Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about the detention of foreigners who don’t happen to be Carlos Ghosn, mainly by the immigration authority rather than the police or prosecutors. First, I should mention that the header chosen by the Japan Times is not precisely correct. While Ghosn did flee Japan, most foreigners who are detained by Immigration and then allowed what is called provisional release don’t leave the country. Ghosn forfeited his bail when he escaped, supposedly in a music instrument case. Foreigners on provisional release are required to pay a deposit in order to compel them to show up regularly at their local Immigration office. It’s not called bail but the deposit has the same purpose, and if the person doesn’t report to Immigration on pre-arranged date, they could lose the deposit, not to mention their freedom. But they usually remain in Japan.
They can still lose their freedom even if they do show up when they’re supposed to, which is why so many decide to disappear. Immigration officers can decide to redetain a person without giving a reason for it, and they often do, which means the person has to reapply for provisional release, and that could take months or even years. Of course, Immigration’s aim is to convince the person to leave the country at their own expense and of their own will, but since many don’t necessarily have countries to “go home to”—some are political refugees, while others have been in Japan so long they effectively know no other place—they refuse. That’s why when they “flee” they don’t leave Japan. They just disappear underground.
Emelita, the Filipino woman mentioned in the column, is one of the people who has lived in Japan for a long time and is refusing to be deported because she has a Japanese husband and two children who were born here. Some years ago she was convicted of a financial crime and did her time in prison, after which Immigration summarily detained her in preparation for deportation. She hired a lawyer to fight the deportation and the detention, and after three years she was finally granted provisional release in December, but she still has to report to the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau in Shinagawa on a regular basis. She will do so for the first time since her release on Jan. 23, and there is a possibility she could be redetained, so a group of supporters will gather at the bureau on Jan. 23 at 10 a.m. to demand that she remain free. Anyone is welcome to join them. Of course, the real hurdle is her deportation order, which was supposed to be carried out later this month. Her lawyer has told us that he filed a suit to stop the deportation, so, at least temporarily, she has a reprieve. But the first order of business, according to the lawyer, is to make sure she isn’t detained again. We will try to follow the case, which is not being covered by the Japanese media, and report on any outcome in this space.