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Protest held in front of Osaka immigration bureau against long detention of asylum seekers

People protest the bill to revise the immigration law in front of the Osaka Regional Immigration Services Bureau in Osaka's Suminoe Ward on April 13, 2021. (Mainichi/Rei Kubo)

OSAKA -- A demonstration opposing the bill to revise the immigration law was held in front of the Osaka Regional Immigration Services Bureau in the city's Suminoe Ward on April 13, with protesters silently displaying placards with messages such as "Long detentions violate human rights."

    The Japanese government submitted the draft revision to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act in the ongoing Diet session. Its aim is said to be to solve issues of long-term detentions of foreign nationals served with deportation orders at immigration facilities. While the bill would establish a "supervisory measure" system in which people would be permitted to live outside of detention centers, penalties would be established for those who do not obey expulsion orders, and people who apply for refugee status three times or more would be subject to forcible deportation. Also, as the bill does not incorporate a cap on the length of detention or judicial review of cases, it has been criticized by human rights experts at the United Nations.

    A 36-year-old man from Sri Lanka who had been in a detention facility for a total of more than seven years and was visiting the bureau on April 13 to apply for extension of his "temporary release" saw the protest and said, "Detention facilities are the same as Nazi concentration camps." He explained that he escaped persecution and arrived in Japan in 2004, and is currently applying for refugee status for the third time. If the revision bill is approved, it is possible he will be forcibly deported. Referring to his female compatriot who died in March at the age of 33 while detained at the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau, he said, "The immigration agency has not admitted to its wrongdoing."

    "Many of the detainees are refugee status applicants, who cannot go back to their home countries," said Keiko Tanaka, 66, co-leader of RAFIQ, a group based in Osaka's Yodogawa Ward that supports refugees and organized the protest. "Protection of refugees by international standards must come first."

    According to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan, 3,936 people applied for refugee status in 2020, and just 47 people were granted it.

    (Japanese original by Rei Kubo, Osaka Photo Group)

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