WHAT TO DO ABOUT NEW NOV 20 FINGERPRINT LAW REVISION TARGETING ALL NJ BORDER CROSSERS
LETTER OF PROTEST YOU CAN USE
AND AMNESTY INT’L MEETING OCT 27 YOU CAN ATTEND
(UPDATE: OCT 9: Comments section below contains suggestions on where to send your complaints.)
I’ve been getting quite a few inquiries as to what we can do about this from very frustrated people. Some want to march in protest, others want to lobby legislators, still others want to launch a lawsuit or just refuse to be fingerprinted.
Not to douse any fireworks (and I never like to tell anyone not to utilize a peaceful form of protest, even if it may not work in the Japanese system), but be advised of the obstacles you are facing:
1) LAUNCHING A LAWSUIT means a lot of time and energy (and often a considerable amount of money) you invest, and probably no way to stop this law from being promulgated in the first place. It’s been in the pipeline for years now, and at the risk of saying I told you so, I did, from at least 2005, so the “foregone conclusion” effect is very powerful by now. Moreover, I speak from experience when I say that the legislative and judicial processes in Japan are not going to interfere with one another (not the least due to the Separation of Powers mandate), at least not for the many years spent in civil court anyway.
Wanna try it? Go for it. I’ll hold your coat. But the simple argument you’re going to get back from any lawyer with a retiring personality (and no activist proclivity) is that you’re not going to be able to sue for discrimination–when many laws don’t treat citizens and non-citizens equally anyway; it’s like suing because you don’t have voting rights, and that definitely won’t wash in court.
2) CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE, i.e. refusing to comply with the law, is an option, but the GOJ has already out-thunk you there. When protests against fingerprinting happened before (mostly by Zainichis), they were possible because people were already inside Japan when they protested. Refuse to hand in your fingerprint? Fine, go home and have dinner and wait for the next scolding letter from the GOJ. You weren’t going to get kicked out of the country. This time around, however, you’re outside the country, so refuse to be fingerprinted and you won’t be let in; you can sit in the airport lobby or Gaijin Tank all year for all Immigration cares. Moreover, to save themselves a repeat Zainichi protest performance, the Zainichis were conveniently made exempt. Touche. Refuse to comply if you like, but be aware of the potential risks–and unless enough of you do it and fill up the Gaijin Tanks they’re not going to notice.
You can, of course, in a similar vein make your complaints known and loud via you or your spouse and family by all lining up in the same Gaijin Line together, and grumbling when it’s your turn that you are not a tourist and should be treated like a resident of Japan like any other.
3) LOBBYING LEGISLATORS sounds interesting, but it’s extremely labor intensive, and legislators in my experience are not as accessible as they are, say, in the US Congressional lobbying experience I have had. Again, go for it if you want. They have email addresses and phone numbers. Just remember that unless you are an entrenched interest, Japanese Diet Members will generally be nonplussed about what you’re doing in their office; they don’t usually even pretend to listen to the commoners unless it’s election time.
4) A PUBLIC MARCH is also viable, and you might be able to get something going by attending the Amnesty International/SMJ meeting in Tokyo Oct 27. Attend if only to salve your angst that you feel alone in this issue–because you’re definitely not, but it sure is difficult to get the NJ community mobilized around much.
Next, if you want to raise awareness of the issue, I have some letters below which Martin Issott has kindly said I can include to inspire us. He’s sent these out to various agencies, particularly the tourist-based ones, and I suggest you adapt them to your purposes and do the same.
Anyone have time on their hands (I don’t right now), please translate into Japanese for the public good and I’ll put it up here.
But don’t do nothing about it if this bothers you–otherwise the aggravation will build up inside you and fossilize into resentment. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
RE: JAPAN’S AMENDED IMMIGRATION LAW
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am a 20 plus year resident of Kobe, and I am taking the liberty of writing to you to describe what I regard as the grossly unfair manner in which Japan’s Ministry of Justice intends to implement amendments to the Immigration Law, which come into effect from 23rd November this year.
I am hoping that you will be able to support the case that I describe, and will use your good offices in the UK to publicise this situation to all of your Japanese national members, in the hope that together their and your influence may be able to affect change to MOJ’s plans.
As you may already be aware, the amended Immigration Law requires that all foreigners, be they visitors, residents, or permanent residents, must submit fingerprints and photographs on each and every entry, or re-entry, to the country.
However the law also stipulates for those resident foreigners who have pre-registered their bio-metric data with the authorities, they may use what is termed an Automated gate system to facilitate their immigration procedure.
Since 23rd August I have on several occasions requested the Kobe Immigration Office to allow myself and my wife to provide the required bio-metric data.
At no time have I received an actual response to this request, but have been told, initially, only that the automated gate system would be established at Narita Airport by 23rd November.
Subsequent follow up finally resulted in a letter from the Kobe Immigration authorities dated 21st September clearly stating that the automated gate system is only to be established at Narita Airport, and there are no plans to establish this system at any of Japan’s other international airports.
As a Kobe resident, it is impractical for me to use Narita Airport, and thus as the situation stands at present I will be required to join the lengthy queues of arriving foreigners to provide my fingerprints and photograph each time I reenter the country.
It is a classic Catch-22 situation!
I regard it as grossly unfair to all resident foreigners residing outside of the immediate Tokyo area that the automated gate system is not to be established at all Japan’s International Airports.
Even more galling is the fact that at all international airports special immigration channels, effectively automated gates have recently been established for non Japanese APEC business travel card holders.
The final irony is that as a 20 year resident my fingerprints have long since been on file with Kobe City authorities, so I appealed to them to provide a copy of my data that I could submit to Kobe Immigration – they proudly proclaimed that they had long since destroyed such data!
I also applied to the local police, and was informed that the police never, ever, take the fingerprints of citizens in good standing!
Sir, this is really quite a ridiculous situation, but one which will very seriously inconvenience a great many resident businessmen, and in my case as an Area Director I need to enter and reenter Japan 2 or 3 times per month!
Finally I repeat whatever you are able to do to publicise this situation will be very much appreciated – noting that of course frustrated businessmen here will very soon be making loud appeals to the British Immigration authorities to treat resident Japanese businessmen in the UK in the same unfriendly manner which would be another retrograde step.
RE: AMENDED IMMIGRATION LAW
Attention: The Director, Visit Japan Campaign [or whatever avenue you wish to pursue]
Dear Sir or Madam,
As I am sure you are well aware, the amended Immigration Law, contains a stipulation that an Automated gate system shall be established to facilitate the entry and re-entry to Japan of resident foreigners, however the Automated gate will only be established at Narita Airport by 23rd November this year, the date of the new law’s enforcement.
Kobe Immigration have confirmed to me by letter dated 21st September that there is no plan to establish the automated gate system at any other international airport in Japan.
You may claim that this has nothing to do with your organisation, but I believe very strongly that it has everything to do with your activities in your attempts to promote tourism to Japan.
When resident foreigners such as myself, with over 20 year residence in the city of Kobe, are as from 23rd November, on entry or re-entry to Japan treated as suspected criminals or terrorist despite our pleading with authorities to pre-register our bio-metric data in advance, I’m sure you can imagine that this does not give us a good impression about the quality of life living in Japan as a foreigner!
Therefore we will pass on these views and opinions to friends, relatives, and colleagues who might by considering to visit Japan with a strong warning to stay away!
There are still 2 months to go before implementation of the amended Immigration Law on 23rd November this year; I urgently request you to do your best to remonstrate with the Ministry of Justice about their unfair implementation of the new Immigration Law.