Amnesty International 2002 report on human rights abuses, including extortion and physical abuse, at the Narita Airport “Gaijin Tank” detention center
Posted by debito on January 10th, 2012
Hi Blog. What follow are some shocking allegations of ill-treatment of NJ at Narita Airport, and this time I’m not referring to the routine racial profiling done by Narita police in the airport after you’ve entered Japan. I’m talking about what happens to NJ in that extralegal zone known as Customs and Immigration, where people are neither in their own country nor under Japanese constitutional protections (since they officially have not entered Japan yet). Below, according to Amnesty International, we have allegations of renditioning to non-MOJ private policing forces, denial of basic human comforts, physical abuse, extortion, etc., all done without proper oversight or accountability. Sadly, this AI report is now ten years old and underreported; I was alerted to this situation by a journalist who underwent this procedure (including the extortion) over the past year. It’s not merely a matter of turning somebody away at the border — it is in my view a matter of prison screws extracting a perverse satisfaction (as will happen, cf. Zimbardo experiment) by lording it over foreigners, because nobody will stop them.
And that’s Narita. I wonder how the situation is at Japan’s other international ports of entry. Sickening. Arudou Debito
DOCUMENT – JAPAN: WELCOME TO JAPAN?
The Landing Prevention Facility (Jouriku Boushi Shisetsuor LPF hereafter) was first drawn to Amnesty International’s attention in June 2000 when two Tunisian male tourists were reportedly beaten by staff belonging to a private security agency X (not real name of the security agency) in Narita Airport. During their five day detention at the LPF, the two men were denied access to medical facilities despite suffering injuries from the beatings, and only allowed to contact the police after three days in detention. They were denied the opportunity to contact the Tunisian embassy in Tokyo during their detention.
The two men , Thameur Hichem (20) and Thameur Mouez (22) had arrived on 20 June 2000 by Turkish Airlines, but were denied entry by Japanese immigration authorities at Second Terminal Building of Narita Airport despite possessing adequate travel documents.
|The Immigration authorities handed the two Tunisian men to the custody of security personnel belonging to private security agency X contracted by Turkish Airlines. The security agency asked the two Tunisians to pay US$240 each as security charges. They refused to pay, which resulted in the security personnel forcing them to pay by use of physical force and verbal abuse. Thameur Hichem and Thameur Mouez were taken to the parking lot of Terminal 1 of Narita Airport by three guards who were staff of Security Company X. One of them hit and kicked Thameur Hichem on his left leg and then hit his head several times against the wall. Another staff member forced his shoulders to the floor and took US$300 from his pocket. Thameur Mouez was taken separately and was subjected to beatings until he paid US$300 to staff of Security Company X. Thameur Hichem and Thameur Mouez were detained for five days in a small windowless room until they were deported on 25 June 2000. They were not allowed access to a medical doctor despite their repeated requests. The reason given to them by Security Agency X was that their injuries were not serious enough. They were only allowed to contact their parents by phone after two days into their detention on 22 June 2000. They were also not allowed access to the police. The allegations against staff belonging to Security Company X were not adequately investigated.|
Foreign nationals entering Japan may be at risk of ill-treatment by immigration authorities during interrogations at Special Examination Rooms and by private security guards in detention facilities located at Japanese ports of entry, including Narita Airport.
During the period after denial of entry into Japan and before they were issued ”orders to leave” or issued deportation orders, foreign nationals have allegedly been detained in detention facilities located within the airport premises known as Landing Prevention Facilities (LPFs) or at an ”Airport Rest House” outside the airport site. Amnesty International has found evidence of ill-treatment of detainees at LPFs. It forms part of a pattern of arbitrary denial of entry to foreign nationals and systematic detention of those denied entry – a process which falls short of international standards. Amnesty International has received reports of detained foreign nationals being forced to pay for their ”room and board” and for being guarded by private security agencies that operate the LPFs. Foreign nationals have allegedly been strip-searched, beaten or denied food by security guards at these facilities if they have been unwilling to pay. The LPFs have detention cells that have no windows and there have been reports of foreign nationals being detained in these cells for several weeks without sunlight(1)and not being allowed to exercise.
Asylum-seekers have also had their requests for asylum rejected with no or inadequate consideration of the serious risk to their lives they face on deportation. These asylum seekers have been denied access to a fair and satisfactory asylum procedure; they are frequently not allowed access to interpreters and lawyers. Furthermore, they are forced to sign documents in languages they do not understand and of the content of which they have not been adequately informed. These documents may include a document signed by the deportee waiving his or her rights to appeal against decisions made by the immigration officials such as denial of entry into Japan. Amnesty International believes that the lack of access to independent inspections and the secrecy that surround LPFs and other centres of detention in Japan make them fertile ground for human rights abuses. Detained foreign nationals in the LPFs or immigration detention centres are not informed adequately about their rights.In particular, they do not always have prompt access to a lawyer or advice in a language they understand. The Japanese government should recognize the rights of people in detention to information, legal counsel, access to the outside world and adequate medical treatment. Those who had sought to contact United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have had their request turned down. In many cases, detainees at LPFs have been refused medical treatment by staff of security companies and by immigration officials. Decisions and actions of immigration officials and staff of security companies reveal a widespread lack of awareness of international human rights standards.
This report highlights Amnesty International’s concerns at the procedure adopted by immigration authorities and the abuses within the LPFs. It documents examples of discrimination that have underlined the arbitrary denial of entry to Japan. The report details cases where foreign nationals, including asylum-seekers, have been denied entry to Japan and have been detained in detention facilities like the LPF and have been threatened with deportation. The report also highlights cases of ill-treatment suffered by foreign nationals in detention at the LPF in recent years. These incidents suggest that, in practice, Japan has failed to respect its obligations under international human rights standards.
Concerns about procedures adopted by immigration authorities and the abuses within Landing Prevention Facilities: falling short of international standards
Amnesty International is concerned
- about reported ill-treatment in the course of interrogations and the process of deportation or exclusion of foreign nationals who are denied entry to Japan and are detained at the LPF or at an ‘Airport Rest House’ outside the airport. Ill-treatment is alleged to have taken place during different stages of interrogations conducted by immigration authorities. Such treatment is alleged to have taken place during interrogations shortly after foreign nationals have landed in Narita airport and where the decision to deny entry to the foreign national is made. Additionally, ill-treatment has been alleged during interrogations held by immigration officials during subsequent detention of foreign nationals in the LPFs. These interrogations are allegedly held to force foreign nationals to sign documents waiving their rights to appeal against decisions by immigration authorities.(2) Ill-treatment of those in detention constitutes a violation of Articles 7 and 10 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)(3) which Japan ratified in June 1979. The failure of the Japanese government to initiate a prompt and impartial investigation into these allegations constitutes a violation of Article 12 of the Convention against Torture(4) which Japan acceded in June 1999. The ICCPR also carries with it a duty on states to ensure that complaints about torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment must be investigated promptly and impartially by competent authorities;(5)
- that there have been incidents where the immigration authorities have failed to provide adequate translation facilities while questioning foreign nationals in Special Examination Rooms at Narita Airport to determine their status. This failure to provide adequate interpretation facilities constitutes the non-observance of Principle 14 of the 1988 Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment (Body of Principles)(6);
- that some detainees at the LPF have been held incommunicado. They have often been denied access to their families in violation of Principles 16 (1)(7) and 19(8) of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment; they have also reportedly not been allowed to communicate with their consular or diplomatic missions in Japan or to contact representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in contravention of Principle 16 (2) of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment(9) and international standards for refugee determination. Detainees have also not been allowed to communicate with independent legal advisors in violation of Principle 17 of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment;(10)
- that detainees were only informed verbally by immigration officials at entry ports in Japan including Narita Airport about the refugee status determination process and that information on the procedure in Narita Airport was not available freely. Immigration officials informed an Amnesty International delegation in December 2000 that they only kept pamphlets containing information on the refugee status determination procedure in Japanese at Narita airport. It appears that detainees are not given any written information on the asylum procedure in Japan in a language that they can understand. The failure to provide adequate information about the rights of detainees in a language that they can understand constitutes non-observation of Principles 13(11) and 14 of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment;
- that many asylum-seekers are denied access to fair and satisfactory asylum procedures by the immigration authorities. Denial of access to a fair and satisfactory asylum procedure, to independent legal counsel and to the UNHCR may lead to refoulement. The principle of non-refoulement is enshrined in the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees(11) and the 1984 Convention against Torture,(12) to both of which Japan is a state party.
The law and practice of an arbitrary ‘fast-track’ detention-deportation procedure: providing opportunities for human rights abuses
The two Tunisian nationals mentioned above are among thousands of foreign nationals who are detained in the LPF at Narita Airport every year, prior to being deported on the next available flight of the same air carrier on which they had flown into Japan. Detention at the LPF, or at an ”Airport Rest House”, forms part of the procedure followed by Japanese authorities after foreign nationals are refused entry and before they are deported from Japan (the Jouriku Boushi Gyoumu procedure).
The legal framework for this procedure is provided for in the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (the ICRR Act). This Act provides for a Special Inquiry Officer to interview a foreign national once an Immigration Inspector finds that his or her documents to enter or depart do not conform with requirements of the Ministry of Justice Ordinance (Article 6(2) and 9(4) of the ICRR Act provides for this procedure). If the Special Inquiry Officer finds as a result of the interview that the foreign national does not meet conditions of landing (provided for in Article 7(1)), the officer has to inform the foreign national of this decision, and give reasons for that decision (Article 10(9)).
These interviews do not meet international standards, in particular denial of access to adequate interpretation facilities(13) and have resulted in ill-treatment of foreign nationals. For example, there have been allegations that foreign nationals, some of whom may have been asylum-seekers, have not had access to adequate interpretation facilities during such interviews, which at times have lasted several hours.
Concerns regarding private security companies
Private security companies have been contracted by air carriers to transport foreign nationals from Special Examination Rooms of the immigration authorities to their detention facilities and back from their detention facilities to the air carrier on the day of their flight. Private security companies also supervise these foreign nationals in their detention facilities, including at the LPF; they guard them round the clock to ensure that the foreign nationals are prevented from leaving the rooms and from entering Japan. Companies such as Security Agency X (not the real name of the company) try to make the foreign nationals pay the cost for their ”accommodation”. It appears that when Security Agency X failed to receive the payments from foreign nationals, they asked the flight operator to reimburse the amounts owed.(17)
Up until the summer of 1999, Security Agency X was contracted by air carriers to transport foreign nationals and also supervise the security of the LPF at Narita Airport. The agency could ask foreign nationals to pay the costs for this accommodation during the period of their stay. When they did not pay, they were allegedly strip-searched.Force was allegedly used by the security company when foreign nationals protested and questioned these requests.
When Security Agency X lost the contract to be in charge of security at the LPF at Narita Airport, it still continued to be contracted by airline carriers to transport foreign nationals who had been denied entry into Japan from the Examination Room to the LPF and from the LPF to the air carrier when the foreign national was being deported. Its reduced security responsibilities had diminished opportunities for Security Agency X to force foreign nationals to pay during their detention at the LPF. Thameur Hichem and Thameur Mouez were beaten not inside the LPF but outside in a building located at the parking lot in Narita Airport when they showed unwillingness to pay up to the demands of the staff members of Security Agency X. When Amnesty International asked immigration officials about actions they had taken against Security Agency X, the officials stated that they had been satisfied with the reply from the security agency and that the company had done no wrong. No action had apparently been taken by the immigration authorities though they had admitted to Amnesty International that the LPF was under the overall supervision of the immigration authorities at Narita Airport. The lack of prompt and impartial investigation by the authorities into such allegations of ill-treatment contravenes Article 12 of the Convention against Torture.
The LPF in Narita Airport: a secret detention facility
Not much was known of the LPF until the case of the two Tunisian nationals became public. The LPF is used for the physical detention within the airport complex of those foreign nationals who are denied entry into Japan usually after they have been issued ”orders to leave”.(18)When an Amnesty International delegation was granted access to the LPF in December 2000, there were two facilities which were located in the administrative wing on the second floor of Terminal 2 of Narita Airport.(19)The LPF in Narita Airport comprises at least two detention facilities, at least one is reserved for men and at least one facility is reserved exclusively for women detainees. According to Immigration officials questioned by the Amnesty International delegation, a daily average of some seven persons were detained in the LPF. Both of the facilities in Narita Airport consisted of four windowless rooms.
In the room to which Amnesty International was allowed access, there were narrow benches (which former detainees have informed Amnesty International doubled up as beds) and large dust-bins. The room, which was in the LPF allocated to women, was not occupied by any detainees at that time. There were five benches in the room, possibly indicating that the room was meant for five detainees. The room was about 10 feet by 8 feet and 7 feet high and was the only room that was not behind a locked steel gate. All other rooms (three in the women’s facility, and four rooms in the men’s facility) were behind a locked steel gate which was guarded throughout the day by two guards on 12 hour shifts. The rooms were always locked, the keys were held by the guards. In cases of emergencies like sickness or fire in the room, detainees had no choice but to bang the door hard to raise alarm and catch the attention of the guards. A vertical glass window fitted into the door which enabled the guards to have a good view of the room. This meant that detainees were effectively denied privacy. The guard room, in turn, was locked. Detainees’ luggage was kept separately in a room next to the guard room.
Despite requests, the Amnesty International delegation was not allowed to meet detainees. Amnesty International has been informed that two delegations of Japanese Diet (National Assembly) members were also denied access to those detained in the LPF at the time of their visits. The refusal to allow visits by qualified persons to places of detention constitutes a violation of Principle 29 of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.(20)
Discrimination on the basis of nationality
There appears to be a link between the denial of entry by immigration authorities, ill-treatment during questioning of entry or asylum applicants, detention at the LPF and the nationality of the person. There have been denials of entry on the basis of superficial generalisations of persons belonging to certain countries revealing a xenophobic bias of immigration officials. A Colombian national, who was denied entry into Japan in October 1996, claimed to have been told by the Immigration official that ”You don’t have to be in Japan. Only one out of five Colombians can enter Japan. Colombians are untrustworthy, selling drugs, involved in prostitution and robbery.” There have been, since 11 September 2001, several cases of asylum seekers being refused entry into Japan apparently because they are from particular countries, such as Afghanistan or the Middle East region. Most of them have been forced to sign documents facilitating their deportation with little regard paid to the non-refoulementprinciple enshrined in the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (the Refugee Convention) and the Convention against Torture.