Hunger strike at immigration center

About 60 detainees at the East Japan Immigration Control Center in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, have been on hunger strike since Monday to seek better treatment, a Tokyo-based volunteer group member said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, center spokesman Hiroki Shimizu confirmed to The Japan Times that about 30 detainees, rather than 60, have refused to eat since Monday.

“The living conditions at immigration detention centers are really bad. We have been asking for improvement, but nothing has happened,” Mitsuru Miyasako of Bond, a group supporting foreign workers in Japan, told The Japan Times.

According to a press statement from Bond, the detainees are demanding the detention period be shortened to at most six months, bail for temporary release be no more than ¥200,000 and those younger than 18 not be confined.

Currently, bail ranges from ¥500,000 to ¥800,000 even for refugees, the group said.

Those participating in the hunger strike are from Sri Lanka, China, Uganda, Pakistan and Brazil, according to Miyasako. Kurds from Turkey are also refusing to eat, he said.

Many of the approximately 380 detainees in the center have valid reasons for not returning to their home countries, since some face persecution at home and others have family members in Japan, Miyasako claimed.

Among many complaints, medical services are insufficient in the center, he added.

“The center has just one doctor on the premises. Persuading immigration officers to let detainees go to a hospital for symptoms the doctor is unable to treat is really hard. If they allow it, detainees are cuffed and escorted by immigration officers,” Miyasako said.

About 200 in the Ushiku center have been detained there for at least six months in awful living conditions, Bond said.

Two detainees committed suicide this year, the group said in the statement, a fact the center’s Shimizu confirmed.

Meanwhile, Shimizu said the center is “constantly trying its best to accommodate detainees’ requests” and he does not consider their treatment to be lacking. The center has one doctor who works four days a week and who sometimes comes to the center in an emergency, he said.