In a damages suit filed against the Japanese government on Wednesday, the family of a Sri Lankan woman who died in custody at an immigration center in central Japan last year demanded an apology from the government.
Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali’s family claims she was illegally detained and died as a result of a lack of necessary medical care. They filed the lawsuit in March, seeking damages of 156 million ($1.17 million).
“We want the Japanese government to apologize and admit its responsibility” for her death, Wishma’s sister Wayomi said in the first hearing at the Nagoya District Court.
Wishma died on March 6, last year, at the age of 33, at the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau, after complaining of stomach pain and other symptoms since mid-January.
“We want to know why she was left to die,” said Poornima, another sister.
Wishma arrived in Japan on a student visa in 2017 to study Japanese, but she overstayed her visa, and immigration authorities denied her asylum application.
Her illegal immigration status was discovered after she sought police protection in Shizuoka Prefecture in August 2020 for domestic abuse. She was then transferred to Nagoya’s immigration center to await deportation.
The Immigration Services Agency conducted an investigation and discovered that the immigration center staff “lacked awareness” in dealing with emergencies, though the exact cause of her death could not be determined.
In November of last year, her family also filed a criminal complaint with prosecutors against the immigration center’s senior officials, alleging that they failed to provide adequate medical care.