Sun, 25 Jul 2021 Today's Paper

Japanese Officials Ignore a Dying Woman’s Cries for Help

20 May 2021 05:29 am - 27     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

A A A

A Sri Lankan student, detained by the Japanese immigration begged to be released to a hospital for medical care.

But, the officials refused.

They thought she pretended to be ill to avoid deportation.

She died on March 6, 2021 alone in her cell.

Protesters holding up pictures of Wishma during a demonstration in Tokyo. (Courtesy: Kyodo)

 

The records reviewed by Daily Mirror show instructions from a doctor reading: “If (medicine) cannot be administered orally, she should receive an IV drip and be hospitalised.” The comment contradicts the content of the interim report, which says no recommendation for hospitalisation was made

 

Wishma dreamed of becoming an English teacher in Japan. She loved the country, its culture, and its people so dearly that when her mother was nervous about sending Wishma alone to an unknown country, Wishma said “It is Japan. I am gonna be safe and fine.”

It was around 11 a.m. when Wishma started struggling to breathe. In her solitary confinement, she groaned in pain for hours before falling silent near 1.30 p.m. She received no emergency treatment whatsoever for more than two hours, despite the cell being under 24/7 CCTV surveillance, Japanese government records detailing circumstances leading to the death reveal. After 2 p.m., when officers visited the cell, they found Wishma’s lifeless body.

Sri Lankan student Wishma Sandamali, 33, languished in Nagoya Immigration Center in Japan, awaiting provisional release for six and a half months. Once a healthy and fit young woman who weighed 85 kg, Wishma lost more than 19 kg during the detention period, her health records say. Her condition continued to deteriorate. She died on March 6, 2021, triggering allegations that critically ill detainees are neglected by the Japanese immigration service.

Even though she had been diagnosed with suspected Oesophagitis, the treatment she received was focused on her mental health. 


Even though her health deteriorated week after week with her symptoms of Oesophagitis started getting worse, neither was she given IV drip (intravenous drip) nor was she hospitalised.


The reason is also evident in an interim report, compiled and issued by Japan’s Immigration Bureau. From the very beginning, the immigration officers thought Wishma faked illnesses to get released.


Yasunori Matsui, a supporter from the START -- an organisation for refugees and migrants -- had written to the officials multiple times regarding Wishma’s deteriorating health.


“We had filed requests for her to be hospitalised and put on an IV drip, but the immigration bureau just kept saying she was fine. I am forced to say they left her to die.” Matsui said.

 


How she lost legal status

A university graduate and English teacher, Wishma flew to her dream destination lawfully in June 2017, eyeing the skyline like any newcomer. 


Her status of residence at the time of her entry was “college student” and her period of stay was one year and three months. However, she became unable to continue her studies when she ran out of money to pay for school and ended up overstaying in the country. 


She applied for refugee status in September 2018 and she was permitted for a stay of two more months with no work permitted. When she applied for a renewal of refugee status in December, she was not permitted over lack of reasons. 


This resulted in her losing her status of residence. She was arrested in August 2020 and charged for violating Japanese immigration control law. Foreign nationals in Japan after the expiry of their allocated period of stay are detained at government detention centres until they return to their home countries. She was immediately sent to the Nagoya Detention Center.

 

Circumstances leading to the death as revealed by the interim report

Wishma started complaining of vomiting in mid-August, 2020 and it continued throughout her detention period. In mid-January, 2021, she began complaining of stomach pain, nausea, loss of appetite, and numbness of the body. By mid-February, her condition grew too weak to walk or even stand, and that she required assistance from the staff at the immigration centre to go to the toilet and even change clothes.


Her blood tests in January showed mild polycythemia (an increase of red blood cells in the body). However, the interim investigation report states that the part-time doctor at the internal medical centre who examined Wishma on January 28, took a “wait-and-see approach.” The doctor instructed to test Wishma’s blood in another two months. 

On the night of January 28, Wishma vomited blood and requested the officials at the facility to take her to a hospital. But, they didn’t. Within the next few days, the frequency of vomiting increased and intake of provided meals started decreasing. Then, she was moved from a shared room to a single cell. The authorities also started counselling for Wishma as they thought from the very beginning that she malingered. 


From January 2021 until she died, she suffered from constipation. In early February, the gastroenterologist who examined Wishma by a gastric endoscope suspected reflux Oesophagitis (inflammation of the tube that sends food from mouth to stomach). A supporter from a non-government agency who had looked into Wishma’s matter requested the immigration officials to take Wishma to a nearby hospital and provide her drip-infusion (medication drip from a bag through a tube into a catheter). However, doctors said it was not necessary.


Later, when she continued complaining of pains and difficulties in her body, she was asked to see a psychiatrist. The interim report stated that although psychiatric consultation was ordered on February 16, the COVID-19 situation in nearby hospitals “hampered the process.” 


It was only on March 4, two days before her death, Wishma was brought to a psychiatrist. The interim report says that since Wishma did not request a consultation with a doctor after February 22, she wasn’t provided with any medical treatment until March 4 the date, reserved for the psychiatrist.


Since the last week of February, Wishma often has laid on the bed and needed assistance to move her body. She even used diapers as she could not move to even go to the toilet. All of this happened inside her tiny cell. Two days before her death, the psychiatrist who checked Wishma suspected Somatic Symptom Disorder (mental disorder that manifests as physical symptoms that suggest illness or injury). However, the CT scans performed on Wishma on the same day revealed no abnormalities in her brain. But, she was prescribed antipsychotics and sleep inducers.


On the day before her death, she spent most of her time sleeping under the effect of the medicine. On March 6, hours before death, officers who, as usual, visited Wishma to check her blood pressure and pulse could not measure them due to “an error in the technical instruments.” 


When officers instructed Wishma to have breakfast, she could not communicate; only cried and moaned in pain. It was around 11 a.m, Wishma started struggling to breathe. 

The interim report which has been compiled checking CCTV footage inside the cell after Wishma’s death clearly details Wishma’s movement on March 6. It states how she desperately struggled for hours to breathe. After 2 p.m, when officers visited the cell, they found Wishma without a pulse.

 

A letter Wishma sent to a volunteer at START in February

 


Discrepancies in information

The cause of death, as mentioned in her death certificate was diagnosed as acute hepatic insufficiency. The type of death is categorised as unknown. The psychiatrist noted that they could not find a cause for Wishma’s death from the psychiatric point of view. However, the lengthy interim report released on April 9 has also failed to determine the cause of her death.


In post-death hospital records, it says that Wishma was normal till noon on March 6. But, she has been breathing heavily and since the morning on the same day, according to the interim report detailing care provided for her.
There are also discrepancies between the medical records compiled by her doctor (obtained by her family lawyer) in February and the content of the immigration bureau’s report. The omitted information is a set of remarks made by a doctor when Wishma underwent a stomach endoscopy at a hospital outside the detention centre. 


The records reviewed by Daily Mirror show instructions from a doctor reading: “If (medicine) cannot be administered orally, she should receive an IV drip and be hospitalised.” The comment contradicts the content of the interim report, which says no recommendation for hospitalisation was made.


When this was questioned recently at a House of Representatives Committee on Judicial Affairs’ board meeting, the Japanese Justice Ministry explained that while Wishma’s medical records were obtained before an interim report on her death was created, the regional immigration services bureau responded that the “doctor’s records were non-factual.”As a result, the ministry said, the report it filed contained differing information.

 

Public outcry in Japan

“I am not well at all. Please help me ASAP. They won’t take me to a hospital outside because I am in their (immigration centre) custody. I want to recover. But what can I do? I don’t want to bother you, but I have no one else who cares about me,” Wishma wrote on February 2 to her supporters.


Yasunori Matsui from the START had been meeting with Wishma since December 2020. Mr Matsui who witnessed the deteriorating condition of Wishma during visits had written to the bureau requesting them to admit her to hospital. But, officials said it was not necessary.


There have been several protest rallies by Japanese groups supporting foreign workers and refugees, demanding the government to reveal the truth behind Wishma’s death. Members of the Japanese rights group START, chanted phrases including, “Why didn’t you save her?” and, “We want you to change.” Protesters were heard saying slogans, including, “Totally unforgivable,” and, “Reveal the truth.”

A petition they submitted reads:

“The incident was caused by neglecting medical care. Clarify who has responsibility for the management, and release. We need an apology and the truth as soon as possible. To stop this from happening again, we ask you to change your policies from one of the single-minded deportations to one that considers the circumstances of the individuals involved and offers them relief.” In response to the allegations, Immigration Bureau officials informed the protesters that, “we are currently under investigation by the ministry (of justice), and therefore cannot respond.”

We received condolences, not answers to our questions: Family

Wishma’s mother, a widow, had taken out a mortgage loan to send her eldest daughter to Japan. Now she is struggling to process the amount of grief.


“There was nobody to give a drop of saline to a selfless person like my daughter who had donated so much in her life. She always went beyond her limits to help people. But, in her dream country of Japan, they left her to die like an animal. They watched her die,” mother lamented.

Her sisters criticised that they felt as if the immigration agency was “covering the truth.” The Japanese government officials including the subject Minister who met with the sisters who are currently in Japan have offered condolences and but did not give answers, the family complained.


The sisters met with the Head of Japanese Immigration Centers and also the Minister of Justice on Tuesday (18). For all the questions they raised, the response from the officials was the same “we are very sad about what has happened. An investigation is underway.”


They also visited the single-person cell where Wishma was detained, describing it as “small and as if for an animal.” “They heard her insisting that she was unwell and wanted to be taken to a hospital outside. But, immigration officers repeated to her, ‘there’s nothing wrong with you,’ as she continued to be in distress,” said Wayomi Nisansala, a sister of Wishma, referring to detention center staff.


“Those who are working in embassies have no compassion to represent their people in those countries. They have no mechanism to monitor Sri Lankans living there. They simply do not care.”

 

Problems in Japanese immigration centres not new 

According to Japanese media reports, in recent years, inmates have died one after another in other detention centres as well. But, the Immigration Bureau keeps rejecting allegations of negligence. Japanese immigration facilities have been criticised in and outside the country for their lengthy detention periods. 


When inquired by the Daily Mirror, Chandana Weerasena, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Sri Lanka in Tokyo, Japan said as of 17 of March 2021, there were 26 Sri Lankan detainees under the Japanese Immigration detention centres. All of them have been charged for illegal stay (overstay) in the country.


He claimed that the Japanese authorities initiated the investigation into Wishma’s death as per the request made by Sri Lankan Embassy. He also stated that until the final report on the death is issued by the Japanese authorities, the Embassy would not release any media statement concerning Wishma’s matter. The final report is set to be released in July.


Meanwhile, Kazuna Yamamoto, President of Voice Up Japan organisation during an interview with the Daily Mirror stated that Wishma’s death and deaths of 14 other non-Japanese detainees, died over the past 17 years could have been prevented. 


She also stated that the government of Japan on Tuesday (18) was forced to drop a draft revision to the Japanese Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, which proposed forcible deportation and criminalisation of those who are applying for refugee status in Japan for the third time due to growing condemnation and pressure over the death of Wishma. 


Wishma dreamed of becoming an English teacher in Japan. She loved the country, its culture, and its people so dearly that when her mother was nervous about sending Wishma alone to an unknown country, Wishma said “It is Japan. I am gonna be safe and fine.”   

Illustrations done by Wishma while she was being detained

 

See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

  Comments - 27

See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

 

  • BANANA RESIDENT Thursday, 20 May 2021 07:53 AM

    This incident did not receive attention in mainstream media. At least now it is out

    Ravi Thursday, 20 May 2021 09:01 AM

    A self respecting country would demand a UN investigation into her cruel death in Japanese custody.

    Bul Thursday, 20 May 2021 12:28 PM

    What our Embassy in Japan doing ?? Who is the Ambassador ? Sack him..Disgraceful and ashamed

    TakeSeabird Thursday, 20 May 2021 12:45 PM

    Many people regard Japan as an advanced country, but it is a backward country in terms of human rights. Especially against people of color. There are also many problems with the harsh low-wage labor system under the name of foreign trainees. Protests are needed from around the world against the Japanese government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

    Seb Thursday, 20 May 2021 01:09 PM

    Wow... So sad and such a shame. Just terrible...

    Ade Amma Thursday, 20 May 2021 01:36 PM

    Hey Bul, There is no embassy. It is a so-called resting place operated under Sri Lankan government and run by a bunch of peons in neckties.

    Joshua Thursday, 20 May 2021 01:37 PM

    Hope the ambassador now knows a person has died?

    Gamarala Thursday, 20 May 2021 02:02 PM

    People outside of Japan think that Japan is like any European country. It is not so, it is a very insular and selfish country. Very inward-looking hates foreigners if they are dark skinned. I have first-hand experience.

    Lankan Girl Thursday, 20 May 2021 02:04 PM

    My deepest sympathies to her family and loved ones. What has happened is unacceptable and should not be passed as an unfortunate incident. Sri Lanka should demand the rights of its citizens and call for the intervention of human rights. Japan though seeming as a country with respect to others, does so selectively. People of colour (and native to South Asian countries) are always looked down upon and treated shabbily.

    Marcian Christopher Thursday, 20 May 2021 02:08 PM

    It's like a Hara Kiri by the Japanese Officials in charge of the detention centre. Where was the Sri Lankan embassy personnel who are there to represent and look after the welfare of Lankan citizens in such circumstances? - They must have been sleeping as usual. What had our Ambassador and the staff doing since all this happened? At least now even have they requested an inquiry into this sad incident?

    Seeni Malli Thursday, 20 May 2021 04:11 PM

    Hey Christopher, You are right on the money. It is not an embassy. It is some sort of a Tea

    jayt Thursday, 20 May 2021 05:39 PM

    This is the reason still I respect western countries. when it comes to this kind of staff, you can't trust whole Asia, MD, India, Africa, South America, and any third world country. Sri Lanka has been run by a group of foreign ruling families who promoted hatred against western countries starting 50s in order to stay in power. Western countries in return offered citizenship to about half a million Tamil Tigers and secretly supported India in order to take revenge from Sri Lanka. Otherwise, Sri Lanka could have had an excellent relationship with Western countries and would have avoided the West supporting Tamil. Who paid the price? General Sinhalese and village boys who died for SL. Who are these leaders? They are Tamil with Sinhalese names or directly related to Tamil or Chinese in origin or all of the above. They attacked the west to keep general Sinhalese out of the West. They did it if general Sinhalese came to the west and educated, they lose their power

    JEANNE FERRER Thursday, 20 May 2021 05:51 PM

    Looks like the Japs are back to their old tricks - this is an utter monstrosity. Blessings and prayers to her family who must be utterly distressed.

    jayt Thursday, 20 May 2021 05:53 PM

    Look at how they played double game from 50s. They all attacked West, but all of them and their relatives live in Mainly in UK and some other Western countries. Own homes in the West. Children come to school in the west. have citizenship in the West. When get cold flu, run to UK. Singapore or US. This is reason why they made vast majority of Sinhalese are uneducated. That's way, they can bribe them and get them to repeatedly vote for them and pray them as God.

    Vidura Thursday, 20 May 2021 06:17 PM

    Japanese have a inward dislike to subcontinent asians and consider them to be inferior. They show a deep respect to all that is western even after being thrashed in WW2. Best is to leave them alone and to better ourselves.

    Thusitha Kumara Thursday, 20 May 2021 08:03 PM

    is Srilankan embassy in Japan unaware of what happened to her people???

    Rohan Perera Thursday, 20 May 2021 09:28 PM

    Living in any country without a valid visa is so dangerous, we Sri Lankans take this risk for many personal reasons, Don't trust our embassies for help. Most of our embassies are packed with political connections (All the governments are the same) If you want to be safe, please follow the local visa procedures.

    GGT Thursday, 20 May 2021 11:09 PM

    Why shouldn't have sought an immigration status in Ethiopia, Somalia

    Thiru Friday, 21 May 2021 07:52 AM

    My deepest condolences for her family This is truly unacceptable Pathetic to see our Government is in mere silence A country whom our late President JRJ spoke in UN for hours to reconsider Japan after the II nd world war

    Thiru Friday, 21 May 2021 07:52 AM

    My deepest condolences for her family This is truly unacceptable Pathetic to see our Government is in mere silence A country whom our late President JRJ spoke in UN for hours to reconsider Japan after the II nd world war

    jayt Friday, 21 May 2021 09:36 PM

    Yea, they eat a lot "like lion" and sleep a lot 'like lion" When apply for a job in an embassy the first choice is a Western country. Within the western countries, they have first choice. That is USA and Rich European countries are preferred, not eastern Europe. So Their dream countries are western countries when it come to embassy jobs and citizenship. Their are political friends are Asians, African Arabs and Indian, and consider all of them are inferior. This is the truth. The racists in Colombo who promoted racism against West now feel jumping into the Indian ocean because they did it against their heart just to stay in power. Ask patriotic Rajapksas why they did not go to China where they family's roots instead of USA.

    jayt Friday, 21 May 2021 09:55 PM

    My friends, every nations and every race have nice people, but when it come to police or security related matters, I do not ever dream to fall into a police station of Japan, China, India , ME, Africa and south America: your survival is base on luck.

    jayt Friday, 21 May 2021 10:20 PM

    Arab too are same. Arab consider all westers are superior and Indian and African and other Muslim are inferior. I have seen it in Dubai. Surely if you have a western passport, you are treated OK, but if they feel suspicious for something even a westerner will not be treated well. I personally feel sorry for those Canadian arrested in China. But not sure if they are like those Canadian who supported Tamil tigers went to spy mission against China or involved drug dealing or Chinese simply is holding them to retaliate Canadian arresting of cell phone company's CEO

    kudson Saturday, 22 May 2021 09:09 AM

    jayt is wired like the wacko japanese the radiation from hiroshima and nagasaki has warped their brains they have always been racists just like the white mullahs in europe

    Jayantha Wickramasinghe Sunday, 23 May 2021 07:50 AM

    On the button, Thiru. The Japanese people should be taught their recent history vis a vis World War II and how in its aftermath, a leader of a third world colony which the Japanese bombed, pled forgiverance or absolution for Japan at a post-war world forum. If these people only know their recent history, they would learn to be more respectful of Sri Lankan people. It is totally unacceptable in this day and age, that a ward of a presumably civilised state had to come to an end like this, alone, uncared for, divorced from family and friends, and removed from every human dignity in her hour of need. I call for a high level enquiry into this sorry saga and action at the diplomatic level. Can the SL govt. be equal to the task? I hope so.

    Felix Wednesday, 26 May 2021 07:29 AM

    Don't forget Japanese are cruel people until US bomb them. How many innocent they kill in Asia itself during war.

    Triptichaturvedi Friday, 18 June 2021 12:06 PM

    This is a very sad and condemnable incident.


Add comment

Comments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.

Reply To:

Name - Reply Comment


Basil Rajapaksa’s catch 22 situation

Sri Lankan politics has been a good deal of family business. It was not even

“This govt. printed Rs. 880 billions”

This is the roadmap of Zimbabwe

“We are on the cusp of a mothers-led movement for better birth rights in Sri Lanka” – Kanya D’Almeida

Writer Kanya D’Almeida became the first Sri Lankan to win the ‘Commonweal

Two diametrically opposite shows in a military regime

On July 8 (Thursday) we saw diametrically opposite results because the securi



See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.