Japan court hearing starts for damages lawsuit over death of Sri Lankan detainee

A court hearing has started in central Japan for a lawsuit in which relatives of a Sri Lankan woman, who died in an immigration detention facility, are suing the Japanese government for damages following her death.

The hearing was held at the Nagoya District Court on Wednesday.

Wishma Sandamali had been detained at the facility in Nagoya City for overstaying her visa. She complained of ill health and died on March 6, 2021, at the age of 33.

Japan's Immigration Services Agency released a final report about the facility's handling of Wishma last August. The report pointed out that the facility lacked an appropriate system to provide medical care.

The relatives found the conclusion unsatisfactory. They said the report failed to clarify what happened to her and who was responsible for her death.

In March this year, they filed a suit against the Japanese government, seeking about 150 million yen or 1.1 million dollars in damages.

On Wednesday, the relatives' side maintained that the immigration authorities did not allow Wishma provisional release and illegally kept her detained. They said the authorities failed to provide necessary medical care despite her worsening condition and let her die.

Wayomi, Wishma's younger sister, said Wishma asked for help but died under cruel circumstances. Wayomi said she wants the government to admit its responsibility and Japan's immigration detention system to change.

Another younger sister, Poornima, said she wants the court to clarify why Wishma died in the facility and why she was left to die without any attempt to save her.

The government side asked the court to dismiss the suit and said it will submit its opinion in writing before the next hearing.

The points of contention are expected to include causal connections between the facility's handling of Wishma and her death.

Ahead of the hearing, Wayomi said their mother in Sri Lanka is crying every day. She said that when they speak on the phone, the mother asks, "How are things going? Has any progress been made? What are the immigration authorities saying?"

Wayomi said she wants her family to be the last to experience a tragedy like this and such a cruel thing should never happen again.