Elizabeth Aruoriwo Obueza is Nigerian and has applied to the Japanese government for refugee status. She left her native Nigeria to escape female genital mutilation (FGM) and other harsh persecution, and arrived in Japan in 1991 at the age of 24. She has long waited to be recognized as a refugee and now lives on “provisional release” (karihomen), a status giving temporary freedom to people held at immigration detention centers for visa violations. Foreigners in Japan who, like Elizabeth, are not recognized as refugees and live on provisional release, are subject to extremely precarious lives: they are not permitted to work or earn an income, and they are not covered by health insurance or other national social security benefits. Further, they are not allowed to travel outside their prefecture of residence without permission of the Immigration Bureau. Despite such restricting circumstances, Elizabeth dedicates herself to visiting foreign nationals held in immigration detention centers and also calls on foreigners in prison for crimes committed due to poverty and despair.
To this day, Elizabeth continues to call on those detained in the East Japan Immigration Center in Ibaraki, the Tokyo Immigration Bureau in Tokyo, and other immigration detention centers throughout the country. Her warmth and concern offer much-needed comfort to the detainees, all of whom are in difficult circumstances that make it impossible to return to their home countries even if they wish to return. Elizabeth’s unceasing humanitarian efforts, featured in the NHK Educational TV documentary “Elizabeth: Love to This World” (January 2021), was well received. She was awarded the 31st Tada Yoko Human Rights Award in 2019, the 8th Peace Prize of the Japan Peace Association in 2021, and the Humanitarian Service Award from the non-profit organization Oodua Progressive Union, Japan in 2022.
Elizabeth’s activities have raised awareness in Japanese society of the importance of respecting human rights regardless of nationality and have given us the courage to support others in distress. We strongly urge the Minister of Justice to recognize Elizabeth’s years of noble and humanitarian activities and to grant her “special permission to stay based on humanitarian considerations”.
When we learned that foreigners on provisional release are free to travel within their prefecture of residence without obtaining permission, we organized a support group called “with Elizabeth” in June 2021 in Kasama, Ibaraki Prefecture. The name “with Elizabeth” reflects our wish to support Elizabeth and ensure that she does not stand alone. The more we have come to know her, the more we want to call on the wider public to support her courage and dedication. What Elizabeth wants most of all is a residence status that will allow her to live freely and without restrictions in Japan. The status of provisional release is a truly inhuman. It denies one the right to work, and many live in fear of being returned to detention or deported. We strongly believe that Elizabeth, who herself has endured a non-visa situation for more than 30 years and yet continues to extend her hand to others in distress, deserves to be granted “special permission to stay based on humanitarian considerations”.
“Special Permission to Stay for Elizabeth!” is a petition using Change.org to gather support and collect signatures from the public. Our ultimate goal is to take this petition and appeal to the Minister of Justice and other government authorities to grant Elizabeth “special permission to stay based on humanitarian considerations”. Please join us in our effort.
February 19, 2023
with Elizabeth (a voluntary group to support Elizabeth)