Ghanian dies while being deported March 22, scant media on it


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Hi Blog.  Here’s something shocking today.  I heard about this passim from UN Rep Bustamante on March 23 when he was in town asking about migrant worker issues.  I had heard nothing since then.  It took a rally the other day for it to make the news.  Anyone else see anything in the domestic press?  This sort of thing out to be reported much more widely.  Wonder where the investigation into this (if any) is going.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


50 rally for investigation of deportee’s death
Compiled from Kyodo, Staff report
The Japan Times, April 13, 2010, Courtesy of GS

The Japanese wife of a Ghanaian who died while being deported from Japan last month and some 50 supporters took to the streets Monday in Tokyo to demand a thorough investigation.

Holding a banner that read, “Uncover the truth behind the death of Mr. Suraj during his deportation,” the protesters, including Ghanaians living in Japan, marched through Roppongi shouting “We want justice.”

Although a police autopsy on Abubakar Awudu Suraj, 45, reportedly failed to pin down the cause of death and found no traces of violence, his wife and her supporters believe the death was probably caused by immigration officers.

The officers accompanied Suraj aboard a flight to Cairo from Narita International Airport on March 22 when he was being deported for illegally staying in Japan.

According to the police at the airport, Suraj suddenly turned violent aboard the plane, prompting the Japanese officers to restrain him. He then went limp and died…

Rest of the article at

20 comments on “Ghanian dies while being deported March 22, scant media on it

  • “Anyone else see anything in the domestic press? ”

    I posted this elsewhere. The link has since gone dead though.


     東京入国管理局が強制送還しようとしたガーナ人の男性が先月、成田空港で死亡した問題で、男性の 妻らが死亡の経緯を明らかにすることなどを求め、デモ 行進しました。


     ガーナ人男性は先月22日、成田空港で不法残留を理由に入 国管理局の職員が強制送還しようと搭乗させた機内で意 識を失い、その後、死亡が確認されています。デモの参 加者らは、男性の死亡の経緯を明らかにすることなどを 訴えました。

     警察によりますと、当時現場にいた入国管理局の職員 はおよそ10人で、男性が暴れ出したために取り押さえ たところ意識を失い、その後、死亡が確認されたという ことですが、司法解剖では死因となるような外傷や内臓 疾患は見つかっていません。

     入管側は男性の妻に「手錠とタオルを使って制止した 」と説明していますが、制止行為の詳細については明ら かにしていません。(12日13:13)

  • I don’t know about broadcast media because I haven’t watched TV for the last 2 years or so (so now I have a legitimate excuse for the NHK guy), but there are little one paragraph blurbs about it in the major online outlets:

    TBS has a short video for it but I don’t know if it made it to broadcast TV or not (you can actually see a photo of the Ghanaian man):

    Also, AFAIK there’s only one Japanese language outlet that picked up the demonstration by the Asian People’s Friendship Society, et al:
    強制送還の男性急死で抗議デモ ガーナ人ら東京で




    I can’t say that coverage is non-existent but its frustrating because this story definitely doesn’t seem to be making too many headlines. On a related note, there are also two Chechen refugees who were recently denied refugee status and will most likely meet their deaths when they get sent back to good ole Mother Russia:

    Not really encouraging news on the refugee front even with Ms. “change we can believe in” Chiba heading the MOJ.

    — Thanks very much for this!

  • I have to apologize about part of my previous comment because it was probably misleading linking to commentary about Chechen refugees when Mr. Suraj (God rest his soul) was not a refugee but had “illegally overstayed” in Japan for more than 20 years. I don’t know why I made the refugee connection there – probably because of all the recent refugee mistreatment going on… I mean, it’s not like this affects the outrage I feel at the MOJ but those are two different issues that shouldn’t be confused. My bad.

  • Steve von Maas says:

    If they put a towel in his mouth, they likely killed him. Quite a few otherwise healthy people die in the United States every year while being restrained by police. Police are now trained in most places to identify the signs of something called “excited delirium,” and to take appropriate action, but the deaths from this still occur, particularly if no follow-up treatment is provided. Lack of oxygen seems likely to be part of the deadly equation.

    With the following advice, I am not justifying anything whatsoever about this deportation case, or the actions of the police, or expressing any view of the merits or lack thereof in the Japanese Government’s position. I am speaking only as an American defense attorney who has both cross-examined and defended cops, and as a former cop myself, who understands how they are trained and how they think (and often don’t):

    If you find yourself in a physical altercation with police of any type, do not continue to struggle or resist in any way. Do everything you can possibly think of to signal your submission, and do your best to really listen to and comply with whatever orders they are giving you. Don’t fight with cops–they are trained and conditioned, above all other considerations, to avoid losing the fight, no matter what they have to do, and no matter how “dirty” the tactics they must employ. They are fairly likely to kill you, and the fact that the altercation may have begun over something relatively trivial will have no bearing on that likelihood.

  • I find it strange: hunger strike as a protest against police violence in the detention center, now suspected death due to such violence. And everything looks like hushed up by the Japanese authorities…It seems strange that they couldn’t find any cause of death. Health condition, anything?Just strange…

    — People just up and die, I guess. Pending further investigation.

  • Is it really so surprising that a police autopsy would fail to find cause of death of one who died in police custody? Quis custiodet ipsos custodes?

    Here’s hoping this gets 10x the coverage it’s found so far.

  • Jack said:

    “Is it really so surprising that a police autopsy would fail to find cause of death of one who died in police custody?”

    I have no data, of course, but this case just reminds me of the case of one foreign guy (whose name escapes me) who was found dead in his apartment in Kyushu (I think) and the police report stated that he had died of dehydration.

    All fine and well, until his brother came over looking for answers and there was a re-examination which determined that he had actually died of blood loss due to large cranial wounds.

    Does anyone else remember this case? It was only a few years ago.

    — Of course. Matthew Lacey Case. Here it is:


    Addressed to Keiko Chiba, the Minister of Justice (of Japan)
                   Formal Letter of Grievance

    This past March 22nd, upon being deported by the Tokyo Immigration Services, at the expense of the (Japanese) government, Ghanaian national Mr. ABUBAKAR AWUDU SURAJ was killed as a result of the physical abuse carried out by immigration control officers from said Immigration Services. We are extremely outraged at the fact that immigration officers, who are expected to safely deport individuals, could (actually) kill an individual that was seeking residence (in Japan), regardless of the reasons given.

    Mr. ABUBAKAR AWUDU SURAJ is survived by a Japanese spouse that he had been residing with for many years, and (Mr. ABUBAKAR AWUDU SURAJ) had been appealing to the Ministry of Justice to grant him special permission for residence [sic]. Mr. ABUBAKAR AWUDU SURAJ had no criminal record outside of his violation of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, and he had been living in Japan for more than 20 years, as an upstanding citizen. It goes without saying that he was deeply regretful about residing (in Japan) in violation of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, and he had submitted a formal apology to the Immigration Services, among other things. In July of last year, the Ministry of Justice/Immigration Services announced the “Guidelines Regarding Special Permission for Residence”, which in this case (clearly) show that Mr. ABUBAKAR AWUDU SURAJ should have been granted special permission for residence. Despite that however, the Immigration Services consistently rejected ABUBAKAR AWUDU SURAJ’s appeal for residency.

    In May of last year, (although) ABUBAKAR AWUDU SURAJ was once again detained, he refused to return to his home country, as he wished to continue living in Japan, together with his beloved wife. During this time, his wife was subjected to (emotional) distress, as well as psychological instability, and was placed in a situation in which she couldn’t go on living without the support of ABUBAKAR AWUDU SURAJ. Amidst this situation, the Tokyo Immigration Services, (represented by) Chief Nagaoka, showed an utter lack of understanding, and proceeded to forcibly deport ABUBAKAR AWUDU SURAJ, using government expenses. As of July of last year, Chief Nagaoka proceeded to detain (*all individuals) applying for refugee status, as well as (*all individuals) involved in (related) litigation in (the Japanese court system), in addition to repeatedly sending threatening statements (insinuating) that unless the (applicable individuals) agreed to return to their respective home countries that their (spouses) and children would be subject to detention.

    In light of all of the recent abuses carried out by the executive apparatuses of the Tokyo Immigration Services, in (clear) violation of human rights, we have no choice but to conclude that the death of ABUBAKAR AWUDU SURAJ was not merely a coincidental occurrence, but rather the result of an intentional act. When reflecting upon the regretful (demise) of ABUBAKAR AWUDU SURAJ, who was led to his violent death in a foreign land, leaving behind his beloved wife, we are overcome with outrage against the Tokyo Immigration Services rather than (mere) sorrow. At the same time, we would like to point out that the Ministry of Justice and the Minister of Justice bear grave responsibility (in this matter). As such, we express our deep grievance and strongly demand that (the Ministry of Justice) conduct a full investigation, with the aim of preventing this (sort of tragedy) in the future, as well as the doling out of penalties, etc., for those connected to this murder, as well as those individuals in charge.


    (*Not sure if this applies to “all” individuals or “some” individuals)

    — Link please if you have one.

    Yuko Tatara, Koichi Kodama and Mayumi Yoshida

    Another illegal immigrant in Japan, another death:
    The fatal journey of Mr. Suraj

    10:00-11:00 Tuesday, April 20, 2010
    (The speech and Q & A will be in Japanese with English interpretation)

    On March 22, Mr. Abubakar Awudu Suraj, an illegal immigrant who was in
    the process of being deported to his native country of Ghana, died in

    The circumstances surrounding Mr. Suraj’s death are unknown. What is
    clear is that the immigration officers used a towel and handcuff to
    restrain Mr. Suraj as he was boarding an Egypt Air flight. In February,
    a first attempt to send Mr. Suraj back to Ghana had failed. Since then,
    he had been subject to confinement. Married since 2006 to Japanese
    national Yuko Tatara, he had spent the equivalent of 2 years in
    detention for no other crime than staying illegally.

    The death of Mr. Suraj follows the suicide by hanging of a South Korean
    man a week ago in the Ibaraki detention center. And the self-hanging of
    a young Brazilian man in Ibaraki again. And a hunger strike by 70
    detainees at the Osaka detention center in March.

    The appalling conditions Japan is placing illegal immigrants in have
    been regularly denounced. Immigration authorities in particular, which
    lack judicial oversight, have the ability to indefinitely detain people,
    breakup families by deporting one of their members, and so on. More
    tragedies are to come.

    10 days ago, Jorge Bustamante, U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of
    immigrants, concluded a Japan visit at the end of which he was very
    critical of Japan.

    Come and hear from Yuko Tatara, wife of the late Mr. Suraj, Koichi
    Kodama, Lawyer and Mayumi Yoshida, Deputy Representative of Asian
    People’s Friendship Society.

    Please reserve in advance, 3211-3161 or
    (still & TV cameras inclusive). Reservations and cancellations are not
    complete without confirmation.

    Professional Activities Committee

    多々良 優子、児玉 晃一、吉田 真由美
    (スピーチ日本語: 逐次通訳付)

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    he had spent the equivalent of 2 years in
    detention for no other crime than staying illegally.

    There are major crimes that earn you less than two years in jail. Why was he “detained” for so long? Was he appealing his case?

    — Attend the press conference and find out. I’m a member of FCCJ, Mark. Let me know. I’ll sponsor you.

  • This article is not directly related but is an interesting read.

    Infernal affairs: Errant cops struggling to clean up their act

    TOKYO —

    “The year before last, about 250 policemen and civilian employees of the police were summarily dismissed. Prior to the major reforms implemented in 2000, however, these figures were far fewer.”

    A freelance journalist, referred to only as “T,” tells a special issue of Shukan Jitsuwa (May 2) magazine subtitled “The Taboo” about more stringent efforts by police to police themselves.

    “T” estimates internal disciplinary measures may total about 1,000 cases per year; however, only a few result in offenders’ arrest or prosecution while still employed by the police.

    “First, the authorities will nudge offenders out by getting them to resign, so they would be described in any negative news reports as ‘a former policeman,’” says “T.”

    Unless their offense was serious enough to warrant prosecution, resignation enables them to receive their pension. And some, flaunting their experience as an ex-cop, might even manage to land a civilian job via the “amakudari” system. Of course, the pension payouts also buy their silence.

    To make matters worse, the media are also discouraged from covering police indelicacies. Reporters who too energetically pursue news of crimes by cops might find themselves locked out of the police reporters’ clubs, which cuts off their access to information from official channels.

    That’s why such cases seldom become major news items, “T” points out.

    One exception to the above were revelations by the Hokkaido Shimbun in 2004 about a police slush fund. Although the scale of the malaise was huge—reportedly one-third of the entire Hokkaido force of 10,000 men was said to be involved—only about 100 were hit with disciplinary measures. The police handed back over 250 million yen of their ill-gotten gains to the prefecture.

    The head of Hokkaido’s prefectural police brazenly asserted at a press conference that there was “no evidence of improper accounting or diverting of funds to personal use.”

    Shukan Jitsuwa is particularly contemptuous of the media’s cozy collusion with police, such as through broadcasts of those ubiquitous “Police 24 Hours” type programs, TV specials it describes as a “120-minute-long PR commercial for the police.”

    The contents of these “phony documentaries” are carefully manipulated to make the police look good, and carefully avoid their cock-ups, such as raids where they pounce on what turns out to be the wrong location or failing to nab a suspect.

    “Hey,” suggests “T” tongue in cheek, “how about having cops appearing in a comedy-variety, show with scenes of crimes committed by cops instead?”

    There’s certainly plenty of material to work with. Like these:

    —Aug, 2009, in Osaka: A patrolman (age 26) publicly exposed himself on the way home from a drinking party with colleagues.

    —Oct, 2009, in Hokkaido: A 45-year-old inspector was dismissed after he took home a 17-year-old female runaway and allowed her to stay for three weeks.

    —Oct 2009, in Tokyo: A 25-year-old patrolman was arrested after using an “encounter site” to supposedly invite a 16-year-old girl to a hotel for a “job interview” at a sex delivery service.

    —Dec 2009, in Kanagawa: A 32-year-old sub-inspector was caught attempting to take photos up women’s skirts on an escalator in a station building.

    In addition to these, adds Shukan Jitsuwa, there are plenty of other cases: sexual assault, fraud, extortion and accepting bribes. During a police raid on a sex shop, two off-duty cops were found in the waiting room; the names of several officers were found on the customer list of an illegal money lending business; and cops were nabbed with stimulant drugs that had previously been confiscated from a pusher.

    The magazine, nonetheless, reminds readers that these bad apples represent only a tiny percentage of the total number of men in blue. Still, they are part of a privileged group endowed with authority by the state.

    The police are a rigidly disciplined organization, and some officers become stressed out and get themselves in trouble, “T” observes. “Perhaps this is the reason why the others tend to be sympathetic toward colleagues who go astray.”

  • The autopsy may have actually confirmed a lot.
    The person was found to be absent of any underlying medical condition,or injuries and it is confirmed that the person was restrained and in a high expressed emotional state.Recent research assumes that the person maybe have died of positional asphyxia if all of the above is confirmed.The knowledge and expertise of the pathologist regarding positional/postural asphyxiation needs to be questioned as not all pathologists are experts or knowledgeable in this area, and not all restrainers are fully aware of this either.Most are trained to restrain a person safely, which also has the effect of not leaving any marks.
    I am wondering if any petechiae was found.
    Is family seeking another autopsy?
    Do they have a lawyer who has dealings with positional/postural asphyxia?

  • @Sendaiben

    >Quick question: why is someone with a Japanese wife being deported for overstaying? Was he denied a spouse visa?

    I thought the same exact thing when I first read this and after some poking around I found the following explanation at the Asahi Tokyo Law Offices website (

    (Visa) overstayers face difficulties when it comes to marriage. In regards to this, although many individuals (falsely) believe overstayers (illegal overstayers) are not able to marry, the (rights) of a couple wishing to get married is a human rights issue (Japanese Constitution Article 24: “marriage is based solely on the mutual consent between the two sexes”), and based on federal Japanese law, the legal system does not allow the government to prevent (such marriages). Please note however that one must be cautious (in these situations) as foreign laws can affect (these marriages) at the international private law level to potentially cause problems. Also, (one must consider that) although (this kind of marriage) is legally possible, in practice, there have been cases where (such couples) have been denied marriage. For instance, there are numerous cases where marriage registrations have been denied at ward and municipal offices, the entrance (for such paperwork, so to speak). Additionally, (one must consider) that the issue of whether overstayers (illegal overstayers) can marry or not, and whether they can (continue) residing in Japan is an (entirely) different matter. As such, please keep the above points in consideration if considering marriage as an overstayer (illegal overstayer). In short, marriage alone does not affect (your status) as an overstayer (illegal overstayer), and your right to (continue) residing in Japan is not guaranteed.


    IANAL but my interpretation from the above is that the right for an overstayer and a Japanese citizen (or any two individuals for that matter – perhaps limited to opposite sex couples by the wording) to marry is protected by the Japanese Constitution and in Mr. Suraj’s case, he was able to find a local gov’t office that was sympathetic enough to process his marriage registration. Hence, they were LEGALLY married under Japanese law. Unfortunately – rather TRAGICALLY, marriage to a Japanese national does not guarantee the right to reside together in Japan, at least under current law and precedent.

  • Blog posting by the APFS on April 12th:

    On the afternoon of April 12th, our lawyer, Mr. Suraj’s widow, and two APFS staff members took action demanding a fair investigation by appealing to the Chiba Prefectural Police Headquarters and the Chiba District Public Prosecutor’s Office, both of which include the Narita International Airport Police Station (the body investigating this incident) within their respective jurisdictions.

    At the Chiba Prefectural Police Headquarters, the superintendent of the 1st Criminal Investigation Section agreed to meet with us and we were told the following:

    -Said case is currently subject to an ongoing investigation that is being carried out by the Narita International Airport Police Station in coordination and under the guidance of the Chiba Prefectural Police Headquarters and the Chiba District Public Prosecutor’s Office. This case is scheduled to be forwarded to the prosecutor’s office under the heading of some form of a criminal charge.

    -The approximately 10 immigration control center employees involved in the matter are currently being interrogated.

    -There exists videotape footage showing images of the victim being deported. Said footage is currently being analyzed.

    -The victim’s corpse (that of Mr. Suraj) is being subjected to ongoing detailed examination. Blood samples and the internal organs of the victim are being examined.

    At the Chiba District Public Prosecutor’s Office, we were able to meet a supervisor, joined by two other individuals, who described himself as in charge of handling cases that go to trial. We were told that he was unaware of the details of the case, as no prosecutor had yet been assigned and as the case had not yet been forwarded to the public prosecutor’s office.

    Afterwards, we proceeded to conduct a press conference and we were able to give an explanation to the media on this current case as well as an account on the action that we performed throughout that day.

    What was most vexing about this ordeal is how the bereaved (Mr. Suraj’s widow) has not received a forthcoming explanation from any of the (authorities). Were it not for this sort of action taking place to appeal to (the authorities), (Mr. Suraj’s widow) would have only received minimal information as to the developments of this investigation. We believe it is unjust that Mr. Suraj’s widow, who is already suffering greatly due to the loss of her beloved husband, should be required to actively participate in this process (in order to receive some kind of a response). As this incident resulted from the actions of employees of the Immigration Control Center, Mr. Suraj’s widow is (deeply) concerned whether the police, which is (an organization composed) of civil servants as well, are capable of conducting a fair investigation and (properly) forwarding this case to the public prosecutor’s office. She admitted to us that she worries about the same question every night and that she can hardly sleep because of this.


    Please note that this blog post was made more than a week ago. The aforementioned autopsy has already been performed as mentioned in the comments above, but this is the first time I’ve heard of any video tape evidence, and although I’m not too hopeful, I pray that this sheds some light on what really happened and I hope that they’re serious about making indictments.

  • Jamal Ali illias says:

    I think human right organization, should do something about this immigration thing, cos are all human beins. No one shoulb be subjected to this ordeal.

  • Finally went through the courts…and….

    The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal for compensation from the family of a Ghanaian man who died after being restrained by immigration officials during deportation.
    In a decision dated Wednesday, the top court’s Second Petty Bench upheld a lower court ruling that overturned an earlier order for the state to pay damages to the family.
    According to the final ruling, Abubakar Awudu Suraj, 45, died after being restrained when he was put on a flight to Cairo at Narita airport near Tokyo in March 2010.
    He resisted the officials trying to get him on the plane. The deportee was gagged with a towel and forced to lean forward while seated in the cabin.
    In March 2014, the Tokyo District Court admitted that the man suffocated because of the officials’ action, saying it was an “unlawful act” to force him to lean forward while seated even though he was not resisting forcefully.
    The district court ordered the state to pay about ¥5 million ($47,000) in damages to the plaintiffs, his wife and mother.
    But the Tokyo High Court judged that the man died due to chronic heart disease, rejecting all damages claims by the family.
    In July 2012, the Chiba District Public Prosecutor’s Office decided not to file charges against the officials due to lack of evidence.


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