to receive treatment at an outside hospital due to a problem in information sharing at the center, the source said.

The report will also admit that the facility’s provision of medical care was insufficient as health care professionals were absent at the time of her death because it was a holiday.

Regarding the decision to detain her, the report will say that the facility did not conduct a hearing as required by immigration agency rules after Wishma told them she was a victim of domestic violence by her live-in partner, according to the source.

Following her death, Kamikawa formed an investigation team at the immigration agency to look into the case.

In an interim report over the incident released on April 9, the Justice Ministry did not determine the cause of death.

Wishma’s supporters alleged the tragedy was caused by insufficient medical treatment provided by the immigration facility.

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