Fingerprinting foreigners

Tokyo%20Protest%20Fingerprint%20Justice%20Ministry.jpg I remember having to put my thumb to the ink pad when I first applied for the Alien Registration Card that all foreigners in Japan are required to carry at all times. Seven years ago, that law was changed, and my sparkling new card, which has a lot of other fancy features, is no longer blessed with my unique imprint.

Should we all be subjected to fingerprinting as we enter Japan? Well, if Aliens need to do it, why not also Japanese citizens. The “terror law” that Japan has imposed would not have stopped Japanese citizens belonging to Aum Shinrikyo from coming up with the Tokyo Subway gas attack 12 years ago. Fingerprinting would not have stopped the Japanese citizens joining the infamous Japanese Red Army from killing innocent victims in Israel and elsewhere in the 1970s. Japanese people didn’t take much responsibility for these autrocities; most people – and lawmakers – here probably have “forgotten”.

So what is behind all this nonsense?

I really do not know.

Join Amnesty International or its English-speaking branch in Tokyo.

(U.S. Visit, the system that Japan appears to have copied, currently holds a repository of over 50 million persons, primarily in the form of two-finger records…)

(Photo from The Mainichi: Protesters ‘flip the bird’ at Justice Ministry over forced fingerprinting)

Protestors inflated a 3-meter-high yellow hand with an extended forefinger and thrust it toward the Justice Ministry’s offices in Tokyo on Tuesday to demonstrate against a controversial fingerprinting policy beginning at ports of entry across the country the same day.

About 80 protestors turned toward the ministry building and shouted in unison their opposition to the new policy, which requires all but a handful of foreigners to have their fingerprints and face photos taken to gain entry into Japan.

Representatives of human rights groups, labor unions, foreigners’ groups and individuals spoke out against the system — similar to the US-VISIT policy operating in the United States since 2004, but also targeting residents and not just tourists — calling it, among other things, “racist,” “xenophobic,” “retrogressive” and “an invasion of human rights and privacy.”

“It’s an expression of Japanese xenophobia. Japan is using this system as a tool to control foreigners. For the past few years, the government has been associating foreigners with things like crime and terrorism,” said Sonoko Kawakami, campaign coordinator for Amnesty International Japan, which organized Tuesday’s demonstration.

Lim Young-Ki, a representative of the Korean Youth Association in Japan, pointed out how ethnic Koreans had fought for decades until the 2000 abolition of fingerprinting on Alien Registration Certificates only to see the process revived through the back door now.

“This system is ostensibly an anti-terrorism measure, but it is extremely harmful to individuals and only applying the system to foreigners shows a lack of consideration for foreigners’ human rights. Even though the system of fingerprinting foreigners was completely abolished in April 2000, it’s infuriating that the Japanese government has reinstated this practice and this entry inspection system,” Lim said, reading a statement issued by his organization. “We want to use this demonstration to call on the Japanese government to promptly redress this system obligating foreigners to provide their fingerprints and face photos whenever they enter the country.”


5 Comments so far

  1. SEO (unregistered) on November 25th, 2007 @ 1:51 pm

    I’m a Japanese living in Japan.
    I happened to visit your blog via Yahoo! Directory.
    I am ashamed of Japanese government trying to enforce fingerprints to you.
    Though the action will be important to protect our country against terrorists, that would not be the reason to force fingerprintings.

  2. Michael (unregistered) on December 5th, 2007 @ 2:53 pm

    “similar to the US-VISIT policy operating in the United States since 2004, but also targeting residents and not just tourists”

    The reason legal residents of the U.S. are not subject to fingerprinting at the port of entry may be that their fingerprints (all ten of them) are collected in the process of obtaining residence, and more recently issued green cards carry them as machine-readable data. (It is interesting to note, though, that even the newest green cards still show a lonely black fingerprint on the front.) Personally, I have my doubts about the effectiveness of mass-fingerprinting and would oppose it out of principle.

  3. Rabs (unregistered) on December 24th, 2007 @ 5:13 pm

    Well, I have no problem with the scanning finger prints at immigration in Japan. It hardly takes few seconds to do it, then why should we be so bothered about it. They are not going to do anything with our prints, so why worry so much.

  4. Martin F (unregistered) on December 24th, 2007 @ 6:03 pm

    Thanks for your comments.

    Seo, I agree that forcing fingerprints will not be effective to stop terrorism.

    Michael, the situation in the U.S. is very difficult to understand, I appreciate your explanation.

    Rabs, did you have a smooth entry into Japan, or are you just talking in general? I hope you will read more about this issue and understand why many people are worried about human rights.

  5. jin (unregistered) on January 2nd, 2008 @ 1:37 am

    the curriculum I’ll be taking offers (and is optional) a work opportunity to Japan. I’ve taken 2 Japanese-language classes (but requires at least Lv.3) for the requirement(s) the school is looking for in candidate students who are interested in the program.

    I’ve also thought about working in Japan but upon reading an article about this (@NewsOnJapan) topic, now I seem to begin to be disinterested if my well-being as a human being (rather than an ‘alien’) will be treated differently. while I understand Japan may be imposing this regulation for the better security of their nation, I deplore that it is not an effective solution for visitors (or people who would like to work there given the opportunity) who they would welcome to their country. because other countries DO NOT impose such a method to their people (and for many other people from different places of the world) to be mistreated in such a derogative manner.

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