On the evening of 30th May, Ethiopian refugee Teffera Gedion Mulugeta was forcibly detained at Nagoya Immigration Bureau. This is the fourth time he has been detained, making a combined total of approximately two years in detention.
A local Nagoya-based refugee supporter has launched a campaign urging Japanese to contact Nagoya Immigration Bureau to demand Gedion’s release. This is spurred on by his critical health condition including lumbar disc herniation resulting in profound pain in his lower back region and serious mental health problems. A medical certificate recently obtained from his doctor states the potential for further deterioration of Gedion’s hernia and advises he avoid sitting for long periods of time. Gedion has found it unbearable to sit even during 15 minute visitations, instead standing for the duration of the interview. A recent psychiatrist report details that Gedion is currently suffering from schizophrenia and warns that this condition may be exacerbated should he be exposed to any psychological stressors.
On 18th May 2012, Gedion received notice that his recent petition against the revocation of his claim for refugee status had been dismissed. In the weeks to follow, Gedion had organised to meet with his lawyers to prepare for his upcoming trial.
On 30th May 2012, accompanied by his supporter, Gedion attended Nagoya Immigration Bureau as part of conditions imposed on provisional release visa holders to obtain his monthly visa renewal. At the bureau, two staff members requested Gedion follow them into another room where there was an interpreter waiting. He has been in detention ever since.
Gedion first became involved in anti-government activities in Ethiopia when he was at high school in the early 1990s. After an incident in which he was involved with taking down the national flag from a flagpole, he was arrested, tortured and imprisoned for three years. He was released only upon signing a written pledge that he would never again participate in anti-government activities.
In 1997, whilst attending the funeral service of a prominent anti-government figure, Gedion got caught up in an uprising between some of the funeral attendees and security forces. Although he avoided direct involvement in the conflict and was able to escape from the scene, police summoned him a few days later and demanded he turn himself in. The consequences of doing otherwise, he was told, would be immediate arrest and charges.
It was at this point that Gedion fled to Japan where his brother was living. As an Ethiopian in Japan wishing to apply for refugee protection, Gedion had heard that the likelihood of recognition was very low. He instead managed to find work which allowed him to go on supporting himself until he was caught by authorities as an illegal overstayer and detained in October 2006. Since this time he has been detained and provisionally released on three occasions, relying on the kindness of others to survive in the community whilst he waits for a decision on his application for refugee protection.
The Help Gedion! campaign is hoping to put pressure on immigration officials to release Gedion by calling for any concerned individuals to contact Nagoya Immigration Bureau through fax, phone or a written postcard. They are demanding that Gedion be given provisional release on the following grounds:
- Gedion is currently suffering from a severe hernia and serious mental health condition (initially brought about through past experiences of detention) and detention presents an extreme risk of further deterioration.
- Detention is a violation of Gedion’s right to prepare for his upcoming legal trial.
- Detention in this case is not necessary. In the two years that Gedion has been on provisional release, he has attended the Immigration Bureau every month as required to obtain his visa renewal. This demonstrates that there is no need for concern over possible escape or avoidance.
For further information about the campaign please see: http://d.hatena.ne.jp/nagoyananmin/20120607/1339023795 (In Japanese)