Opinion on the Reform of the Immigration Detention Facilities Visiting Committee
August 20, 2020
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations compiled an opinion paper, “Opinion on the Reform of the Immigration Detention Facilities Visiting Committee” dated August 20, 2020, and submitted it to the Minister of Justice, the Commissioner of the Immigration Services Agency, the Immigration Detention Facilities Visiting Committee in charge of East Japan, the Immigration Detention Facilities Visiting Committee in charge of West Japan, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the President of the House of Councillors on August 25, 2020.
Summary of the Opinion
In order to strengthen the inspecting functions of the Immigration Detention Facilities Visiting Committee (the “Visiting Committee”), which was established pursuant to Article 61-7-2 of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (the “JFBA”) urges the Visiting Committee, the Government, the Minister of Justice, and the Commissioner of the Immigration Services Agency to undertake the following improvement and reform measures.
1. Ensuring Independence
(1) The Visiting Committee should formulate independently developed inspection standards, and clarify the guiding principles of the inspection.
(2) The Minister of Justice and the Commissioner of the Immigration Services Agency should repeal the Operational Guidelines of the Visiting Committee, and guarantee that the Visiting Committee is able to independently make decisions on its operations as well how such operations should be carried out.
(3) The Government should render the Visiting Committee an independent body separate from the Ministry of Justice and the Immigration Services Agency, and amend the relevant legislation to ensure its structural independence so that the Visiting Committee’s activities, including the administrative work, are performed by personnel other than those belonging to the Ministry of Justice or the Immigration Services Agency.
2. Expanding the Subject Matter and Scope of Inspection
(1) The Visiting Committee should also inspect the operation of procedures relating to the release from detention, including provisional release, as well as the operation of transfers between detention facilities, as matters linked closely to the “proper management of detention facilities.”
(2) The Government should amend the relevant legislation so that the subject matter and scope of the Visiting Committee’s inspection visits described in the preceding paragraph are defined clearly.
3. Enhancing the Inspection Activities of the Visiting Committee
(1) In the event that a critical incident occurs in a detention facility, the Visiting Committee should undertake a special inspection and investigation immediately and, if necessary, conduct investigational interviews with the persons concerned outside of the facility and share information and the like.
(2) The Minister of Justice and the Commissioner of the Immigration Services Agency should establish an additional number of Visiting Committee branches to strengthen the inspection activities (particularly, for those detention facilities that hold a large number of detainees, a dedicated Visiting Committee exclusively in charge of that facility should be organized to increase the inspection frequency). Additionally, the inspection should be conducted by ancillary personnel who are designated individually by each Visiting Committee. In addition, the Minister of Justice and the Commissioner of the Immigration Services Agency should provide—while not interfering in the activities of the Visiting Committee—necessary support including secured physical space to store inspection materials and for the ancillary personnel to perform their duties.
(3) The Minister of Justice and the Commissioner of the Immigration Services Agency should provide the Visiting Committee with sufficient information about the detention facilities according to its requests. Additionally, the Minister of Justice and the Commissioner of the Immigration Services Agency should ensure that the facility administrators of the respective detention facilities will take the best possible measures so that the Visiting Committee can visit and inspect any areas of interest in the premises of the facility, at any time, and at any hours of the day including at night.
(4) To reinforce the activities of the Visiting Committee, the Government should set an adequate budget that matches the burden borne by the inspectors and their actual specific activities; and the Minister of Justice should allocate the budget so that the Visiting Committee will be able to undertake sufficient activities in accordance with the purpose of the inspection visits.
(5) The Government should follow the opinion of the Visiting Committee and set budgets required to implement the improvement of the equipment in the detention facilities and their operation.
4. Disclosing and Disseminating Information about the Activities of the Visiting Committee
(1) The Visiting Committee should take specific measures that allow the inmates in the detention facilities to know the activities of the Visiting Committee and the achievements of their inspection. Additionally, the Visiting Committee should disclose information about their specific activities proactively to the general public.
(2) The Minister of Justice or the Commissioner of the Immigration Services Agency should take actions—such as clarifying the standards and the process for choosing the committee members or disclosing their names—to help ensure the fairness of the Visiting Committee’s activities in a systematized framework.