AFP: Asylum-seeker dies after collapsing at J detention center while doctor at lunch


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Hi Blog.  Here’s another long-standing issue within Japan’s criminal justice system — the two-tiered system of incarceration for foreigners only.  When one is being detained for a violation of Japan’s criminal code, you have prison for those convicted and the daiyou kangoku interrogation centers for those awaiting conviction (and almost everyone (95%) who is indicted under this system confesses to a crime, thanks to the unsupervised and harsh interrogation techniques).  Almost everyone who confesses to a crime (the most-cited figure is >99%) gets convicted and probably goes to prison.  Don’t get arrested in Japan or else this will happen to you.

But then there are the detention centers for foreigners with visa issues who can be incarcerated indefinitely.  This is unlike Japan’s prison system where 1) there are international standards for incarceration, and 2) there is a maximum limit — as in a prison sentence — to the duration for inmates.  Not so Japan’s foreigners.  And not so, as you can see below, Japan’s asylum seekers, where yet another NJ has died in custody due to, the article notes below, lax oversight over the health of their detainees.

I bring this up because this case will no doubt soon be forgotten.  Like the other issues of violenceunsanitary food leading to hunger strikes and suicidesImmigration brutality leading to an uncharged murder of a detainee, and more.  No wonder some people would prefer an overseas refugee camp than come to Japan to languish and perhaps die in a Gaijin Tank.  Best to archive it here as yet another brick in the wall.  Arudou Debito

SEE ALSO:  Johnson, The Japanese Way of Justice (2002), pg. 243.


Asylum-seeker dies after collapsing at detention center while doctor at lunch
By Harumi Ozawa. AFP/Japan Today NATIONAL OCT. 25, 2013, courtesy of JK

See also

An asylum-seeker collapsed and died after staff at a Japanese immigration center failed to call for a medic, allegedly because the doctor was having lunch, a pressure group said Thursday.

Anwar Hussin, a member of Myanmar’s Rohingya ethnic group, fell ill shortly after he was detained on Oct 9, according to People’s Forum on Burma, a Japan-based NGO headed by a Japanese lawyer.

Citing the 57-year-old’s cousin, the group said Hussin had been complaining of a headache all morning and fell unconscious as he began eating lunch in his cell.

Fellow detainees—seven people of different nationalities—called for help because he was vomiting and having spasms, the NGO said.

Detention center staff rejected their requests that a doctor be called, saying Hussin was just “having a seizure” and that the duty medic was on his lunch break, the group said, citing detainees who had spoken to the dead man’s cousin.

A doctor was summoned 51 minutes after Hussin’s collapse, according to a timeline given to his cousin by the center.

Staff made an emergency call four minutes after the doctor’s arrival and 55 minutes after being made aware of the problem, the timeline showed.

Hussin died in hospital on Oct 14, it said.

A spokeswoman for the Tokyo Immigration Bureau said a man in his 50s from Myanmar died of subarachnoid haemorrhage—a stroke—after collapsing in the detention center, confirming the dates given by the pressure group.

But she declined to confirm or deny the claims made by the NGO over how long it took for the doctor to be called.

“We refrain from disclosing details because it concerns private matters,” said the spokeswoman.

“We are aware that some people have complained the man was neglected for some time,” she said, adding the bureau believes staff handled the case appropriately. She said officials had explained the situation to the man’s surviving family in Japan.

The People’s Forum on Burma, which supports democratization of Myanmar and aids refugees from the country when they arrive in Japan, disputes this.

“The bureau did not inform the family of (Hussin’s) hospitalization. It was learnt from other detainees,” said a spokeswoman.

Immigration officials gave few details until two days after Hussin’s death, the spokeswoman said, and then only when his cousin repeatedly pressed them.

Hussin came to Japan in 2006 and made two applications for asylum, both of which were rejected, according to the group, which said he was waiting for the result of his second appeal when he was detained.

The Rohingya—described by the UN as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities—face travel restrictions, forced labor and limited access to health care and education in Myanmar, rights groups say.

Myanmar views its population of roughly 800,000 Muslim Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and denies them citizenship.

It was not immediately possible to independently verify the NGO’s claims over Hussin’s death.

But Shogo Watanabe, the lawyer who leads the NGO, said detention centers were frequently slower than they should be in emergency medical situations.

“This is the result when the country has failed to protect people who need to be protected,” he told AFP.

Hiroka Shoji, of Amnesty International Japan, said it was worrying that immigration staff apparently had power of veto over whether or not a sick detainee should see a doctor.

Japan tightly restricts the number of immigrants and asylum-seekers it accepts.

According to Justice Ministry figures for 2012, 2,545 people applied for asylum, of whom 368 were from Myanmar—the second largest nationality group after the Turkish.

Japan accepted 18 refugees during the year.

Human rights activists, lawyers and migrant communities in Japan have complained for years about harsh treatment by immigration officials and about conditions at detention centers.

A Ghanaian died in 2010 while he was being restrained allegedly by up to 10 immigration officials as they tried to deport him.

Rights activists have claimed he was gagged with a towel, recalling a similar but non-fatal case in 2004 when a female Vietnamese deportee was handcuffed, had her mouth sealed with tape and was rolled up in blankets.

(c) 2013 AFP

10 comments on “AFP: Asylum-seeker dies after collapsing at J detention center while doctor at lunch

  • Yet more racism by those with power in Japan. when is the international community going to issue arrest warrants for these crimes against humanity?

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    I think JCLU should file class action lawsuits against the National Immigration Bureau and the Ministry of Justice.

    — You can’t do class-action lawsuits in Japan. That said, I think they should get into some of these detention centers and find some plaintiffs. That they can do.

  • I seem to recall, (hoping my memory serves me well?), Kunio ‘The Hangman’ Hatoyama, while reigning supreme in the Ministry of inJustice in Nagata-cho once pronounced that, “Human rights in Japan are for Japanese humans only.” Or words to that effect. Regardless of the platitudes and the assurances from the Abe-Aso-Ishihara-ites that the Constitution covers these events involving NJ, it is patently clear that they do not.

    One of the stories about the ‘Narita Dungeon’, tells it like it is. Maybe a copy of this should be sent to prospective athletes hoping to attend what I have dubbed the ‘Polonium-210 Olympiad’, before they end up in one of the ‘Gulags’ reserved only for international entrants.

    Again, rather than sitting comfortably, Chianti in hand, and expecting Debito to do it all, howzabout YOU take a few minutes, copy the link enclosed, and send it to YOUR country’s national Olympic Team, with a serious caveat about what might befall YOUR country’s athletes, should some harumphing, supremacist, constipated goon at Narita take a disliking to one of YOUR compatriots, and detain him/her, just because s/he can? Forewarned is forearmed. For my part, I have to drive to Italy next week, so I will formulate a letter to M. Rogge, and drop it off at IOC HQ in Lausanne en route, just so they have ‘the big picture!’ To quote the inimitable Jack Palance, “The day ain’t over yet!”

    — I can’t find any reference to Kunio’s “Japanese humans only” quote in’s archives (but I did find his statement that Japanese have a stronger concept of life than Westerners — to justify Japan’s continued use of the death penalty).

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    DR, are you sure you’re not thinking of the officials at the National Police Agency who were reported to have said something similar by the policemen being trained by them?

    That’s here. Saga Public Prosecutor goes public in 2011 with his training that yakuza and foreigners have no human rights.

  • Thanks to Debito and Mark In Yayoi. I recall reading comments to the effect that human rights applied only to Japanese in Japan in either the Daily Yomiuri or the Japan Time prior to my 2008 departure from Japan. Like I say above, the exact source eludes me. It may not have been Kunio, although it sounds like something he’d say. It may have been in the heated dialogue and kerfuffle that swirled temporarily in the debate about the injustice of the introduction of fingerprinting in 2007, or in response to a UN Rapporteur’s findings. I will dig a little, and post here if I find it. But, take a look at the link on the Narita dungeon….it’s even referenced in The Economist and Asia Times. The story has legs, so to speak, and hopefully they’ll gallop!

  • The japanese have a stronger concept of life than westerners? Well, not that long ago, people here used to disembowel themselves before having to bear the shame of their own (or other people’s) “sins”. For christ’s sake, they used to cut heads like watermellons for being “insulted”…what are we talking about? what higher concept of life is that? To ask your fellow countrymen to go and die for the happiness and long life of the emperor? Come on…!!

  • @ Manule #7

    But the Japanese always claim to be the opposite of what they are;
    ‘We Japanese are more in harmony with nature’= concrete in every river!
    ‘Good manners are very important to we Japanese’= be as rude as you please to anyone you don’t know personally.
    ‘We Japanese are peace-loving’= Got to get ready to fight the Chinese!
    ‘We Japanese are a law abiding nation’= Yakuza, bank scandal, Olympus?
    ‘Japan is a democracy’= speak out against the government and you must be a traitor/ spy.
    ‘We Japanese value human life more than foreigners’= Nanking? Manila? Unit 731?

    The things the Japanese protest most loudly and frequently that they are, are the things they have the biggest insecurity that they are not.

  • @Manule:
    During the Vietnam War, US General William Westmoreland said exactly the same thing; namely, that Americans valued life more than the dirty yellow Vietnamese. It was also claimed to be true by the British in India at the time of the Raj. Racist imperialists have always believed their own people to be innately more moral, and thus superior, to the “other”.

  • @ Kimpatsu #9

    You are spot on with that comment, and as Debito has pointed out before, the fact that the Allies treated the defeated Japanese people infinitely more humanely than the Japanese treated those that they defeated must undoubtably be a constant itch of embarrassment that can’t be scratched- hence all the statements about the Japanese valuing ‘life’, and ‘peace’, and ultimately just denying their atrocities as ‘an incorrect understanding of history’.


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