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Nigerian dies in Japan detention center

An inside view of a shared cell is seen at the East Japan Immigration Center in Ushiku, Ibaraki prefecture, Japan, March 19, 2015.
REUTERS/YUYA SHINO

A Nigerian man died in a Japanese immigration detention centre this week, an official told Reuters on Thursday, bringing to an end a hunger strike an activist group said was intended to protest against his being held for more than three years.

It was the 15th death since 2006 in a system widely criticized over medical standards, the monitoring of detainees and how guards respond to a medical emergency.

The man, in his 40s, died on Monday in the southern city of Nagasaki after he lost consciousness and was taken to hospital, said a detention centre official who declined to be identified.

He did not give a cause of death.

RINK, a group supporting detainees at the centre, told Reuters the Nigerian had been on hunger strike to protest his lengthy detention.

Another 27 foreigners are on hunger strike at a detention centre in Ushiku, northeast of Tokyo, said a separate group supporting detainees at that facility.

Some of them have gone without food for 47 days, said Kimiko Tanaka, a spokeswoman for the group.

She said a 23-year-old Iranian man who sought asylum more than two years ago has lost weight and is using a wheelchair.

Two other men at Ushiku have been detained for five years, she said.

“The reality of a lengthy detention is nothing but a human rights violation,” Tanaka said.

An official at the national immigration agency confirmed there are hunger strikers at the Ushiku centre, but he did not say how many.

Authorities are providing medical care and trying to persuade them to eat, he added.

Immigration is a contentious issue in Japan, where ethnic and cultural homogeneity are deeply rooted.

Japan held about 1,500 detainees as of June 2018, according to the latest public data, nearly half of them for more than six months.

Some 604 were asylum seekers whose applications were rejected, while the rest were held for various immigration infractions such as overstaying visas.

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