Groups push for better refugee treatment

Organizations supporting people seeking asylum in Japan urged the government Monday to improve the treatment of refugees at immigration control centers, two of which have seen hunger strikes by detainees this year.

The groups, including Amnesty International Japan, say the Justice Ministry’s policies, including mandatory detention of asylum seekers and long periods of detention without clear deadlines, are major problems that need to be fixed immediately.

The immigration authorities should also provide a better living environment as well as medical treatment for asylum seekers, whose stress levels increase the longer they are in detention, they said.

“These issues need to be solved, not just for the benefit of my clients. The situation is also an embarrassment for Japan,” lawyer Takeshi Ohashi said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

Ohashi has represented numerous people seeking political refuge in Japan.

Although a council affiliated with the government will inspect immigration detention facilities starting in July, Ohashi stressed that an environment where nongovernmental organizations can work closely with them should be secured so the council can function as an effective third-party surveillance authority.

According to Hiroka Shoji of Amnesty International Japan, two detainees committed suicide, in February and April, at the East Japan Immigration Control Center in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture. In March and May, outbreaks of tuberculosis were confirmed there and at a facility under the jurisdiction of the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau, she said.