November 11, 2021
In response to the tragic deaths that occurred at an immigration facility in March, we call for thorough and appropriate protection for foreign victims of domestic violence and improvement of measures.
On March 6, 2021, a 33-year-old Sri Lankan woman, Ms. Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali, lost her life in a detention facility of the Nagoya Immigration Bureau.
From the contents of the “Investigation Report on the Death of an Inmate at the Nagoya Immigration Bureau on March 6, 2021” (hereinafter referred to as the “Report”) released on August 10 by the Immigration Bureau of the Ministry of Justice (hereinafter referred to as the “Bureau”), it became clear that the Bureau’s response was inhumane and that it failed to take necessary medical measures. We strongly protest the inappropriate response of the Immigration Bureau, which took away her irreplaceable life, and we believe that it is an extremely serious problem that cannot be overlooked that Ms. Wishma Sandamali, in particular, did not receive proper protection despite her complaint of domestic violence (hereinafter sometimes referred to as “DV”) and her request for help.
Problem 1: The Nagoya Immigration Bureau’s handling of DV victims
Ms. Wishma Sandamali was detained without being protected as a victim of DV, even though she was a DV victim who consulted the police for help after suffering DV from the man she was dating. “When a victim of domestic violence or a foreign national who is considered to be a victim of domestic violence is recognized during a residence examination or deportation procedure, the foreign national should be interviewed about the details of the domestic violence case” (Article 3-1 (1)). Also, “If they wish to do so, they should contact the Spousal Violence Counseling Center or police officer in the area where they reside” (Article 5-2) according to the “Guideline for Measures Concerning Domestic Violence Cases”. However, the Bureau failed to take any action based on the DV measures, even though Ms. Wishma Sandamali had complained that she had been subjected to DV.
Problem 2: The initial response of the police
According to the Report, in the application for provisional release submitted by Ms. Wishma Sandamali on January 4, 2021, she stated that she had “appeared before the police and told them that her boyfriend had been violent” as the reason for requesting provisional release (page 57 of the report). This situation could have been prevented if the police had cooperated with the Spousal Violence Counseling and Support Center and had protected her in the shelter at a women’s counseling center, instead of the Immigration Bureau. In order to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again, the police response and the Bureau’s response should be thoroughly examined.
Problem 3: DV judgment in the Report
The Report states that the staff should have interviewed Ms. A (Ms. Wishma Sandamali) in accordance with the Guideline, but it is not clear whether Ms. A (Ms. Wishma Sandamali) would have been recognized as a victim of DV even if the staff had followed the procedure. The conclusion of the Report is extremely narrow in its view of cases in which a person should be protected as a victim of DV, and it displays nothing short of a gross lack of awareness of DV. The results of this investigation are highly reprehensible and show that if the Bureau, which has little knowledge of DV, is left to deal with DV victims, many victims will continue to be detained without being recognized as victims.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Justice, the number of DV victims recognized by local immigration offices nationwide is only in the double digits every year (82 cases in 2019). In the past, the reasons for this have been cited as the lack of support information and the inability of consultation services to respond to victims, but this case has revealed a more serious problem: the extremely poor understanding of DV at immigration offices.
Therefore, we request the following.
Part 1. To the relevant ministries and agencies:
- To the Immigration and Refugee Management Agency of the Ministry of Justice
- Reconsideration of the response to DV victims in the report
- The Immigration Bureau should immediately start to fundamentally revise the procedures for DV victims
- Investigate and clarify the reasons why the Guideline was not thoroughly disseminated to the frontline staff in this case, investigate the status of dissemination and implementation of the measures at facilities nationwide, compile measures for improvement, and announce the policy for the improvement of training methods.
- To the police
When the police receive a consultation from a foreigner, if there is a complaint of domestic violence, regardless of whether or not the person has a status of residence, they should report it to the Spousal Violence Counseling and Support Center, not the Immigration Bureau, and ask for a response.
Part 2. Law revision
We call for the following revisions of the law:
- Revision of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act; and
- Revision of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act
We recognize that both the verification of this problem and the measures to prevent its recurrence are extremely inadequate, and we call for a thorough verification and the formulation of measures to prevent its recurrence, especially the prompt revision of the law and the guidelines for measures.
Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan
Japan Network Against Trafficking In Persons (JNATIP)
All Japan Women’s Shelter Network
KYOFUKAI-Japan Christian Women’s Organization
Human Rights Now
All Japan Women’s Shelter Network firstname.lastname@example.org
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