A Japanese court on Friday ordered the government to pay 1.65 million yen in damages to the bereaved family of a Cameroonian man who died while being detained in an immigration control facility in eastern Japan.
The mother of the man, who died aged 43 in the Higashi-Nihon Immigration Center in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, in March 2014, had demanded that the government pay 10 million yen in damages, alleging that immigration officials failed to send him to a medical institution despite his claims of ill health.
The ruling “confirmed that it is but natural to send someone who is suffering to the hospital,” said the defense counsel, describing it as a “breakthrough” that the court determined the state had the duty of care over the man.
In handing down the judgment, the Mito District Court ruled the immigration bureau failed to carry out its duty, saying it should have sent the man to a hospital immediately.
But Presiding Judge Masahiko Abe ruled out linking the bureau’s actions to the man’s death. “As the man’s health had rapidly deteriorated, it does not necessarily mean he might have been saved if he had been taken immediately to a hospital,” he said.
The plaintiff’s side will consider appealing the case, while the Justice Ministry said it will look into the ruling and take the appropriate action.
In a March 2022 hearing, Abe had recommended that the two sides reach an out-of-court settlement.
According to the ruling, the Cameroonian man was detained by the center in November 2013 after he was refused entry into the country at Narita airport outside Tokyo a month earlier.
He was reported to have health issues, including diabetes, and on March 27, 2014, he was transferred to a recuperation room monitored by a security camera after complaining of feeling unwell.
Although he underwent a medical examination in the facility, his condition worsened until his death days later, on March 30.
Until authorities found him in cardiopulmonary arrest, he had not been seen by any doctor outside the facility, nor had he been sent by ambulance to a hospital, the ruling said.
Security camera footage taken the night before his death showed the man falling from his bed to the floor and crying out, “I’m dying.”
The man’s bereaved family maintained that the immigration agency’s response to his illness was illegal, while the national government sought the case’s dismissal arguing the response was appropriate.
The government had said that leaving the judgment on dispatching detainees by ambulance to staff without medical knowledge is difficult, and even if the man had been transported from the facility, he still might not have been saved.
Treatment of foreign nationals detained at Japanese immigration facilities has come under increased scrutiny in recent years.
In March 2021, 33-year-old Sri Lankan Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali died in a Nagoya detention facility after complaining of ill health, including vomiting and stomachaches, for around a month.
Her family members say it is clear she would have lived if immigration bureau officials had given her appropriate care.
Her death contributed to a backlash that culminated in the government shelving in May 2021 revisions to the immigration law, which included measures to make it easier to deport asylum seekers.
Plans to resubmit the bill in the Diet session in the fall have also been abandoned, government sources said earlier.
Wishma’s family is also seeking damages from the government over her death. Her sisters filed a complaint in August seeking an independent review of the Nagoya District Public Prosecutors Office’s decision not to prosecute 13 people working at the facility when she died.
Prosecutors said they could not make a conclusion on her cause of death or establish a causal link between her treatment and her death.
Shoichi Ibusuki, a defense lawyer representing her family, said the ruling regarding the Cameroonian man was the “first-ever ruling that found the immigration facility responsible for a death.”
Source: Japan Today