COLAP statement on the detainees in the immigration detention center in Japan

1, The detainees in the immigration detention center
In Japan, undocumented immigrants who are overstaying or whose visas were revoked were detained in the immigration detention center under the control of Japan immigration service agency. They were detained until the day of deportation to their mother country. Most immigrants come from Asia like China, South Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, Nepal, Turkish (Curds), etc.
Japan government’s policy against undocumented immigrants has been harsh since February 2018. It leads to a decrease in the number of provisional releases and to an increase in the number of long-term detainees. Long-term detainees account for about 50 % in all detainees; some of them have been detained for more than five years. They are not aware of when to be released, having psychological stress, some of them committed suicide. Strict policies against undocumented immigrants are a manifestation of xenophobia and patriotism in Japan, as well as right-wing hate speeches against Koreans.

2. Treatment of immigrants in the detention center
Due to the spread of coronaviruses from January 2020, the number of provisional releases has slightly increased since 2018 to prevent coronavirus infections in the facilities. The number of detainees decreased from 1054 to 914 from January to April 2020.
However, the detainees left behind in the detention center are dissatisfied with the fact that they are not released. In Japan, the decision of detention is not subject to the court and is left to the broad discretion of the immigration service agency. Therefore, the criteria for rejection of provisional releases are not disclosed, which is difficult for detainees and lawyers to struggle.
Moreover, the danger of a mass infection with coronavirus is still present in the detention center, and the detainees are even more mentally driven. A group of lawyers working on immigration issues called for the release of all detainees.
On April 7, 2020, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said, “Immigrants have been deprived of their freedom of movement in the immigration detention facility, where is overcrowded and public health is inadequate.” And recommended the governments to release migrants in detention center because of the high risk of infection of coronavirus.
The detainees suffer from physical and mental illness and are deprived of their right to health because they have reached the limit of anxiety and stress due to being confined in a small space. Detainees demonstrated in the facilities on April 25, 2020, to protest, but a mass of immigration guards forced the protesting detainees back into their room, some of which were forced to be taken into a punishment cell for days. The Ministry of Justice said that this enforced measure was a necessary measure, but the degree of using force was criticized as violence. Furthermore, as a countermeasure against coronavirus, there is no disinfectant inside, that is insufficient to prevent mass infection. The detainees are fighting by filing lawsuits before the court for provisional release under coronavirus.

3. From the view of protection of immigrants and prevention of coronavirus infection, COLAP requests the Japanese government and immigration authorities as follow:

(1) To clarify the standards for detention and provisional release for undocumented immigrants
(2) To release all the detainees to protect them from the continued coronavirus pandemic
(3) To protect the right to health of undocumented immigrants and treat them as human beings.

June 13, 2020