After 30 Years, a Nigerian Christian Refugee May Be Deported from Japan

A doctor claims his popular self-help book has been declared anti-Islamic and may expose him to serious risks in his country.

by Mark Fino

Dr. Gabriel Osaheni Aghedo.
Dr. Gabriel Osaheni Aghedo.

Dr. Gabriel Osaheni Aghedo is a Nigerian Christian doctor who moved to Japan in 1991, initially with the intention of remaining there for two or three years only. Later, he was threatened by Nigerian Islamic fundamentalist groups that eventually evolved into present-day Boko Haram. The Japanese immigration authorities, however, have been denying Gabriel’s asylum application for decades, claiming that Nigeria is safe and he can go back there without personal risk.

But the problem is that Boko Haram, which has threatened, kidnapped and killed Christians, reportedly said that Gabriel’s self-help book “Perpetually Healthy, Good-looking and Rich,” which he published in Japan and distributed in Nigeria through his elder sisters who live there, violates Islamic teachings. Gabriel mentioned to me that, “My sister and niece were also threatened by violence, and the family house was destroyed by Boko Haram.”

Gabriel has been for a long time a member of St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church and its English-speaking choir in Tokyo. He provides free advice on holistic and naturopathic medicine, health, longevity, and productive longevity. Individual Christians and local activists launched a signature campaign on supporting his final refugee appeal review, which will be held on February 8, 2022, at Tokyo Regional Immigration Service and Bureau. His lawyer Shogo Watanabe will present all collected signatures along with the evidence during the appeal review.

Thomas (Tom) Christian Eskildsen, an American citizen who serves as Vice President of the local non-profit organization said that “Gabriel has already suffered greatly with repeated detentions in the immigration detention center, and by being denied the right to work while on provisional release. The Refugee Assistance Headquarters (RHQ) discontinued their aid, and now his very survival is under threat.”

Tom also added that, “People in the church [St. Ignatius] know him as a dedicated prayer warrior for the healing of the sick, relief for the suffering, and comfort for the lonely. We also know that he is a generous soul, always willing to reach out and help others in whatever way he can.”

Dr. Gabriel (center) and friends.
Dr. Gabriel (center) and friends.

Gabriel is popular beyond the English-speaking community in Tokyo. The local campaign “Please grant resident status to Gabriel” on gathered 1,000 signatures in one week, and is now at 13,000. Gabriel loves Japan, and positively contributed to Japanese society.

Japan is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and one of the largest donors and supporters of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). However, while supporting refugees internationally, authorities are reluctant to grant asylum to them in Japan. UNHCR data shows that in 2020, Germany has accepted 63,456 asylum requests, and the USA 19,596, but Japan has granted asylum only to 47 refugees. Immigrants and refugees are not popular in Japan, although the country has a significant labor shortage

Several refugees died while being detained in immigration detention center. In March 2021, Sri Lankan refugee Wishma Sandamali died inside one of these centers after being detained for a long period.

Two male asylum seekers, both 53, one Turkish and one Iranian, sued Japan on January 13, 2022, over their detention for a long period, claiming that painful and arbitrary detentions by the country’s immigration authorities violate international conventions. In September 2020, a U.N. Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a written opinion that the detention of refugees in Japan violates international covenants on human rights.

After thirty years of struggles, Dr. Gabriel now risks being deported. His situation is making other Christian asylum seekers in Japan worried about their future.

Source: Bitter Winter, January 26, 2022

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