First came a fever. Then her face and limbs turned numb. Soon, she could keep down little more than water, sugar and bread as she wasted away in a Nagoya detention center, The New York Times reports.
Week after week, Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali — a Sri Lankan migrant who was being held for overstaying her student visa — begged to be released to a hospital for treatment, but her jailers refused. On March 6, she died.
Her case has become a source of outrage for critics of Japan’s immigration system, who say Ratnayake was the victim of an opaque, capricious bureaucracy that has nearly unchecked power over those who run afoul of it.
On Tuesday, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party abandoned an effort to revise Japan’s immigration law, as opposition lawmakers said they would not debate the changes unless the government released video of Ratnayake taken before she died.
Opponents of the revisions say they violate international norms, making it more likely that genuine refugees would be forcibly returned to life-threatening conditions in their homelands.
The same day, Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa met with Ratnayake’s sisters to, she said, “express my condolence.” The relatives also visited the cell where Ratnayake died, which they called “small and as if for an animal.”