Security camera footage showing a Sri Lankan woman before her death in a central Japan detention facility was publicly released Thursday for the first time by lawyers representing her family.
Approximately 7 minutes of roughly five total hours of government-provided security camera footage showing Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali, who died at the age of 33 while being held at the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau in March 2021, was shown at a press conference in Tokyo.
Some of the released footage taken less than two weeks before Wishma’s death shows her bedridden and begging officers to take her to hospital after telling them she is unable to move or eat.
The footage also included later scenes of an officer and nurse chatting cheerfully while tending to Wishma as she moaned in pain.
In an excerpt from the day she was confirmed dead, an officer tries to wake an unresponsive Wishma after reporting over an intercom that her fingertips feel cold.
“I want the Japanese people to know how my sister suffered and was left to die in an environment where there was no one to help her,” Wishma’s younger sister Wayomi, 30, said at the press conference Thursday.
While Wishma’s family and some members of parliament have been able to privately view the footage, which the government submitted as evidence in a lawsuit, it marks the first time a portion of it has been made available to the public.
Wishma arrived in Japan in 2017 as a student but was taken into custody at the immigration facility in August 2020 for overstaying her visa.
She died on March 6, 2021, after complaining of ill health, which included vomiting and stomachaches, for around a month. Her death sparked national outrage over her treatment, forcing the government a few months later to drop a bill revising rules on foreigners facing deportation, including asylum seekers.
The government, however, has resubmitted the bill in the current Diet session, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno stressing at a press conference Thursday that its “early enactment is essential to prevent the recurrence of similar cases and to solve the problem of long-term detention.”
Wishma’s family is seeking damages from the government over her death, alleging she was illegally detained and died due to a lack of necessary medical care.