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Nigerian activist held in solitary confinement in Japan, prompting calls for her release

By Minami Funakoshi and Ami Miyazaki

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A.N. OtherOct. 30, 2016 - 10:18PM JST

So she has only herself to blame.

I see you share the same obtuse, dangerous thinking that immigration does.

Take a look at this scenario:

You apply for refugee status in Japan after arriving from Nigeria. You're granted a permit to stay provisionally while they "investigate" your case (In reality this means they're just putting your file at the bottom of the rejection pile and waiting it to come to the top).

After some years, your file comes to the top. They call you in, tell you your refugee application is rejected and that you must leave Japan and go back to the country you came from. Of course if you are a refugee you will never return to the country you came from, so you refuse.

At this point by Japanese law, you are now an overstayer and thus subject to all the penalties and whims of the Japanese Ministry of Justice/Immigration.

The reality of things is that the MoJ and in particular the Immigration branch are rogue agencies that should not be allowed to operate the way they are being operated. There are no other agencies of the JP government with such histories of death, violence, corruption, etc.

The woman has been here 2 decades, why has she not been given permanent residency? Virtually EVERY normal country would grant her amnesty after such an extensive life living in the country. She's not a terrorist nor is she a criminal.

This is purely power harassment occurring due to the whims of whoever it is running the immigration centers in Kanto right now. It changes every year. She'll probably be released when the next head of immigration moves in in March or April. But what is the necessity of her detention? It does not make sense.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@toshiko, if all women who got married are given work skeds that could still make them good housewives and mothers, if all the NEETS are encouraged to be more productive part of society, if all the oldies are given chances to work, there'll be no such a thing as shortages in manpower. Also, remove the cap on overtime esp on people who can still work longer without throwing the stress on the machine they're handling or on the meek people around them. And mind the visas. Those who are in sham visas or no visas at all most of the time work in cliques and sometimes prey upon those who are working alone but with legal standing. More so, if they're women, it's a rat race because most of them are even willing to use their two mouths just to get juicier posts.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

at some point she was an illegal overstayer

So she has only herself to blame.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Construction and manufacturing business are in trouble with shortage of workers. Japan should welcome anyone who chose Japan to live. Never mind visa. Just welcome. Then fescue Construction business that wanted to get rid of chimpira owned contract business. For manufacturing, to have them working in Japan is better than trying to build their factories in Mexico or USA...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Why isn't it that he is not fighting to get his wife out of jail?

How do you know he isn't?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

If the lady was married to a Japanese man my question is Why isn't it that he is not fighting to get his wife out of jail? Perhaps it could be a sham marriage and he doesn't want to get involved and that becoming exposed? Maybe there is more to that situation but I find it hard to believe that for her being married to a Japanese man and not having the legal paper work to live in the country.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Leave her alone , she has been in Japan for 26 years . She is not a criminal neither poses no harm to anybody . Sending her will destroy her life .

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@James, if she's really legally married then there's no right for the immigration to jail her. maybe she's cohabiting with a Japanese. International marriages in Japan needs a lot of documented papers. Just maybe she's awaiting for thew approval of her visa and to help herself not to focus on her own problem she becomes an activist of sort. In the danchi where I live, I've noticed a South American couple with around 3 young children. The man seem to be a house husband while the lady do seem like working in the entertainment sector. I just presumed they're likely asylum seekers who are in for emotional and humane blackmail using the children. I pity the children but several times some winters ago as early as around 8am ,when we passed each other on my way to work, that he smelt of alcohol. Most illegals have a lot of dramas just to stay here. I happened to work with some women who were previously illegals before their marriage to Jmen and it was an awful rat race with them around! And I don't think she won't be given a visa as a punishment. She's an illegal and more likely using the Jman as leverage for her stay. If she's really a good person then she shld know when to shut her mouth. She shld have helped herself first before she can help the others.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

The woman is married to a Japanese man.

Immigration is obtuse and frankly stupid. Even though she is married to a Japanese man and has been married for years and years, at some point she was an illegal overstayer and so immigration is determined to punish her no matter what she does. She will never be given a visa.

I know the woman personally, she is a very good person.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Anyone at anytime, can choose to give up and purchase their own ticket back to their own country, and avoid confinement. Unless they committed a crime in Japan or their country of origin won't take them back.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The police should get out of their Kobans near Roppongi crossing and check passports of the touts who have been harassing people there for years. The lowest form of scum and rubbish.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

27 out of 7500 applications for asylum were granted in Japan last year. Why would anyone choose Japan for asylum? Knowing this going in, why are people surprised when they get caught up in the system?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Solitary confinement is a type of punishment. At the same time Japan doesn't want to be a soft touch!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

If she's continuing her activism on the inside, it's probably a good idea to put her in solitary.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

oldman_13: "Nothing wrong with cracking down on these people."

There is when you are only doing it selectively, and only selecting people who are trying to help. The government here is well known for being the worst among human and labor trafficking in the world, and they know of PLENTY of illegals living and working past their visas but that are powering the big companies.

"The crackdown on people like Obueza comes even as people on provisional release, despite being legally unable to work, power Japan’s construction and manufacturing sectors as companies scramble to find workers in the worst labour shortage in decades."

If Japan were serious about this, and not just targeting people who point out the problems Japan has, they could simply walk into any major construction company and they would have to shut it down and jail all the execs and managers for gladly employing said illegals. But nope. So, you see, it is indeed a problem. It's a lot like white American politicians who decry illegals and say they'll deport them all and then step outside and throw a penny to the illegals doing their landscaping or praise the illegals working in their kitchens.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Do you know most of asylum seekers are initiated their political activity after they arrived by tourist visa in Japan? I'll say they are not genuine political refugees. They are opportunist asylum seekers.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

“Locking someone up alone in a tiny room is to ruin them psychologically.”

That is why they do it. It is also a somewhat representation of the japanese system and culture.

I heard from some acquaintances of mine when I used to live there that that place is seriously no joke, and if you don't have the mental strength, it would screw you up. they really try to mess you up in there. especially if you are foreigner. One of the guys I spoke to who was put in there was in possession of drugs, and the other guy was touched by some drunk japanese guy in a bar and he punched him when the guy approached him again. I think one of the guys told me after moving back to L.A. that he was banned for 5 years and the other for 10.

He mentioned they keep you in this very tiny room with a hole in the ground to crap, drink water, and wash your face in, and they only feed you two rice balls a day. you sleep on the hard floor with no blanket. you can't speak with anyone. and during his whole time in there, nobody came to visit him from outside. I think he was in there for about 5 moths. he said the guards would come by his room and kick the glass and taunt him every time he tried to sleep. in that tiny room he saw someones hair on the floor with blood. At one point the guards shoved him when he asked for English reading material and he said they tide him up with some ropes that cut the blood circulation to his hands and ankles, and his arm went completely numb for 3 months. The guards kicked him when he was tide up like that, and laughed him while he was in pain on the ground tide up in the rope. He said it was something from the passion of the Christ. His only friend and source of strength was God when he was in there, and the guards often got mad at him and kicked the window trying to prevent him from praying whenever they saw him in the corner doing so. I can understand that they can't be easy on criminals and troublemakers in society, but at the same time, some things seems a bit extreme. especially considering the circumstances. I could imagine that to be a very difficult place. What would be worse is not having anyone to come visit you for support. People saying they don't want to ruin their image visiting. But God is always there. Makes you wonder why some people even do what they do. Sometimes it may even seem that inside prisons and dark places, it is more holy and pure, as some people could be so cold and horrible from the outside. I couldn't imagine not being able to see a tree and the blue sky. The sunlight and birds flying.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

People are given provisional release for the same reason South Americans of Japanese descent were llowed to return on temporary visa in the '80's and 90's - to provide some elasticity in employment. They could be deported as soon as the economic tide turned, housed in terrible conditions, and paid less than the minimum wage. In other countries the work that this woman is doing would have won her a humanitarian award, Here, she's a troublemaker because she stands up for a group of people the government would rather keep invisible.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

@scrote, agree with your point, Japan and other destination countries should NOT appear weak or soft. But toughness & fairness aren't mutually exclusive imo.

Plus in my mind (maybe am reading it wrong) in those "60,000 foreigners living in Japan without visas' you have old Korean/Chinese/Vietnamese/Filipino etc ppl who've been there for 30-40 years, working and 'acting' like everyone else. You may have the odd American, European, Aussie etc who got there as backpackers and overstayed their visa for 6 months, 1 year, 3 years after falling in love with someone, or just enjoying the country too much and made the wrong call to stay 'illegally'. These are 'real life' stories that could happen to anyone. What I mean is that these 60,000 aren't ALL bad ppl who came to Japan to screw the country. That's why I think all situations should be assessed case by case.

These days ppl read/hear 'illegals' they think Muslim terrorists, pimps & drug lords (am purposefully using the most popular clichés). I am absolutely certain there are very decent ppl among these 60,000 ppl, from all backgrounds.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

While 60000 isn't a massive number, once the word gets out that Japan is a soft touch there will be hundreds of thousands a year appyling for asylum in Japan. There is effectively an unlimited number of people willing to move to wherever they can to escape the dumps they live in now.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Liberals forget that it's the culture of third world migrants which has made their home countries so unhospitable.

Conservatives forget that it's their wars and meddling in the middle east that has made their countries so inhospitable.

-7 ( +6 / -13 )

Japan has an ongoing case study in the Islamic re-conquest of Europe to refer to.

Liberals forget that it's the culture of third world migrants which has made their home countries so unhospitable. Perhaps Ms. Obueza should devote her energy to fixing the problems of the country of her birth rather than exporting them to other parts of the globe.

6 ( +11 / -5 )

Japan can be very obtuse at times. 60,000 isn't a massive number, they could be handled case by case. Imo those who have been here for decades/years, work and have never been convicted of anything should be regularised, particularly considering the labour shortage in some industries.

Illegal immigrants with criminal convictions should be deported immediately (isnt that the case already?). Others who arent in either category should be dealt with accordingly.

Am all for tougher measures on illegal immigrants entering or trying to enter a country but we simply can't treat everyone the same way cause all individuals/situations are different.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Yes, M3, what you say seems reasonable. I must admit I had never thought about it quite like that.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

During her previous 10-month arrest in 2011 at a different center

Many people criticise the slow speed of processing asylum claims here in Japan, but oddly enough it's probably the one feature that makes Japan's asylum system slightly more humane than people give it credit for.

Despite the vast majority of asylum claims eventually being turned down, people can spend years on provisional release. This gives them a chance to find a genuine spouse, learn Japanese, apply for a student visa, find an employer who is willing to sponsor them, (or apply for the 'entertainer' visa if all else fails). When you look at the high number of rejected asylum applications and compare that to the much smaller number of forcible deportations, you realise that many failed asylum seekers are managing to find other ways to stay in Japan. If applications were processed within a month or two rather than years, these alternatives wouldn't be possible.

According to the article this woman has been in Japan since 1991, and she has had 5 years since her last detention in 2011. Unfortunately she doesn't seem to have built up anything else to fall back on other than her asylum claim. Perhaps she had a genuine and reasonable fear of genital mutilation when she fled Nigeria (presumably as a young woman), but is that still credible today? Even if you are a genuine asylum seeker at some point in the past, your status doesn't continue forever. Sometimes the passage of time is an asylum seeker's worst enemy. When peace unexpectedly 'broke out' in Sri Lanka, it was the worst imaginable scenario for some Sri Lankan asylum seekers.

It seems incredibly cruel to deport her after such a long time, but what is the alternative?

When I go outside my room, I go around the windows and talk to the others,” Obueza said. “I advise them.”

I hope she is advising them to promptly file an asylum application at the first available opportunity rather than living in the shadows for decades.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

If it were any other nation, such actions to control illegal immigration would be applauded,

Baseless assertion. Show proof or zip it.

but since this is Japan, majority opinion should be against this 'xenophobic' act.

What majority?

4 ( +11 / -7 )

If she's Illegal, then she should go back to her country, It doesn't matter if she has been in Japan for 100 years.

-3 ( +15 / -18 )

Again low hanging fruit. These are asylum seekers. According to their own figures is less than 10% of the total and documented.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Laws are laws.

Nothing wrong with cracking down on these people.

If it were any other nation, such actions to control illegal immigration would be applauded, but since this is Japan, majority opinion should be against this 'xenophobic' act.

-13 ( +15 / -28 )

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