Proposed immigration law revision sparks debate

NHK -- May 15
A controversial draft revision to Japan's immigration law has sparked fierce debate among lawmakers. It would change rules on detaining foreign nationals facing deportation orders.

The ruling coalition wanted a Lower House committee meeting to vote on the bill on Friday. But the opposition bloc refused, criticizing parts of the draft.

The government drew up the revision in response to the growing number of foreigners detained at immigration facilities.

It would mean deportees who refuse to leave Japan could stay with family members or supporters under some circumstances.

But it would also allow officials to deport foreigners even while their papers are still being processed. That would include people who have filed for refugee status three times or more, or have been sentenced to more than three years in prison.

Opposition parties want that provision removed. They're also calling for limits on the time people spend in detention. As it stands now, asylum seekers can be held for long periods.

The opposition also say they won't vote on the bill until more details emerge around the death of a Sri Lankan woman in detention.

The woman in her 30s had overstayed her visa. She died in March at an immigration detention center in central Japan.

Justice Minister Kamikawa Yoko says she's told immigration officials to honor the wishes of the woman's relatives, who are now in Japan partly to hold her funeral.