This link comes from the Economist, a respected journal. It tells the tale of a Canadian journalist who, if you believe what he says, appears to have been wrongly detained by Airport "border security" Nazis.
The gaijin community usually prefers to close its eyes when it hears stories like this. "It would never happen to people like us. We are white, we are not from some third world ghetto. We don't do drugs - we have never been in trouble before etc" Maybe the much-maligned Debito was on to something when he took a stand against some of the wrongs that exist in Japan. Read this. Caution - it may make your blood boil.
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AN EXTRAORDINARY story is making the rounds among the hacks and other expats in Japan. A Canadian freelance journalist who has lived in Japan for years fell into the ugly whirlpool of Japanfs immigration-and-detention system. For years human-rights monitors have cited Japanfs responsible agencies for awful abuses; in their reports the system looks like something dark, chaotic and utterly incongruous with the countryfs image of friendly lawfulness.
Still the case of Christopher Johnson beggars belief. Returning to Tokyo after a short trip on December 23rd he was ushered into an examination room, where his nightmare began. Over the next 24 hours he was imprisoned and harassed. Most of his requests to call a lawyer, the embassy or friends were denied, he says.
Officials falsified statements that he gave them and then insisted that he sign the erroneous testimony, he says. Guards tried to extort money from him and at one point even threatened to shoot him, he says\unless he purchased a wildly expensive ticket for his own deportation, including an overt kick-back for his tormentors. Once he was separated from his belongings, money was stolen from his wallet and other items removed from his baggage (as he has reported to the Tokyo police).
The problems to do with Japanfs immigration bureau have been known for years. Detainees regularly protest the poor conditions. They have staged hunger strikes and a few have committed suicide. A Ghanaian who overstayed his visa died in the custody of guards during a rough deportation in 2010. (In that case, the prosecutor has delayed deciding whether to press charges against the guards or to drop the case. A spokesperson refuses even to discuss the matter with media outlets that are not part of the prosecutorfs own gpress clubh.)
Mr Johnsonfs ordeal closely matches the abuses exposed in a 22-page report by Amnesty International in 2002, gWelcome to Japan?h, suggesting that even the known problems have not been fixed. One reason why the practices may be tolerated is that the Japanese government apparently outsources its airport-detention operations to a private security firm.
It is a mystery to Mr Johnson why he was called aside for examination, but he suspects it is because of his critical coverage of Japan. (Mr Johnsonfs visa status is unclear: in an interview, he said his lawyer advised him not to discuss it.)
Reached by The Economist, Japanfs immigration bureau said it cannot discuss individual cases, but that its detentions and deportations follow the law, records of hearings are archived and the cost of deportation is determined by the airline. The justice ministry declined to discuss the matter and referred all questions to the immigration bureau. Canadafs department of foreign affairs confirmed to The Economist that a citizen was detained and that it provided gconsular assistanceh and gliaised with local authoritiesh.
Mr Johnsonfs own rambling account of his saga appeared on his blog, gGlobalite Magazineh. It must be considered as unverified, despite The Economistfs attempts to check relevant facts with the Japanese and Canadian governments. As a result, we cannot endorse its accuracy. We present edited excerpts, below, because they are deeply troubling if true.
On my way home to Tokyo after a three-day trip to Seoul, I was planning to spend Christmas with my partner, our two dogs, and her Japanese family. I had flight and hotel reservations for ski trips to Hokkaido and Tohoku, and I was planning\with the help of regional government tourism agencies\to do feature stories to promote foreign tourism to Japan. While taking my fingerprints, an immigration officer saw my name on a computer watch list. Without even looking through my passport, where he might find proper stamps for my travels, he marked a paper and gave it to another immigration officer. hCome with me,h he said, and I did. He led me to an open room. Tired after three hoursf sleep overnight in Seoul, I nodded off. Officers woke me up and insisted we do an ginterviewh in a private room, gfor your privacy.h Sensing something amiss, I asked for a witness and a translator, to make sure they couldnft confuse me with legal jargon in Japanese. An employee of Asiana Airlines came to witness the ginterview.h The immigration officers provided a translator\hired by immigration. She turned out to be the interpreter from hell. hHi, whatfs your name?h I asked, introducing myself to her. gI donft have to tell you anything,h she snapped at me. She was backed up by four uniformed immigration officials. Q: gWhat are the names of the hotels where you stayed in April in the disaster zone? What are the names of people you met in Fukushima?h A: gWell, I stayed at many places, I met hundreds of people.h Q: gWhat are their names?h A: gWell, there are so many.h Q: gYou are refusing to answer the question! You must say exactly, in detail.h (Before I could answer, next question.) Q: gWhat were you doing in May 2010? Who did you meet then?h A: gThat was a long time ago. Let me think for a moment.h The interpreter butted in: gSee, you are refusing to answer. You are lying.h