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Statement Regarding the Death of a Detainee at the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau

On November 22, 2014, an incident (the “Incident”) occurred in which a 57-year-old Sri Lankan man died at the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau (the “Bureau”) in which he was, at such time, being detained. According to newspaper reports, although the man desperately appealed to a guard at the Bureau about his severe chest pain on the morning of such day, he was unable to see a doctor. The man was found unconscious around 1 p.m. on the day in question and pronounced dead at the hospital to which he was taken.


On a similar note, regarding other immigration detention facilities in Japan, in March 2014, two detainees; an Iranian man and a Cameroonian man detained at the Higashi-Nihon Immigration Center (the “Center”) died in separate incidents occurred one after the other. In response to these incidents, the Ministry of Justice (the “Ministry”) announced on November 20, 2014 that as such problems had occurred, namely, the fact of there being no resident doctor at the Center, it would continue making efforts toward ensuring the presence of a resident doctor, and indicated a policy of improving the treatment of detainees concerning: (i) reviewing the procedures for detainees to apply for and receive medical treatment; (ii) promptly providing medical examination results to detainees; and (iii) methods for dealing with situations in which the physical condition of a detainee is under observation.


With reference to the request for human rights redress from detainees at immigration detention facilities (i.e. the Bureau and the Center) concerning medical-related problems at such facilities, the JFBA had issued a recommendation on November 7, 2014 addressed to the Minister of Justice, the Bureau Chief, and the Center stating that both the Bureau and the Center had failed to provide the same standard of medical treatment as that provided to the public in general, and thus, had prevented the detainees from accessing such level of treatment. As such negligence infringed upon the detainees’ right to receive medical treatment, the JFBA had recommended that appropriate measures be taken to prevent the recurrence of any future infringement, including: (i) in the case where it is judged from the symptoms of a detainee that emergency measures should be taken, such detainee should be able to immediately receive a medical examination performed by a doctor; and (ii) in the case where it is difficult to obtain a doctor’s opinion at the immigration detention facilities, the detainee should be taken to an outside medical institution so that he/she can promptly receive a medical examination there.


Since the Incident occurred so soon after the JFBA’s recommendations were issued, it is deeply regrettable in light of the contents of our recommendations, as well as the policy concerning improvement of the treatment of detainees which was indicated by the Ministry itself.


Considering the severity of the situation wherein there have been successive incidents involving the deaths of detainees, the JFBA requests the Immigration Bureau at the Ministry, as well as the Bureau itself, to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation, including an investigation by an independent third-party institution such as the Immigration Detention Facilities Visiting Committee, regarding the causes that brought about the Incident and to publish the results of such investigation. In addition, the JFBA strongly urges that in order to prevent any recurrence of similar incidents, measures that can be taken should be immediately implemented, such as a more focused allocation of personnel at medical facilities in immigration detention facilities, and a more flexible implementation of the provisional release of detainees in need of medical treatment. Furthermore, it is requested that specific and effective preventative measures be swiftly taken, such as the establishment of an appropriate medical system as recommended by the JFBA.


January 14, 2015
Susumu Murakoshi
Japan Federation of Bar Associations

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