Photo/IllutrationDetainees tried to hand these written demands to the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau on May 9 concerning conditions at a detention center in Tokyo’s Minato Ward. (Rei Kishitsu)

Dozens of foreign detainees are continuing a hunger strike to protest what they describe as “inhumane treatment” at a detention center run by the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau.

About 20 male detainees, including those from Africa, Asia and South America, started starving themselves on May 9 after staff refused to accept their letter on improving the system of detaining foreigners as well as the overall operation of the detention center in Tokyo’s Minato Ward.

They are aged in their 20s to 50s, and their length of stay in Japan ranges from two years to more than 30 years.

By May 17, the number of detainees on hunger strike had swelled to about 70, according to Mitsuru Miyasako, secretary-general of Provisional Release Association in Japan, a support group for detained migrants.

Three of them were sent outside the facility for medical treatment after falling ill.

“The detainees are protesting the fact that they are not being treated as human beings because they are physically and mentally cornered here,” said Shoichi Ibusuki, a lawyer representing a number of foreigners held at the detention center.

An official of the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau said it is handling the case in accordance with the law.

“We have told the detainees to place the written demands in an opinion box within the facility,” the official said.

One of the detainees, a 49-year-old Iranian, told The Asahi Shimbun on May 18 that he has been living in Japan for more than 25 years.

This is the second time he has been detained, and his current incarceration started in February this year.

“I want to protest the forced detention and the attitude of the Immigration Bureau that ignores our human rights,” he said.

He said he consumes 350 milliliters of water and a small amount of salt and sugar a day, but he now feels “zoned out” and has “slight difficulty moving his limbs.”

According to the Tokyo bureau, 576 foreign nationals—387 men and 189 women—were detained at the facility as of May 11.