Foreign detainees continue hunger strike at Japanese immigration center

Foreign detainees continue hunger strike at Japanese immigration center

Foreigners detained at a Japanese immigration detention center are on a hunger strike after an Indian man detained at the center died in an apparent suicide on Friday after being denied release.

An Indian man died in an apparent suicide on Friday at the East Japan Immigration Centre, northwest of Tokyo. The man is believed to have killed himself a day after authorities refused to release him. More than 40 detainees have been on fast since Sunday, protesting against the long-term detention and the inmates' inability to secure temporary release.

Majid Seyed Nejat, an Iranian taking part in the protest, told Reuters by phone that 19 detainees held in the same block as the Indian launched the hunger strike to pressure the authorities to address complaints. Activists, lawyers and migrants in Japan have complained for years about harsh treatment by some immigration officials and dire conditions at detention centres.

Despite the population in Japan shrinking and companies struggling with the worst labour shortages in more than 40 years, immigration is still a hard option since cultural and ethnic homogeneity is deeply rooted.

"We want to know what responsibility they will take for the death", he said.

Mitsuru Miyasako, an activist who works with immigrants and foreign detainees, said inmates in five separate blocks at the centre had since joined the strike. This is not the only centre that has seen such hunger strikes. He declined to comment on the nationality of the strikers or how many people were refusing food, but Kyodo News said more than 40 detainees were involved.

The UN Committee Against Torture has denounced Japan's long and sometimes indefinite holding of foreigners in breach of immigration laws, and the detention facilities in Japan have been always been criticized for providing poor medical treatment to detainees with health issues.