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21 September 2022 – Japan

E. Lang, “Japan ruling on foreign detainee death reignites human rights concerns,” Nikkei Asia, 17 September 2022,
E. Lang, “Japan ruling on foreign detainee death reignites human rights concerns,” Nikkei Asia, 17 September 2022,

Japan’s treatment of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants within its immigration detention estate is again under intense scrutiny after a court ruled that authorities had failed to protect the health of a detainee.

The detainee – a 43-year-old Cameroonian asylum seeker – died in detention in 2014. Suffering from diabetes and other health issues, the man had been placed in a recovery room within the Nigashi-Nihon Immigration Centre after complaining that he felt unwell. Although he told staff that he had chest pains, they only called an ambulance once they found him in cardiac arrest. Security footage from the night before his death showed that he had fallen from his bed onto the floor and was crying out “I’m dying.”

On 16 September 2022, a Japanese District Court found that the Immigration Services Agency had failed to carry out its duty of care by not immediately moving him to a medical facility – and awarded 1.65 million Yen (11.5 thousand USD) in damages to his bereaved family.

This is not the first time in which an immigration detainee with medical problems has died after being left unattended in Japan. In 2021, Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali – a 33 year-old Sri Lankan woman – died in the Nagoya Regional Immigration Bureau Detention House after months of health complaints (see 21 May 2021 update on this platform).

Following Sandamali’s death, the immigration agency announced that it would undertake 12 improvement measures–including strengthening medical responses and setting clear guidelines for granting provisional release to detainees suffering from ill-health. At the same time however, the agency has sought to introduce controversial amendments to the country’s immigration law – including permitting the deportation of asylum seekers while their application for protection remains pending. A bill proposing such changes was withdrawn in 2021 following a backlash in the wake of Sandamali’s death–and appears to have been dropped again in September 2022, days after protests against its resubmission.