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TOKYO – An Indian man died on Friday at a Japanese immigration detention centre in an apparent suicide, the latest death in a system widely criticised over medical standards, monitoring of detainees and mental health care.
Immigration is a sensitive subject in Japan, where many pride themselves on cultural and ethnic homogeneity even amid a shrinking population and the worst labour shortages since the 1970s.
Guards at the facility found the man, who was in his 30s, in a shower room with a towel wrapped around his neck, the East Japan Immigration Center said in a statement.
The man, who was not breathing at the time, was administered CPR before being taken to hospital, where he was declared dead about an hour later.
The cause of death has not been confirmed but was thought to be suicide, said centre spokesman Daisuke Akinaga, who declined to identify the man. He said police were investigating.
Kimiko Tanaka, an activist who works with detainees at the centre, said the man had been denied release on Thursday. He had been detained in Japan for around ten months, she said, citing a detainee on the same block as the source of the information.
Akinaga, the spokesman, declined to comment on the man’s detention history.
The death took the toll in Japan’s immigration detention system to 14 since 2006. Four of those, apart from the most recent, were suicides.
Japan’s 17 immigration detention facilities held 1,317 people as of Friday, says the justice ministry, which oversees them.
A government watchdog, activists and lawyers have criticised the detention centres over the treatment of detainees, medical care and how guards respond to medical emergencies.
Last year, a Vietnamese detainee who died at the same centre, northeast of Tokyo, was shown by a government report to have been left lying on the floor for hours before guards called an ambulance.
A Reuters investigation in 2016 into the death of a man at a Tokyo detention centre revealed serious deficiencies in the medical treatment and monitoring of the centers.
The investigation also found that mental illnesses ranging from depression to anxiety were rife, with the prescription of sedatives and antidepressants common.
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