TOKYO (TR) – A male Turkish national has filed a lawsuit over a beating he endured while in detention at an immigration facility in Ibaraki Prefecture last year, TBS News reported last month.
On January 19, 2019, several immigration personnel repeatedly beat the victim, who goes by the pseudonym “Deniz,” at the Higashi Nihon Immigration Center in Ushiku City, Ibaraki.
Edited footage of the incident shot by the Immigration Bureau shows officials putting the 40-year-old Deniz in a headlock, shoving his face and twisting his arms as they attempt to restrain him between 11:00 p.m. and midnight.
Deniz is currently suing the government for damages over the assault. During the trial, his lawyer demanded that the video footage be provided by the Immigration Bureau.
In the proceedings, the bureau acknowledged that there “was misconduct,” but denied that anything illegal took place.
When the network visited the Immigration Bureau, an official declined to comment due on the grounds that the matter is “individual” in nature.
Deniz, an ethnic Kurd, sought refugee status upon arrival to Japan from Turkey in 2007.
Though he was not granted refugee status, he obtained what is called “special permission to stay.”
In 2011, he married a Japanese woman. After the Ministry of Justice and the Immigration Bureau did not grant him status of residence, he was detained at the immigration center in Ushiku in 2016.
According to TBS News, Deniz, who has attempted suicide multiple times, remains at the center.
Requested a tranquilizer
Prior to the incident, Deniz requested a tranquilizer since he could not sleep in his cell. The request was rejected by an immigration official who claimed that Deniz had stopped taking other drugs due to their ineffectiveness.
The refusal led to a dispute. “Don’t raise your voice,” the official said. “Let’s go to another room.”
“I don’t want to leave my room,” Deniz said. “If you have something to say, say it here. I want everyone else to listen.”
Up to fifteen immigration officials arrived and hauled Deniz into another room. After taking hold of each of his limbs, they pinned him to the ground and put him in the aforementioned headlock. They also handcuffed his wrists and shackled his ankles.
“You are breaking my arm”
The footage also reveals the exchanges between Deniz and the officials.
“This is too much, too much — it is painful,” Deniz shouts at one point. “Does it hurt?” asks one official.
“You are breaking my arm,” Deniz screams, “Why are you killing me? Stop.” An immigration official says, “Don’t resist.”
Over the next five days, he remained inside a solitary cell covering only three tatami mats of space, or about 5 square meters.
After Deniz lodged a complaint about the incident, the Immigration Bureau responded by saying that its actions were “reasonable.” According to him, abuse by officials at the center continues.
Incident in Osaka
The lawsuit is the second lodged in as many years by a Turkish national over alleged abuse by immigration officials.
Last year, Murat Orhan sought 4.5 million yen in suit a filed at the Osaka District Court after immigration officials at the bureau broke his arm when trying to overpower him at an facility in Osaka Prefecture.
“We hear about a lot of things [like the assaults by the staff],” said Kimiko Tanaka, the director of a support group for detainees at the Ushiku facility. “The inmates inside are experiencing tremendous stress. There is no doubt that immigration officials are also strained.”
TBS News says that one source of the problem is an increase detentions considered lengthy, which is defined as six months or more.
According to government data, the number the number of persons detained at immigration facilities in 2013 was 914, of whom 263 were detained for more than six months. By 2018, the figure for lengthy detentions had shot up to 704.
The Immigration Bureau is aware of how the matter might reflect negatively upon the Olympic Games that will be held in Tokyo this year.
A bureau document released in 2016 read, “In order to establish a safe and secure environment at the start of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, it is urgent that the number of foreign visitors who are worried about Japan and society is significantly reduced.”
The document includes the large number of “foreigners who avoid repatriation [and are detained for six months of more]” as a potential concern.
“I want to take my wife’s hand and hold her close”
In June, Deniz went on a hunger strike. He was granted what is called a “provisional release” in August. However, he was taken back into custody two weeks later.
A camera crew for TBS News visited Deniz at the immigration center on December 18.
On camera, he acknowledged that his several attempts at suicide were due to uncertainty about when he would be released, distress over not seeing his wife and repeated abuse by immigration officials. The network showed his left wrist, which had several scars.
He told the network that while he is in his cell he often thinks about being reunited with his wife.
“I want to take my wife’s hand and hold her close,” he said. “I want to eat rice together with her. I want to go to a movie. I want to joke around.”