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Japan immigration may have misled doctor who saw Sri Lankan detainee 2 days before death

Wishma Sandamali's younger sisters Wayomi, left, and Poornima, center, are seen speaking to reporters after their visit to the Nagoya District Public Prosecutors Office in the city's Naka Ward, on July 2, 2021. (Mainichi/Shinichiro Kawase)

NAGOYA -- Immigration bureau officials here may have misled a doctor examining a detained Sri Lankan woman into thinking she could be feigning illness to get temporary release, her bereaved sisters reportedly heard during a July 2 meeting with the doctor.

    Wishma Sandamali, who was detained at the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau, died aged 33 just two days after the psychiatrist saw her. The same doctor has told her sisters that immigration services informed them, "Around the time her supporters told her she could get temporary release if she got sick, she started developing psychosomatic symptoms."

    The doctor reportedly concluded that, based on the bureau employees' explanation, she was possibly feigning illness.

    Her supporters have denied telling her that getting sick could lead to her release, and said, "It is very serious that erroneous information was presented that swayed a doctor's judgment."

    On July 2, a group including Wishma's sisters Wayomi, 28, and Poornima, 27, and their legal representative Shoichi Ibusuki spoke to reporters after a face-to-face meeting with a psychiatrist at Nagoya Ekisaikai Hospital. They said they would visit the Immigration Services Agency and find the truth.

    According to Ibusuki and others, the doctor said that if they hadn't been given the verbal explanation from the immigration bureau, they "wouldn't have suspected (Wishma's) illness was an act."

    Wishma Sandamali's younger sisters Wayomi (front row, right) and Poornima (front row, left) enter the Nagoya District Public Prosecutors Office in Naka Ward, on July 2, 2021. (Mainichi/Shinichiro Kawase)

    They also said they had been told that the bureau had already had a physician run tests on Wishma that turned up nothing, which allegedly led them to seek a psychiatric diagnosis.

    The doctor also described Wishma's condition on the day they saw her, reportedly telling the group, "Although I'd been told her physical health was fine, she looked exhausted and weak."

    Despite the doctor telling immigration bureau officials her condition would be better if she were temporarily released, the officials reportedly responded that they would look at the examination results.

    The events the doctor described were not included in an interim report by the Immigrations Services Agency. Yasunori Matsui, an advisor at support organization Start, which gave aid to Wishma, said angrily, "We did not make the statements that the doctor has described. They were arbitrary assumptions by the immigration bureau."

    The Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau has said it will "refrain from comment" to reporters.

    On the same day, Wishma's sisters met with prosecutors at the Nagoya District Public Prosecutors Office who are investigating the case. While there, they asked for a swift examination of what happened.

    (Japanese original by Shinichiro Kawase, Nagoya News Bureau)

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