His bio reads, "I aim to connect and promote great people who will make a difference by collaborating than individually. . . and my goals are eradication of poverty and a sustainable economy by 2015." One of his fervent passions and ongoing initiatives is to help save the Taiji dolphins from captivity and slaughter. Doesn't sound like a candidate for Japan's harsh immigration-and-detention system, does it? Yet Michael Q. Todd found himself taken into custody in the Shingu Jail on September 16h for a lapsed visa.
Michael Q. ToddSo, were the Japanese authorities within their rights to detain him? Or was there an ulterior motive to persecute Todd for his involvement with a Canadian film crew hired to capture the dolphins' abuse in an upcoming documentary?
Should the spotlight be turned on an immigration bureau's draconian policies? Is this case a continuation of human-rights infractions that The Economist labeled back in January, 2012 as "dark, chaotic and utterly incongruous with the country's image of friendly lawfulness?" In researching Japan's history of detainment and deportation policies, much of what I uncovered shockingly appeared to be something one would expect from a 3rd world country, not an advanced society such as Japan.
Presently, a fundraiser with a $10K goal has been organized by fellow social media marketer Jackie Bigford aptly titled, "Save Michael Q Todd," and software architect Steve Healey has helped piece together a chronology of events that led up to Todd's incarceration. Current events and history collide in trying to determine if this is a case for the Japanese government or the court of public opinion?
The record as cited by The Economist highlights detainee's requests to their homeland embassies as often being denied. Christopher Johnson, a Canadian freelance journalist experienced inhumane treatment that included being harassed by guards who tried to extort money from him and even threatened him at gunpoint. He was also also required to purchase a wildly expensive ticket for his deportation, including an overt kick-back to his captors.
Abubakar Awudu SurajA Ghanaian who overstayed his visa actually died in the custody of guards during his deportation in 2010. As Abubakar Awudu Suraj was being extradited on March 22nd, he was lifted and forced onto a plane in handcuffs with a towel gagging him and knotted in the back to restrain him. An autopsy failed to determine the cause of death, yet his widow saw facial injuries when she identified the body. Three days later an Immigration Bureau official admitted: “It is a sorry thing that we have done.”
People like Todd who possess a tourist visa, but qualify for a special residency permit (SRP), designed for those who overstay their visa but wish to remain, have been denied. This video submission posted by "Gimmeaflakeman" is as entertaining as it is serious pertaining to the steps involved in converting one's tourist status to one of a resident.
Forced deportations have become more frequent and rougher, according to the Asian People's Friendship Society, a Japanese immigrant-support group. Japan's Immigration Control Centres, where many illegal residents are detained, have faced special criticism. This year alone, two detainees have committed suicide, where one has publicly complained of abuse, and 70 inmates staged a hunger strike demanding better treatment.
These stories like Todd's and others are unfortunately swept under the carpet and don't surface for public scrutiny. One such iReport has been submitted to CNN for consideration, but to date, with over 16K pageviews, CNN has not vetted the story for public consumption.
While these practices are horrendous to fathom, it's important to note that passions normally run high when anyone is considered wrongfully imprisoned for deportation.
Currently, those that joined the Facebook Group "Free Michael Q.Todd" have found varying opinions and criticisms of the case. While some find the blurring of the "save the dolphins" issue with Todd's lapsed visa predicament as a wrongful tact, others are downright critical of Todd's defiance to follow the country's immigration rules. Others see the fundraiser as a hoax or an unnecessary life raft, while others are securing the names of lawyers and embassy officials that could potentially resolve the issue.
Based on the research conducted for this blog posting, I favor the position that points to utilizing every legal means available to act and resolve these types of cases expeditiously. Without mainstream media's assistance with their vast resources to dig far deeper than I, the more the clock ticks away, the less attention will be applied to addressing the crisis at hand.
The inhumane treatment of the Taiji dolphins is a prime example of this point. While valiant efforts over the years have been put forth by Todd and Bigford to bring this story to light, in addition to now two documentaries on the topic, the issue still needs the wide attention and acceptance of a global audience for changes to actually occur and be enforced. Hopefully Todd and the dolphins will find their resolution sooner than later.
VIDEO UPDATE (September 23, 2012): by Yldar Hakimo who asked Todd to assist him with translations for his documentary on the ill-treatment of the Taijia Dolphins in Japan. It appears that MQ's VISA was extended properly (within the law) - however at this point in time he is still being detained by the authorities. Check back for future updates.
For more on the Taiji Dolphins and how you can help, please see my previous posts: