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Group urges Japanese immigration bureau to reveal truth behind Sri Lankan detainee's death

Supporters of a Sri Lankan woman who died while she was a detainee at the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau are seen chanting in protest outside the building, in Minato Ward, Nagoya, on March 18, 2021. (Mainichi/Shinichiro Kawase)

NAGOYA -- A group supporting foreign workers and refugees petitioned the immigration bureau in this central Japan city on March 18 to reveal the truth behind the death of a Sri Lankan woman in her 30s detained at the facility.

    Members of the group Start, which supported the woman, gathered to submit their calls and to protest outside the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau in the city's Minato Ward. They chanted phrases including, "Why didn't you save her?" and, "We want you to change."

    Their petition reads, "The incident was caused by neglecting medical care. Clarify who has responsibility for management, and release an apology and the truth, as soon as possible. To stop this from happening again, we ask you to change your policies from one of single-minded deportations to one that considers the circumstances of the individuals involved and offers them relief."

    Bureau officials reportedly said, "We are currently under investigation by the ministry (of justice), and therefore cannot respond."

    At the protest, around 10 supporters and others observed a minute's silence. Yasunori Matsui, 66, an adviser to Start, said, "We had filed requests for her to be hospitalized and put on an IV drip, but the bureau just kept saying it was 'fine.' I'm forced to say they left her to die. We will continue to protest, and push the bureau to improve its response." Supporters and others could be heard saying slogans in unison, including, "Totally unforgivable," and, "Reveal the truth."

    In response to requests from her supporters, an altar for flower donations from people connected to the deceased woman was set up inside the facility on March 16. A Nigerian woman who came from Tokyo to the bureau said with tears rising: "Foreigners and Japanese people are just the same, so why wasn't she helped?"

    The deceased was out in detention at the bureau in August 2020 for not having residency status, but in January 2021 her health took a sudden turn, and she began vomiting repeatedly. The support group asked the bureau to admit her to hospital, among other measures, but officials did not accept their requests.

    The woman was found in her cell without a pulse on March 6, and confirmed dead at the hospital she was dispatched to by ambulance. The Ministry of Justice is proceeding with an investigation, which includes listening to accounts from the support group.

    (Japanese original by Shinichiro Kawase, Nagoya News Center)

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