Sri Lankan detainee dies at Japan immigration centre

TOKYO (AFP) - A Sri Lankan detainee has died after collapsing at an immigration detention centre in Japan, an official said on Tuesday, the latest in a handful of similar cases, with critics accusing guards of ignoring his pleas for help.

The death of a man one rights group named as Nickeles Fernando came just two days after a government probe found there was inadequate medical care at another immigration centre, where two detainees died in March.

A spokesman at the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau told AFP that a detainee in his 50s had died after complaining about "a sick feeling".

"We moved him into a solitary cell in the morning so that we would be able to observe him. Then at about 1.00 pm, he stopped moving and didn't respond to our calls.

"So we called an ambulance while giving him cardiac massage," she said, adding that he was confirmed dead by a doctor two hours later.

She denied that there was an unnecessary delay in summoning medical help, saying "we often call an ambulance if necessary".

But rights group, Provisional Release Association in Japan (PRAJ), said Fernando, 57, was ignored by guards when he asked for a doctor, citing information obtained by the dead man's nephew and fellow detainees.

"He had begun to complain about severe chest pain at about 7.00 am on Nov 22, but instead of calling a doctor, immigration officials moved him into a single cell from a shared cell," PRAJ member Hiromitsu Masuda told AFP.

"Although police are still investigating the cause of the death, to me it is nothing but a sudden death due to ignoring his condition," he said, adding that Fernando had been subjected to "terrible treatment"


- Autopsy -

A spokesman at the Tokyo Metropolitan Police said an autopsy had been carried out, but refused to reveal its findings. She did not give a clear reason for her refusal.

Fernando arrived in Japan on Nov 12, but was not permitted to enter the country and was sent from Tokyo's Haneda airport to the immigration centre in the capital about a week later, Masuda said.

Two days before his death, the justice ministry admitted an immigration centre in Ushiku northeast of Tokyo "did not have enough medical" facilities as they failed to provide access to in-house doctors around the clock.

That came after it investigated the deaths of two men at the centre earlier this year.

In March, an Iranian man in his 30s choked to death on food and a Cameroonian man in his 40s was found unconscious in his cell before he died.

In October last year, an asylum seeker - a member of Myanmar's Rohingya ethnic group - collapsed and died after staff at the Ushiku immigration centre failed to call for a medic, allegedly because the doctor was having lunch.

Japan tightly restricts the number of immigrants and asylum seekers it accepts.

According to Justice Ministry figures for 2013, 3,260 people applied for asylum, many from Turkey, Nepal and Myanmar, as well as countries in South Asia and Africa.

Japan accepted six refugees during the year, down from 18 in the previous year.