Long-term detentions at Japan’s immigration centers remain unresolved

September 20, 2022

TOKYO – The resolution of issues such as the long-term detention of foreign nationals in immigration control centers is likely to be delayed, as it has become certain that a bill amending the Immigration Control Act immigration will not pass in the current session of the Diet.

The government had sought to address the problem of foreign nationals detained for a long period before being deported due to illegal entry or overstaying in the country.

On Tuesday, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party told the opposition camp it would back off from passing the bill during the current session. Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a press conference the same day that the government had submitted the bill “as a necessary measure to address the urgent problems in the administration of the control of the immigration, such as long-term detention”.

The number of overstays reached 82,868 in January this year, an increase of around 22,000 compared to the same month in 2015. At the end of 2019, 649 foreign nationals refused to be deported, which accounts for about 70% of the 942 detainees in immigration control centers.

Some of these detainees fell ill while in police custody.

To avoid prolonged detentions, the government has included in the bill a system that would assign supervisors to these foreign nationals and allow them to remain outside immigration control centers until deportation. Under the proposed system, the Immigration Services Agency would appoint supervisors from among a person’s relatives and other individuals.

There have been many cases in which a person has made repeated applications for refugee status as a ploy to avoid deportation, so the bill also includes a rule that foreign nationals who apply for refugee status more than three times will be expelled, in principle.

However, the postponement of the bill means there is no indication of when these changes might be made.

“At the end of the day, we end up with the same immigration administration, which no one wanted,” Natsuo Yamaguchi, the head of LDP’s coalition partner Komeito, told a press conference on Tuesday.

“I wonder if the public fully understands the contents of the bill,” said Mari Kawamura, a professor of international law at Kyorin University. “[The government] should continue its efforts to protect foreign nationals in need of protection, through measures such as the extension of refugee protection.

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