Asylum-seeker dies after collapsing at detention center while doctor at lunch

By Harumi Ozawa

An asylum-seeker collapsed and died after staff at a Japanese immigration center failed to call for a medic, allegedly because the doctor was having lunch, a pressure group said Thursday.

Anwar Hussin, a member of Myanmar's Rohingya ethnic group, fell ill shortly after he was detained on Oct 9, according to People's Forum on Burma, a Japan-based NGO headed by a Japanese lawyer.

Citing the 57-year-old's cousin, the group said Hussin had been complaining of a headache all morning and fell unconscious as he began eating lunch in his cell.

Fellow detainees -- seven people of different nationalities -- called for help because he was vomiting and having spasms, the NGO said.

Detention center staff rejected their requests that a doctor be called, saying Hussin was just "having a seizure" and that the duty medic was on his lunch break, the group said, citing detainees who had spoken to the dead man's cousin.

A doctor was summoned 51 minutes after Hussin's collapse, according to a timeline given to his cousin by the center.

Staff made an emergency call four minutes after the doctor's arrival and 55 minutes after being made aware of the problem, the timeline showed.

Hussin died in hospital on Oct 14, it said.

A spokeswoman for the Tokyo Immigration Bureau said a man in his 50s from Myanmar died of subarachnoid haemorrhage -- a stroke -- after collapsing in the detention center, confirming the dates given by the pressure group.

But she declined to confirm or deny the claims made by the NGO over how long it took for the doctor to be called.

"We refrain from disclosing details because it concerns private matters," said the spokeswoman.

"We are aware that some people have complained the man was neglected for some time," she said, adding the bureau believes staff handled the case appropriately. She said officials had explained the situation to the man's surviving family in Japan.

The People's Forum on Burma, which supports democratization of Myanmar and aids refugees from the country when they arrive in Japan, disputes this.

"The bureau did not inform the family of (Hussin's) hospitalization. It was learnt from other detainees," said a spokeswoman.

Immigration officials gave few details until two days after Hussin's death, the spokeswoman said, and then only when his cousin repeatedly pressed them.

Hussin came to Japan in 2006 and made two applications for asylum, both of which were rejected, according to the group, which said he was waiting for the result of his second appeal when he was detained.

The Rohingya -- described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities -- face travel restrictions, forced labor and limited access to health care and education in Myanmar, rights groups say.

Myanmar views its population of roughly 800,000 Muslim Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and denies them citizenship.

It was not immediately possible to independently verify the NGO's claims over Hussin's death.

But Shogo Watanabe, the lawyer who leads the NGO, said detention centers were frequently slower than they should be in emergency medical situations.

"This is the result when the country has failed to protect people who need to be protected," he told AFP.

Hiroka Shoji, of Amnesty International Japan, said it was worrying that immigration staff apparently had power of veto over whether or not a sick detainee should see a doctor.

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

According to Justice Ministry figures for 2012, 2,545 people applied for asylum, of whom 368 were from Myanmar -- the second largest nationality group after the Turkish.

Japan accepted 18 refugees during the year.

Human rights activists, lawyers and migrant communities in Japan have complained for years about harsh treatment by immigration officials and about conditions at detention centers.

A Ghanaian died in 2010 while he was being restrained allegedly by up to 10 immigration officials as they tried to deport him.

Rights activists have claimed he was gagged with a towel, recalling a similar but non-fatal case in 2004 when a female Vietnamese deportee was handcuffed, had her mouth sealed with tape and was rolled up in blankets.

© (c) 2013 AFP

©2023 GPlusMedia Inc.

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where is your respect for another human life, regardless of nationality or race..? or are you all too numb after all these years in this job?

21 ( +23 / -3 )

Not a lot can be done about a stroke, but since the staff medic was out they should have called for an ambulance obviously.

But of course Japan's detention centers are infamous for inhumanity. One has to wonder what led to the stroke in the first place.

12 ( +15 / -4 )

What is Japan doing putting Rohingya people In detention cells??? It's not as if the Japanese are not aware of the genocide committed there is it?

7 ( +10 / -4 )

RIP. Considering the extremely low numbers of people that have ever received asylum in Japan, he chose the wrong country.

11 ( +12 / -2 )

They have treated these people like animals - worse, in fact. it's criminal. But nothing has been done.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

I'm guessing the rule was that an ambulance could not be called if the doctor has not agreed to it, and the doctor's lunch break is fixed. Can't have any deviation from the rules, can we...

10 ( +14 / -4 )

18 accepted out of over 2000 requests for asylum, that about says it all.

I'm surprised that oppressed/desperate people even attempt to come to Japan with such statistics and lack of concern for their fellow human beings -

Really sad story

7 ( +8 / -1 )

The headline is misleading - it was not the doctors fault. He was never called, therefore could not know someone was having a seizure.

The staff said he was "just having a seizure" .. the problem is was not for the staff to decide that. They cant go calling ambulances without a doctors permission - it could be a security risk.

I suppose they are trying to prevent people even trying to come to Japan as refugees.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

With only a slight difference in what's written on our passports, this could be any one of us. Scary thought.

4 ( +7 / -4 )

He was just having a seizure? I'm glad it wasn't serious then. Seriously though, absolutely zero care for the people they hold in custody.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

A little like Guantanamo bay maybe??

-5 ( +4 / -10 )

“We refrain from disclosing details because it concerns private matters,” said the spokeswoman.

Handy, that.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

Reading this news saddens me a lot. Regardless of wht ethnic group you're in, whether you're breaking the rules or not, when your sick and need medical help is one's right. It saddens me to know that humans can be so mean and leave no compassion into their hearts except be trained and programmed to do their jobs just like the staff in the prison where this fellow Hussin was detained. People should not forget that the unfortunate ones do have the right to live too,not hope and to be given a better chance, not to maltreat them just because they're refugees, or seeking asylum, and whatever purpose they want in life. It's all about compassion and love and time to give..why is it hard to give such? That's my question I often ask myself. This is just my opinion and have the full right to it!

5 ( +5 / -1 )

Disgusting to think that this man died the way he did because of a system that has no room for anything unless it was in the book and agreed to by a committee of unthinking numb skulls who leave no room for anything aside from what is in the book. If you are unsure what to do refer to the book and if it isn't in the book then refer to the book.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

The headline should have read something to the effect: "Asylum seeker dies in detention center because center staff refused to call a doctor". Lets put the blame where it belongs.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

"Rights activists have claimed he was gagged with a towel, recalling a similar but non-fatal case in 2004 when a female Vietnamese deportee was handcuffed, had her mouth sealed with tape and was rolled up in blankets."

Why on earth would a desperate asylum-seeker choose Japan? They get bound and gagged, die because someone's lunch break is more important than a human life, get deported back to Turkey or what have you only to 'disappear', and are treated like dirt all along the way. And what percentage of them get in?

4 ( +9 / -5 )

ControlFreakOct. 25, 2013 - 07:09AM JST Not a lot can be done about a stroke, but since the staff medic was out they should have called for an ambulance obviously.

With all due respect, but a slow subarachnoid haemorrhage, such as this one where the headache started in the morning and only reached dangerous levels by the afternoon is EASY for any qualified person to identify as a stroke. It is distinctive in terms of the pain levels, the rate at which the pain increases, the location of the pain and so forth.

The failure here is NOT that they failed to call the doctor at lunch. By that point it was already too late. The failure here is that they failed to call the doctor in the morning when the patient began feeling unwell. If someone complains about being unwell they have a right to medical attention, not to be left until it becomes a crisis.

The staff at the detention center clearly lacked ANY medical training and are not qualified to decide which symptoms merit calling the doctor and which do not. They acted beyond the scope of their training in making a medical decision. That's the real problem here. They should be arrested for practicing medicine without a license.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

More like a detention prison than a detention center.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Maybe is just another example of government employees asleep at the wheel and / or having to work in a complicated bureaucracy?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

you might have better luck getting asylum from NK than from japan. and since this is farely well known, why would he, or anyone else, try to get asylum here? japan is only good at contributing money to world issues and not physically helping them.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The Japanese staff treated these guys like criminals when then did nothing wrong, they came to this country and did not stay illegally, they requested to stay.

The sad thing is nothing will be done when in reality people should be fired and systems changed.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Everywhere in Japan, doctors are too much revered, and staff are often very reluctant to call doctors because they are afraid to bother doctors. I think that's what happened here.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The staff should be charged with voluntary manslaughter. Whatever the equivalent is in Japanese Law. They let someone die out of fear of interrupting lunch. That's so 14th century.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

Hussin died in hospital on Oct 14, it said.

In that case, the headline --- Asylum-seeker dies at detention center while doctor at lunch --- is incorrect.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

The sad thing is that if this happened in most other countries, citizens of that particular country would be outraged. I seriously doubt this will raise any concern among the safety Japanese. It will only be regrettable.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

The Rohingar could go to neigbouring Bangladesh where they came from originally .... if Bangladash did not close the door to them.

Instead they buy airplane tickets and travel half around the world to infidel Japan, which incidetally is also buddhist, just like the Burma that they hate so much. Go figure.

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

I just googled rohingya and from the looks they are more bangladeshi than they are burmese, cant blame the myanmar gov for considering them as immigrants.

one thing Im always frustrated in japan is its rigidity in following 'procedures'. At some situations decisions need to be made on the spot even if its not in the 'manual'. They should put something like 'follow the method of conduct... except in unexpected situations or emergencies with due immediate consultation with colleagues on consideration of proper actions'

2 ( +3 / -1 )

"Asylum-seeker dies at detention center while doctor at lunch"

typical service perhaps for non JN Asylum-seeker ?

Why on earth would a desperate asylum-seeker choose Japan?

Perhaps all Asylum-seekers should run to the US?

Perhaps Japan, has tremendous burdens, like fukushima, the rise in nationalism, low birthrates, gelogical issues, the rise in unemployment, and violence, police corruption, like many countries but this country still holds the #3 global economy unlike other countries which sets it apart in that respect, but evidently coffee breaks are very important here.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Detention center staff rejected their requests that a doctor be called, saying Hussin was just “having a seizure”

I'm pretty sure that if one of the detention center staff fell down and started "just having a seizure", they'd get the doctor to come straight away.

Of course, nothing will come of this though.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Im asuming news like this doesnt reach the international stage. What horrible and cold people to not treat an individual in this situation. Theres no question about Japan deep down is a cold place. Pretends to be nice but very cold. You wont hear a peep from the public. Proof enough. These people need to be charged not fired. Isn`t it quite clear that this is criminal?

6 ( +7 / -1 )

But this kind of things happen everywhere in the world, staff making mistakes. Even doctors make mistakes.

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

Outraged citizens? It didn't even make the news on tv this morning. Instead they ran something about blacks in the US still getting the short end of a stick in life. They do have mirrors in Japan to take a good look in now and then I trust. What a shame, but not unexpected. And the handful they let in (the authorities probably think "shikata ga nai naa", because they have to let in some) are not allowed to work and do not get any financial support from the government. How is that not going to cause problems for these folks. If they don't have the fascilities, expertise or sincere good will towards these people, then Japan serves these refugees better by refusing all of them. Well, you got rid of one Banana kyowakoku Nippon!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

There are some very ignorant comments on this page about how the Rohingya should go back to Bangladesh. The history of the Rohingya in what is NOW Burma goes back the 15th century. There was possibly additional immigration during the time of the British Empire in the 19th century. The Rohingya language is not intelligible to Bengalese. There is no place for them to go in Bengal. As the British Empire broke up, boundaries were arbitrarily drawn by the British (or other imperial powers) without much regard for the existing boundaries of ethnics groups; sometimes the boundaries were drawn to deliberately divide ethnic groups, e.g., the Kurds in the Middle East who have no country at all.

Funny how computer literate upscale wealthy allegedly intelligent people can talk and act like 3rd world village bound superstitious peasants and their military dictators.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

As the British Empire broke up, boundaries were arbitrarily drawn by the British (or other imperial powers) without much regard for the existing boundaries of ethnics groups; sometimes the boundaries were drawn to deliberately divide ethnic groups, e.g., the Kurds in the Middle East who have no country at all.

So Myanmar gets the land but refuses to give the Rohingaya citizenship in their own land, and that's the sole responsibility of the British?

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

"Welcome to Japan ".

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

He should have flown to England, where the Labour government would have welcomed him and his extended family with open arms, free schools, free education for his children (with support in their native language), financial support and a free house located conveniently near to a mosque. Japan is notoriously difficult for asylum seekers. Looking at the state of the UK now, the Japanese policy is incredibly sensible, although denying anyone health assistance is disgraceful and this part really needs to be addressed.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Seems to me that acceptance by a country of an application for asylum is de facto permission for temporary residence, and that such applicants should not be held in detention but should be introduced to an NPO for help with temporary assimilation to Japanese society.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Japanese immigration at its finest!

0 ( +4 / -4 )

In Canada, they release them after interviews and order them to return for processing. (However, lots of them used to flee to the US, because they didn't want to be in Canada anyway. Since 2008, however, fewer of them flee, since Canada is now seen as a better deal due to its more generous social security programs.)

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Contrast this with Shinzo Abe's recent address to the UN General Assembly (re. Syria):

We will act in cooperation with the international community to extend a helping hand to internally displaced persons and refugees fleeing across national borders. I take pride in the fact that Japan's NGOs and volunteer organizations are working around the clock to help them.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Get Real, what did you expect? In Japan, words are just that, big empty words designed to impress outsiders and foreigners. Substance on the other hand, is none existing. This incident isn't the only example.

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

This is quite some story...

He came to Japan in 2006, and was detained some time later in the immigration centre. On October 9th he suffered a stroke which the guards took for a seizure of some sort, refusing to call the duty medic (notice medic, not doctor). Nearly an hour after he collapsed a Doctor was called (not the duty medic).

Here's the weird bit... they made an emergency call AFTER the Doctor arrived? Would that be for the ambulance? I think at the very least the guards should be charged with negligence... manslaughter at worst.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

quite serious human rights violation it seems... hope the truth will be revealed.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Failing to provide help to a fellow human in need would get in prison for such a mistake in any EU country. Obviously Japan does not need to count itself among the group of civilized countries, at least regarding how it treats immigrants.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Rest in Peace.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Is it bad that this doesn't surprise or shock me any more? I actually expect things like this to happen here. RIP to the man. All he wanted was a chance at a better life.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )


If a patient is having a stroke, swift, expert medical attention can save his life and limit the damage caused.

There is a public awareness campaign about this in the UK at the moment.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

"why dont emigrate to muslim countries"

Because Muslim societies are places that people run away FROM, not run away TO.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

they r running away from myanmar, is myanmar a muslim country jefflee?

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

This is not the single time, torturing and delay tactics is the part of the Japanese immigration system, in all the cases immigration officials never get any punishment, so this is the Government policy, the share is aim to compel these foreigners to leave the country. every human rights organization should visit these centers in order to see the inhuman treatment, politeness and humanity ends at the entrance of these centers. i am wondering how the Japanese politicians stand and criticize North Korea for the violation of human rights, they should visit these centers first. Just recently Japan suffered from a huge disaster, thanks God the rest of japan was safe apart from Fukushima, otherwise and if still the radiation get worse the Japanese would have no option but to leave the country and face the life of the refugees, would the Japanese Politicians accept the same treatment for Japanese what they do with the refugees at home?

imagine,when a person lost his/her all family member and flee for his/her life with shock and at the end face the Japanese immigration, who first put him in jail and then give him/her a long form 12 pages form to put every detail of his/her each family member with any mistake deportation order would ready for him/her. since the Olympics games are for humanity, so there fore,The Olympics committee should also visit these centers and should also look how the Japanese establishment treat foreigners at their soil. this poor man fled to avoid genocide and faced another worse situation, i hope some countries would accept at least his body for funeral.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

I realise that most people reading this don't have a background in medicine, and may not even know what a "subarachnoid haemorrhage" is.

To put it simply it is blood bleeding into the brain, normally from the wall of an artery in the brain weakening and then bursting open. Blood quite literally destroys brain tissue, resulting in progressively worse brain damage as the blood spreads through the brain.

The first sign of this bleeding is a VERY painful headache (worse than the worst migraine). This is the symptom the man reported in the morning. The pain would have been EXCRUCIATING!

This was what killed the man, the staff failing to act when someone reported being in BLINDING pain. The doctor being at lunch several hours later? Utterly irrelevant, by that time the bleeding into the brain would have been sufficient to virtually guarantee severe brain damage and death.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

There was a man from Ghana a few years back that was killed by Immigration too. His story was very tragic.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The immigration center staff found responsible for "indirect murder" should go to jail.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Japan accepted 18 refugees during the year.

I come from a country 20 times smaller than Japan and more than 2,000 are accepted every single years!

18 a year...! Just say ZERO!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

staff making mistakes. Even doctors make mistakes

Knowingly refusing to provide assistance to a person who is suffering a seizure is not a mistake, it is criminal negligence.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Just wondering how many detainees fake a medical condition in order to stay their return to their country of origin? That obviously wasn't the case here, but I wonder if that entered into the staff's reaction?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Fadamor, that sounds logical. Pain and distress can be faked. Not in this case, obviously... but I'm sure it must have been tried before. Desperate people will do whatever it takes.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Fadamor, that sounds logical. Pain and distress can be faked. Not in this case, obviously... but I'm sure it must have been tried before. Desperate people will do whatever it takes.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )


He was just having a seizure? I'm glad it wasn't serious then.

Glad it wasn't serious?

Asylum-seeker dies after collapsing

was the headline

Serious is a subjective thing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

When Japanese or defenders of rising sun bark about how it was just an accident, or other countries do the same, I always respond with the reverse situation litmus test. What if a Japanese national suffered a similiar situation abroad?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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