70 immigration detainees on hunger strike

Fast in Osaka tied to denial of release: activists

At least 70 detainees at the West Japan Immigration Control Center, which has long been criticized by human rights groups and Diet members, have been on a hunger strike since Monday, center officials and volunteers helping them confirmed Thursday.

“Around 70 foreigners began a hunger strike Monday night because they want to be released on a temporary basis,” Norifumi Kishida, an official at the center, said Thursday morning. The center, in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, is providing food but they are refusing to eat, he said.

Hiromi Sano, a human rights activist involved with immigration issues who has been meeting with detainees over the past few days, said some hunger strikers have applied for refugee status.

“They are demanding to know why their applications for release from the center were rejected, even though their refugee claims are being reviewed administratively or judicially, with support from lawyers and legal assistance workers,” she said.

Reports of detainee abuse and harsh conditions at the West Japan Immigration Control Center go back at least a decade. According to an investigation by Kyodo News, 23 detainees at the center had attempted suicide between 2000 and 2004.