DOZENS of immigrants currently being held in Japanese detention centres have embarked upon a hunger strike to protest the recent death of a Nigerian detainee who starved after refusing food as a protestation against his lengthy incarceration.
In June this year, a Nigerian detainee died after going on hunger strike to protest his long incarceration at a Japanese immigration centre in the city of Nagasaki. His death has led to 95 other detainees at the Omura Immigration Centre to sign a petition and they have also commenced a hunger strike, demanding an investigation into the case and measures to prevent a recurrence.
Over the last few weeks, the protest has spread to other detention and immigration facilities in Ibaraki Prefecture and Tokyo. Apparently, the Nigerian detainee was in his 40s when he died in June and was found unconscious in his cell on June 24, although the Japanese authorities have not published his name and age, nor divulged how long he had been held there.
According to the Omura Centre, the cause of death has been identified but cannot be released. Supporters familiar with the case said the man was transferred to the Omura centre after first being taken into custody at the Osaka Regional Immigration Bureau about three years and seven months previously.
He began the hunger strike in the spring to protest his prolonged incarceration and request provisional release. He was said to be alone in his cell in the days leading up to his death.
Many detainees incarcerated for long periods either have families in Japan or have applied for refugee status. Even though the detainees face deportation, Japanese immigration authorities are loathe to send detainees back to their home countries if they have no visible means of support and as a result, detainees often endure long stays in an immigration centre.
There were 111 detainees at the Omura Immigration Centre at the end of July. Of these, 95 signed the petition calling on authorities to get to the bottom of the Nigerian man’s case so that his life is not wasted.
They also questioned the rationale of such long detentions, with one detainee there saying he has been held for six years and eight months. Detainees who signed the petition represented about 20 countries including Iran, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Vietnam, Nepal, China, Turkey and Brazil.