The two sisters and lawyer of Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali, who died in detention, before their meeting with Japanese Minister of Justice Yoko Kamikawa in Tokyo on May 18, 2021.

The mobilization around the tragic death of a Sri Lankan woman detained by the immigration services forced the Japanese government to renounce, on Tuesday, May 18, a tightening of the rules for the expulsion of illegal aliens.

Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali died on March 6, in the solitude of her small cell in the Nagoya Detention Center (center), after more than two months of suffering from stomach problems and having lost more than 20 kg. Suspecting her of pretending to avoid deportation, the immigration services refused her hospitalization, despite her calls for help and the recommendation made in February by a gastroenterologist.

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University graduate and English teacher in her home country, Mme Sandamali, 33, arrived in Japan in June 2017 on a student visa. Enrolled in a Japanese school, she stopped attending classes and paying her school fees in early 2018, according to Yuhi Yokota, the deputy director of the establishment. She was expelled in early 2018. The school informed the immigration services of the loss of her student status. Without a residence permit, Mme Ratnayake applied for refugee status, which she was denied.

“Serious human rights violations”

In the meantime, the young woman moved in with her partner, also a Sri Lankan student, met in Japan. In August 2020, she asked for police protection against him, accusing him of violence. Having discovered that she was in an irregular situation, the police turned her over to the immigration authorities. While she wanted to return to Sri Lanka, her companion wrote a letter threatening her with death, even if she returned to her country. She then refused to leave, believing that she would be safer in Japan.

His detention continued until his death. His death has revived, in Japan and abroad, criticism of the asylum application management system. Only 47 refugees were granted asylum in the Archipelago in 2020. Three thousand nine hundred and thirty-six had requested it.

If this request is rejected, the refugee risks deportation. If he refuses to return to his country, he can be detained indefinitely. “We are forced to expel, the head of immigration in the justice ministry, Shoko Sasaki, told the foreign press in 2019. We do not want these people in our country who are in detention. “

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