Mainichi.jp: Editorial: Gov't must think hard about fingerprinting foreigners

Editorial: Gov't must think hard about fingerprinting foreigners

Japan has started a new system obligating foreigners entering the country to provide their fingerprints and face photos. The United States started a similar process following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the government has gone along with this, revising the immigration law to make it obligatory for foreigners to take these steps.

Data collected from foreigners entering the country will be matched with that assembled on about 18,000 fugitives on Interpol and Japanese law enforcers' lists, as well another roughly 800,000 who have previously been deported from Japan with the aim of preventing entry into the country for those who match the data.

The Justice Ministry insists that the measures are an anti-terrorism step and Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama created controversy with his statements about an associate in Al-Qaeda, and there are doubts about how effective this process will be. The system still makes it very difficult to capture terrorists who have no prior convictions and it is not possible to say that the government can adequately cover every port of entry, especially when it comes to those entering by sea and particularly those smuggled in.

Where the system will show its teeth is combating those entering illegally using false passports. Of the roughly 56,000 people deported from Japan last year, about 7,300 had been expelled from the country at least once before, including some foreigners who should never have been allowed into the country in the first place, and immigration authorities were widely criticized for their lax control. Immigration and law enforcers also had to suffer a backlash after it was learned that fugitive members of the Japanese Red Army had been sneaking in and out of Japan using false passports. But the new system should make it impossible for repeated re-entry into the country using false passports. The new system should also prove effective in countering the crime gangs who leave the country following raids, come back in again once things have calmed down and then flee once more.

Surrounded by water on all sides, immigration authorities obviously saw implementation of the current system as a task of great importance, but there are many things that need to be taken into account when considering this first attempt at halting crime by foreigners coming to Japan. To ease the problems associated with taking people's fingerprints and keep the system in process, naturally clear explanations of the system are necessary and it goes without saying that steps must be taken to make sure the data collection process is spread up so that it does not become a burden on those foreigners entering the country.

The ministry must also clearly state the standards by which collected data will be preserved and handled. Going by what the ministry has said so far, the data collected will not be necessary if the person who presented it is not on any of the lists used for comparing it with. Even considering keeping the fingerprints and photos on file in case of trouble while the presenter is in the country, this data should be destroyed when the person leaves the country, or at least after a set period of time. There should be a set limit for how long this data can be kept. Considering that there have been many criticisms of faults in the U.S. system, the government must, on the basis of controlling individuals' private information, set clear steps of the processes involved in dealing with what happens when somebody's details match those on the lists and what happens when somebody is mistakenly added to those lists. It is also essential that punishments be put in place for any misuse of the information obtained.

The ministry must also outline its long-term vision of how it plans to improve the working conditions of foreign laborers in Japan and unskilled foreign workers in the country. Japan has been widely criticized for the abuse and poor payment that foreign trainees coming to this country have received here and it is a fact that many of the foreign laborers here without visas are widely appreciated. When tightening immigration controls, the government must also make sure that this does not lead to unfair discrimination and also protects the rights of foreign laborers coming to work here.

If the government is not going to place importance on the situation of foreigners coming to Japan or international opinion in favor of coming up with measures to fight crime, it is not going to receive widespread support for its new system.

(Mainichi Japan) November 24, 2007

Mainichi special: Fingerprinting fury


Lord Metroid said...

Considering Tourism in the United States has fallen by 30% and 100th of millions if not trillions of dollars have been lost due to the harsh "security" mesures which otherwise tourists would have spent in USA.

One can only assume the same thing will happen in Japan. It is in Japan's desire to have immigration as the declining population. Yet the foreign hostility is growing. Why? Why, is the Japanese government so self-deprecating and anti-effective?

Anonymous said...

Why are you guys so afraid?
When I entered the US they took my fingerprints but I was OK because I had nothing to hide.

Anonymous said...

Ah the "nothing to hide" argument, A false dichotomy predicated by an assumption of fearfulness.

We are not afraid, we are upset at the indignities we have to face at the hands of the Japanese Government.

"Why are you so afraid...."

What is the Japanese government afraid of? Why are they in such a fearful state that they feel the must photograph and fingerprint foreigners?

"If you have nothing to hide then you should happily be searched..."

I can turn that around and say, "If you do not suspect me of a crime, why should you search me?"

Should we accept to be defacto searched? Should we accept to be defacto printed and photographed as if we were suspects of a crime?

Especially those of us who live in Japan?

Should the government be allowed to enter our houses day or night and search them? Hey it is okay if you have nothing to hide!

This is an insult to the NJ population, and an outrage!

There has always been terrorism. Terrorism is about terror and fear, and they have made everyone so fearful that they accept these attacks on freedom and privacy.

So I will say, I am not afraid of terrorism, whether it be the terror of planes flying into building, or the terror of the Rape of Nanking. Each is an act of terror, differing by only degree and perpetrator.

And to be quite honest, this move by the Japanese government does nothing to protect from the former, and take two steps in the direction of the latter.

Anonymous said...

Was the re-entry issue caused by the rape of Nanking?
Now I got an idea what kind of people are complaining!
Thaks for revealing, anonymous Fenqing!

Anonymous said...

And you anonymous troll, who cannot even address an issue coherently.

When your English comprehension rises to the level you can understand arguments and discussions, perhaps then you should consider participating.

Now we know who is supporting.

Anonymous said...

Man, don't feed the trolls!!

They are either government damage control experts (which means they will sound like they are 17), or they are actually 17 and no one loves them. Do not give them the attention the actively seek!

This issue is important enough...it stands on its own. These trolls want to distract from that and make it semantical.

Don't give them the satisfaction. I support you and understand the issues involved.