Immigration detainees in Japan launch hunger strike over death of Indian man

Remigio Civitarese
Aprile 17, 2018

More than 40 people at a Japanese immigration detention centre are on hunger strike after an Indian detainee committed suicide there last week, officials and local media said Tuesday.

According to activists, the Indian man who died on Friday at the East Japan Immigration Centre, northwest of Tokyo killed himself a day after being denied release, and is the 14th death at a Japanese immigration detention centre since 2006. More than 40 detainees have been on fast since Sunday, protesting against the long-term detention and the inmates' inability to secure temporary release. Immigration remains a prickly subject in Japan, where cultural and ethnic homogeneity remain deeply rooted even as the population shrinks and companies grapple with the worst labor shortages for more than four decades.

Currently, the 17 immigration detention facilities of Japan hold a total of 1,317 people.

An Iranian detainee told Reuters that those held in the same block where the Indian was put up had launched the strike to pressure the authorities to address complaints.

"We want to know what responsibility they will take for the death", he said. The number of refusing food was unclear but was likely to exceed 100, he added. A spokesman for the centre declined to comment on individual letters.

The UN Committee Against Torture has denounced Japan's long and sometimes indefinite holding of foreigners in breach of immigration laws, and the detention facilities in Japan have been always been criticized for providing poor medical treatment to detainees with health issues.

The group's advocate said the man was despondent at his situation, with Kyodo News quoting a doctor familiar with immigration detainment as saying that the hunger strike shows the detainees are "psychologically devastated". The protestors are reportedly taking tea and water but are refusing meals.

"We presume that they (the strikers) have refused food to push for provisional release", said Daisuke Akinaga, an official at the immigration centre.

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