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HOME > Public Statements and Opinion Papers > Statements > Statement on the Death of the Detainee in the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau

Statement on the Death of the Detainee in the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau

On March 6, 2021, a Sri Lankan woman in her 30s died at a detention house of the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau.


The deceased woman had come to Japan as an international student, but soon she could no longer afford tuition fees and left the school. As a result, her Status of Residence became invalid and she was held in detention from August 2020.


According to media reports, since around January 2021, she repeatedly vomited and became so severely debilitated that she could no longer eat or walk. Both the woman herself and a support organization helping her requested repeatedly that the competent authorities allow her to be hospitalized or receive infusions, or issue permission for provisional release immediately. There is a letter left behind from her stating, “I really want to eat now,” and she also said to the personnel of the support organization, “I may be dying.”


Including this case, as many as 16 detainees (only confirmed cases) have died since 2007 in the facilities of the Regional Immigration Services Bureaus. When deaths were reported in these facilities, the Ministry of Justice has only carried out internal investigations, releasing final reports with statements such as the following:

− It is hard to say that the decision was clearly wrongful.

− It cannot be ruled out that it was too difficult to save the person’s life (avoiding the resulting death).

(Report of Findings from the Investigation on the Case of Detainee
Death at the Higashi-Nihon Immigration Center, November 2017)

It is difficult to assess that the Center’s handling of the matter was inadequate.

Their having been unable to stop deterioration of the person’s condition should be tolerated.

(Report of Findings from the Investigation on the Case of Detainee
Death at the Omura Immigration Center, October 2019)


However, such recurrence of deaths in the immigration detention facilities signals an extremely serious situation. Because it is of their own accord that these Bureaus deprive detainees of liberty, confining the people to their facilities, it is incumbent on the Regional Immigration Bureaus to protect detainees’ lives and physical safety, and ensure that none of them will die. Therefore, they should delve deeply, investigating the cause of the deaths and build an elaborate system to avert the recurrence of deaths.


To that end, an independent third-party committee should be set up—instead of dismissing cases with internal investigations—to undertake swift and thorough investigations in a fully transparent manner to find the cause of death, the course of events in the detention process, issues in the medical care system, the need for provisional releases to receive inpatient or outpatient treatment, and so forth.


The JFBA has pointed out issues of the bill for amendments to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act submitted to the Diet by the Government, in the Statement on the Bill for Amendments to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act Submitted by the Government dated February 26, 2021, and the Opinion on the Bill for Amendments to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act dated March 18, 2021.


The Government should review and revise the bill drastically to ensure that detention will be used to the minimum necessary extent, taking into account the findings from the investigations of the repeated detainee deaths at the facilities of the Regional Immigration Services Bureaus. For detention that cannot be avoided despite such considerations to minimize the use of detention, the Government should take drastic measures to avert recurrence of detainee deaths, putting a thoroughgoing system in place, in order to eliminate eternally the incidents where detainees’ precious lives are lost. These measures may include:

- Instituting a system where the medical section is independent from the security section and physicians submit reports to the security section to ensure well-being of detainees;

- Establishing a system governed by an independent examination body to lodge appeals related to the treatment of detainees including the provision of medical care; and

- Instituting a verification system where a third party investigates deaths of detainees.



March 30, 2021
Tadashi Ara
President, Japan Federation of Bar Associations