Sendaiben digs deeper on those Narita Airport racially-profiling Instant NPA Checkpoints


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS now on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog. Just got this this morning from friend Sendaiben, about his latest experience with Narita Cops and their racially-profiling ways. Self explanatory, looks like the J-cops are getting free training at the expense of NJ bystanders for being visible while foreign. Have a read. More on this topic previously on here. Debito


From: Sendaiben
Date: September 5, 2010

Flying out of Narita on September 5th, I had a few hours to kill after connecting from Sendai. I was alone, reading on a bench in the restaurant area. After about 20 minutes, a young and very pleasant policeman came up and asked to see my passport in passable English. I replied in Japanese, and we had an interesting conversation. Unfortunately I was mentally unprepared for all of this, so gave him my passport from which he noted down all the details. I refused to provide a contact phone number, however.

I have to emphasise that he was very pleasant throughout, and we had a friendly conversation. He was from Akita, seconded to Narita for two years (it seems the Narita police are drawn from all over the country). I mentioned several times that as a long-term resident I loved Japan but was uncomfortable being singled out for special attention like this due to my appearance. He sympathised and said that it also made him uncomfortable.

Some important points:

1. It seems that the whole exercise is voluntary, something he mentioned when I refused to provide the phone number.

2. I reminded him of the law on the management of personal information, but he was unable to tell me why they needed my passport details or how long they would be kept on file.

3. He claimed it was a random check but that they asked ‘people who seemed foreign’. I asked him to ask some Asian people next, and he said he would 🙂

The whole thing seemed like a training exercise, down to the silent sempai observing from ten metres away.

The most important thing I got out of this is that these checks may well be voluntary. I am therefore going to refuse (politely) to cooperate next time, and see what happens. I guess in a worst-case scenario they could ask to check my ARC, but I would then not allow them to write anything down.


46 comments on “Sendaiben digs deeper on those Narita Airport racially-profiling Instant NPA Checkpoints

  • I reminded him of the law on the management of personal information, but he was unable to tell me why they needed my passport details or how long they would be kept on file.

    Police forces are not bound by this law and thus have no legal obligation to tell you why they’re collecting information, how they will store it and for how long.

    I’ve always been confused by those local governments fretting about the Personal Information Protection Act when they are also expressly exempt from following the law.

  • Yep, they also asked my 60y.o mother when she arrived at Narita after a 13 hour flight and several security checks. Even asked her for her UK telephone number! Yokoso Japan was my parting shot to the policeman. He told me the reason why they were checking was the there was an APEC Conference at that time….couldn’t see any evidence of that in the newspapers, though. I also made the point of highlighting that he only appeared to be targeting people based on their ethnicity. Perhaps the message is getting across – he seemed mildly embarrassed.

  • Showing your ARC to a police officer is not voluntary, it is required by law. I have not seen anywhere that the law allows them to detain you while they write down your information, but good luck arguing that one. I would certainly refuse to give them my phone number…

  • I was also at Narita recently and noticed the police tell two separate foreign looking couples that they were doing a random check and asked for their passports and telephone numbers. The second couple gave their telephone number in Italy but communicated in English. I wondered how asking two foreign looking couples in a row when 99% of the people in the airport looked foreign could have been random. I was prepared for them to ask me and was ready to refuse my telephone number but even though they looked at me (and I looked back) they didn’t ask me. I suspect the crying baby in my arms was a deterrent.

  • something similar happened to me this past spring waiting for the skyliner. i saw 2 of them approaching and got my pen and paper out. they were ever so polite. i told them i didn`t have my passport – they were shocked since they thought i was on vacation – actually i had just taken my visiting family back to narita. they asked me my info and i asked them theirs. they did show their badges but only long enough to get their names. i said i wanted their numbers, too. they wanted to know why and i said “if you take my number i want to take your numbers.” i never did show them my passport, i just merely flashed my driver`s license and alien registration card and that was enough for them. yes, i do believe it is part of a training exercise and i really didn`t feel like taking part.

  • @Ken

    Is that right? I thought the whole point was to make the bureaucracy more accountable…

    Interesting. Any chance you could post a link?

  • When it comes to Narita, I would give the police sufficient leeway. They have a responsibility to keep the possible bad things out of Japan.

    It’s quite natural, as a non-Japanese, to feel taken aback by questioning there. I know on my trips back home, I have coincidentally had to deal with police on occasion. And when I think of it, it’s been a couple times. They wanted to see the card or a passport or something. They want to see something to show that you are somebody not an issue. It’s racial profiling only in the sense that most Japanese aren’t Westerners or someone looking, well, non-Japanese.

    If they crossed the line into “what are you doing here!” or “where are you going?!”, then, I think, a line is surely crossed and one that I wouldn’t tolerate. But if it’s simply, “who are you?”, well, isn’t that a fair question? I don’t know the answer, but think about it. If you’re not a pluralistic country—meaning, that most people in it are there because they always have been—isn’t it a fair question?

    I agree that no one wants an airport hassle. But it seems to me that if the only hassle in Japan were at the airport, and not in trying to make your way through a Japanese life here, it would an improvement. No?

    — No. ‘Cos it’s not only the airport. It’s systematic. As we’ve discussed for years here on

  • @ Haildamage

    I’m not talking about being asked for ARC, I am very aware that we are required by law to show that (although not necessarily have the information written down). I was asked for my passport, and the police wrote down the information. There is absolutely no reason why they would need that, as far as I can tell. The policeman I spoke to certainly couldn’t give me one 😉

  • Having said that, has anyone ever refused to show their ARC? I have the feeling that if you were friendly and polite, and declined to show ID after asking the police if they had any reason to be checking you, nothing would happen…

  • Hoofin wrote: “They have a responsibility to keep the possible bad things out of Japan.”

    Hoofin, usually what you write is totally intelligent, and I respect you as a person, but what you wrote above doesn’t make sense:

    The immigration officials already DID what you think needs to be done (“keep the possible bad things out of Japan”), they already checked everyone’s passports for authenticity, and checked everyone’s visas for appropriateness and authenticity, and even screened for internationally flagged fugitives using their database network, and recorded in that computer system the name, passport number, and time of entry, of everyone who has entered Japan.

    So, immediately after this thorough check has been conducted by immigration officers, how is a subsequent passport-number-check (redundant) and phone-number-request (privacy-invasion) of anyone who doesn’t-appear-to-be-ethnically-Japanese (racial-profiling) somehow help “keep the possible bad things out of Japan”?

    Also, there is another sentence you wrote that doesn’t make sense to me: “…if it’s simply, “who are you?”, well, isn’t that a fair question?”

    Uh, no, unless the police officer has probable cause to believe that you have committed a crime, asking “who are you” is not a fair question at all, and for a police officer to demand that you stop and produce proof of “who you are” is not a legal demand, whether it be in an airport or on a sidewalk: because unless you are operating a motor vehicle, citizens are NEVER required to stop and answer such a question. Intelligent citizens who know the law continue silently walking in peace, because unless one is being placed under arrest, one has the right to not have one’s movement arrested. Also, as explained above, the “who are you” question was already thoroughly checked and documented by immigration officials.

    In addition to the redundancy-issue of checking for illegal-immigrants mere minutes after immigration already did the check, and the racial-profiling-issue, and the privacy-invasion-issue, and the human-rights-violation issue of arresting someone’s movement without having ANY probable cause to arrest them (or, to state it more clearly, police officers giving the FALSE impression that one MUST stop walking and present one’s passport, when in fact the whole conversation is actually just voluntary, legally), again comes the issue of lack-of-logic: How does asking someone “who are you” help to “keep the possible bad things out of Japan”?

    Police Officer: You look foreign, who are you? Show me some I.D.
    Innocent Human: John Jay Smith, passport number 123456789, phone number 1234-5678

    Logically, how is compiling a big list of foreign-looking-people walking within Japan going to help keep bad things out of Japan?

    And seriously, if the police really desire a thorough list of all non-Japanese-citizens currently in Japan, they should simply ask the immigration officers for a daily printout, or better yet, they should ask the immigration officers for access to the immigration database.

    The fact is, the immigration officers would probably not comply with such requests, because they are not legally required to, just as you, the innocent human walking in Japan, should not comply with such requests.

    Advice for all Japanese citizens when asked to voluntarily arrest your movement: silently continue walking.

    Advice for all Non-Japanese citizens when asked to voluntarily arrest your movement: first calmly ask the police officer to show THEIR I.D. so that you can write down THEIR badge number and name (this will make the police officer accountable for the rest of the encounter), then hold up your Alien Registration Card so that they can plainly see your date of stay which proves you are not an over-stayer which is the only thing the police officer has the right to check, and then calmly ask if you are free to go “Ittemo ii desu ka?”, and as soon as the police officer admits that Yes you are free to go (which legally he must, and once he has admitted that Yes you are free to go, he can not later charge you with obstructing the duty of an officer) so congratulations you are NOW free to silently walk away.

  • Assuming you are coming through Narita, aren’t you ALREADY checked when you go though customs? Isn’t that one of the purposes of customs, to determine who is and can legally enter the country? I remember having my bags sniffed by the dogs when I entered Narita several years ago, at one stage of the customs process. They pretty much have you in the palm of their hand at that time, and generally are pretty through.

    So what’s the point of the police harassing you after customs has let you through? This is stupid, a waste of time, filler, an excuse to pay more people for security, and a form of hazing/indocrination for both the rookie cops and the foreigners entering the country.

    Hoofin – in general, it’s assumed in a free country that a person isn’t a criminal when they are engaged in everyday activities, and in general people have the freedom to travel (assuming they passed the borders, which have their own checks, doubly so in Japan which has no land borders). Being stopped by the police randomly to be asked who you are isn’t any more of a fair question than to be asked where you are going or anything else.

  • Let’s be absolutely clear here; what the police are saying is “you are the wrong skin colour to be here”, and that’s racism. Note that the work off their presuppositions, so Debito gets stopped as “foreign” when he’s Japanese, but Canadians of Japanese ethnicity never get stopped. Of course, the same people who support these pseudo-random stops will likely claim that Debito is not and never can be Japanese, because they mistakenly conflate nationality with race.

    — Or rather, “Your skin color arouses suspicion and warrants an identity check.” Which is why the title of this blog post, “racial profiling”, is appropo.

  • Interesting that they are doing this as part of the “training process”.

    My colleague and I have found that providing your personal information during these checks are in fact optional as we were asked to show are ID and were able to politely decline.

    As others have previously stated on here, there is absolutely no reason to do these “random checks” because:
    1. If you come off of a plane, you show ID just to enter the airport
    2. If you enter the airport via a train like the Narita Express, you are still required to show ID (to be more specific either your passport or ARC work for those that do not have Japanese citizenship) in order to enter the airport.

    Although I have not been asked since that experience, unless they start telling me that it is required, I do not intend to give them my personal information.

  • I would be all for racial-profiling if the cost of ruffling a few feathers for some non-japanese looking people meant that Japan was safe from terrorism . BUT as has been said before…it does not actually work! By only approaching certain racial groups you expose Japan as an easy target. Even though the risk of non-domestic terrorism here is still comparatively low, terrorists are not stupid if they wanted to and had enough money it is not difficult to find some nut who would pass as Japanese or a Japanese nut for that matter. Japans racism is actually putting them at greater risk.

  • Just say no. It doesn’t matter whether you are a citizen or not. They are not demanding a gaijin card, so don’t show them anything. Say you’re in a hurry and walk on by.

  • A wee bit off topic but… I have just returned from picking up at the airport a speaker for a big international conference in my neck of the woods.

    Thankfully, there were no police altercations at the airport, but I then took him to his hotel where he was immediately asked to produce his passport by the receptionist.

    He was a foreign national with no residence here so it was in compliance with Japanese law, but I was taken aback by the whole ordeal. I watched as the receptionist took out forms, scrutinized the passport, and played around with the computer. Eventually, I had say goodbye to the gentleman, and even as I was leaving his passport was still being ‘processed’ by the hotel receptionist.

    Reading this thread triggered the emotions I was experiencing as I watched this guy being interrogated by a 20-year old hotel staff. There seems to be a need by the Japanese authorities to make foreigners aware that they are under close watch. The negative washback is that Japanese people taking part in this system, e.g., the young policeman, the hotel clerk, or even those who just bear witness to these instances go away thinking that it is necessary/acceptable to treat foreigners differently, i.e., with suspicion.

  • As a rule, I don’t carry my passport around with me — what Japanese would? I have yet to be asked to show my ARC but I am prepared to say, “Sorry, there isn’t one.”

    At Fukuoka Airport, an immigration supervisor tried to stop me from getting into the “Japanese only” queue. He actually left his high perch and chased after me while I tried to ignore him. When he finally caught up with me, I flashed my Japanese passport and he apologized profusely.

    My wife thought that I really should have stopped when he shouted at the foreigner (me) to go into another line, but I chose to ignore him. How else can we get authorities to stop judging books by their covers?

    — You go, girl!

  • I remember travelling in Europe (Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Switzerland) about twenty years ago and being asked for my passport at every hotel I stayed in. The hotel clerk would take it and keep it until I checked out. Maybe it was some kind of insurance to make sure people didn’t skip out without paying. Was this ever the case in Japan?

    On another point, whenever I’m asked for my passport/ARC in Japan at a hotel, I just smile and say “I don’t have one.” No one’s ever queried this.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Matt, he shouldn’t have had to hand over the passport. All that is required of him is that he write down the passport number. The actual passport never has to leave his hands.

  • Why not just accidentally on purpose write down a slightly erroneous phone number,say one digit out, because you were errr, “jetlagged”? The request for a phone number is so silly, what re they going to do, call you? (No, probably they re going to go through the phone companies records to see if it matches(?)

    Reminds me of the story of the guy who bought something at a (Japanese) electronics shop somewhere, but they insisted he fill out a form, no doubt so they can send a ton of junk mail, which he did not want. they wouldn’t let him off the hook so in a flash of brilliant inspiration, he wrote down as follows:
    Name: M. Mouse
    Address: Disneyland 1 chome
    Sex: Please,None, etc

    and so on. Not suggesting anyone does it so blatantly with the cops at Narita, but you get the idea- you just have to “fill in the form” because it is a “rule”. Or as Hermes in Futurama says, “I just like filling out requisition forms”.

  • I know this is drifting a bit off topic, but…

    sendaiben Says:
    September 5th, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    Having said that, has anyone ever refused to show their ARC? I have the feeling that if you were friendly and polite, and declined to show ID after asking the police if they had any reason to be checking you, nothing would happen…

    = = =

    I did this once. I got stopped in my neighborhood walking home late at night (completely sober, nothing suspicious about me at all). The police couldn’t come up with any ‘rational reason’ (合理的な理由) for stopping me so I suggested that it was harassment. After a long, embarrassing, and rather annoying interaction (and after seeing their badges, well, one of them, the other one wouldn’t show me for long enough to actually get any info but his surname), I showed them my driving license. It had my address on it and proved that I lived in the neighborhood. If their ‘reason’ has nothing to do with one’s visa status or whatever, then it seems permissible to get out of it.

  • I was recently stopped at Sapporo airport after I got off my flight for an ID check. I didn’t know the regulations so I happily supplied my ARC, info about my trip, etc, to the officer. Later that day I became really bothered by the event and checked for info about this kind of situation. It seems like ultimately foreigners do have to show ID to an official, but it’s good to know the exact law if certain scenarios take place.

    The officer that asked me at the airport was as courteous as he could be while asking for such information, so I can’t blame him for anything. If the same thing happened to me again I would do the same, but ask why he was asking me.

  • Funny, when I was at Narita a few weeks ago, they only asked my husband (who was driving the car) for his ID when we entered, didn’t look at mine or the kids’ at all. If you take the bus, they come onto the bus and check ALL the passports (infants included). Does coming by car somehow make you more reliable than taking the bus?

  • Kimberly, this seems to be a concept that goes beyond Japan. For example, when driving across the US/Canada border in a private car the agents will very rarely check your passport if you claim to be a citizen of either country, but if you take a bus every single person is required to show ID.

  • Kimberly,

    I regularly go Narita by bus. They ask for ID, not passports or foreigner registration. As such, I only give them my health insurance card.

  • I once used an Airport bus to go to pick up my friend who was arriving at Narita…I just said to passport checkers I dont have my passport because I am not flying and they moved on…they didnt even ask to see my ARC. So the whole system is a waste of time…it is just incompetent. Loads of the procedures are done “just for show” and not taken seriously by anyone which explains a lot of the bizarre logic behind these airport checks. I think the ones in the airport arrivals especially just like asking for the phone numbers of pretty white girls.

    anyone know why is it that MOJ that handles immigration by the way? Dont we have a Ministry of Immigration? That might help.

    — We have no Ministry of Immigration. What did ya think, this is an immigration country? 😉

  • Please make sure not to conflate the issues here…

    The Immigration Control Act says that foreigners have to carry their passport unless they are carrying an ARC, and that “such foreigners” must also show their passport upon request.

    第二十三条  本邦に在留する外国人は、常に旅券を携帯していなければならない。ただし、外国人登録法による外国人登録証明書を携帯する場合は、この限りでない。
    2  前項の外国人は、入国審査官、入国警備官、警察官、海上保安官その他法務省令で定める国又は地方公共団体の職員が、その職務の執行に当たり、同項に規定する旅券、乗員手帳又は許可書の提示を求めたときは、これを提示しなければならない。

    The Alien Registration Act says that foreigners with an ARC have to carry it and show it upon request.

    第十三条  外国人は、市町村の長が交付し、又は返還する登録証明書を受領し、常にこれを携帯していなければならない。
    2  外国人は、入国審査官、入国警備官、警察官、海上保安官その他法務省令で定める国又は地方公共団体の職員がその職務の執行に当たり登録証明書の提示を求めた場合には、これを提示しなければならない。

    There is NOTHING in the law which says “if the police ask for a passport, you have to show your gaijin card.”

    Now the police at NRT have asked me for a passport, but never for a gaijin card. If they said “Show us your gaijin card,” I would have to show it to them. But if they only say “Show us your passport,” I have no legal obligation to show them anything, assuming that I have an ARC in my pocket.

    In practice, when I say either “no” or “I don’t have one right now” (as applicable) they don’t press the issue. Since they are obviously not actually interested in security, and since they never bother people who look Japanese, I think this is all about English practice, and the passport data is only copied down to prove how many random foreign-looking people they have interrogated.

  • I was asked to show my passport twice at Narita about a year ago while waiting for a flight. Both guys were young. They didn’t ask for phone numbers, though. Both pulled out notebooks and made a few perfunctory writing motions, but could not possibly have had time to write anything more than a letter or two. Probably a desensitization exercise to diminish their abject fear of foreigners.

    Incidentally, on my way back from Vancouver a couple weeks ago, two cops were stopping Asian people before boarding after they went through the ticket gate and entering the jetway. They were asking them where they had stayed in Vancouver and for how long. I think they were Vancouver cops, not RCMP.

  • as far as i know they dont do the id ck thing when you enter other japanese airports,and the only reason you have to show id (not necessarily your passport driving license is fine) to get into narita is a continuance of the increased security measures due to the problems with expanding the airport(rioting,protests,policeman killed etc..)though this is 30yrs ago now.
    why they do the cks inside the airport i dont know,it seems just to be to cause hassle to foreigners and is pointless.i actually refused once last yr and the guy said fine.
    another time when driving my family to the airport ,i had no id at all (not even a driving license!) so i showed my 2yr old sons passport and was waved through.
    on the same trip i was actually stopped at 160km for speeding and had no id of any sort(forgot my wallet!)-thus proved a problem for the police who suggested my wife should drive from there on-so i was quite lucky!

    — I think you’re pushing your luck. Carry some form of ID and don’t be a nitwit. You are hardly a template.

  • @ Mumei
    I take the YCAT bus from Yokohama to Narita and they have boarded and asked for passports every time. I haven’t heard anyone refuse or complain. Of course of you aren’t carrying your passport …

  • Has anyone tried speaking to the police in another language aside from English or Japanese to scare them off? I imagine that would have the double benefit of getting them away from you(unless they decide to take you just for that) and teaching them that not all foreigners speak english. Just an idea.

  • @Mumei in #26, you’re right of course, most people on the bus are planning to travel and DO have their passports, but it’s ID that they ask for. And in the instance I was talking about, my husband actually didn’t have his passport (he was just dropping us off) and showed his health insurance card. One health insurance card for a car full of people, as opposed to boarding the bus and checking one at a time… still seems kind of weird though, and just reinforces the idea that it’s not really about security, just the APPEARANCE of doing something.

  • Sendaiben:

    I forgot to note that the purpose of the law had nothing to do with making the bureaucracy more accountable; after all, they wrote the law, they would never apply it to themselves. It’s entirely meant to cover private industry, especially in the wake of incidents such as the information leaks at Yahoo.

  • Yup. It’s even more pointless when you realize the law makes it perfectly legal for a website to say:

    “By visiting any page of this website, you agree to the Terms of Use, which allows this website to collect any and all personal information about you, and sell that information with or without your knowledge for any reason, at any time, to anyone.”

    So long as they tell you how it’s stored and how to get your own info removed.

  • @Ken: A website can certainly say that, but they run much higher legal risks if they try to sell someone’s personal info on that basis. Most businesses and web sites take the approach of requiring explicit consent to the use of personal information (i.e. signing a document or clicking an “OK” button). If the terms of use are obscured in any way, it becomes much harder to prove that the person was actually notified, and it becomes much easier to lose the argument in court if there’s a lawsuit.

  • Looks like Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs is having problems with Japanese airports, even though he was trying to board his own private plane. He vows to never return to Japan.

    Ninja Stars, SPA! Magazine Says
    By Adam Le and Jason Clenfield – Sep 14, 2010 11:06 AM MT
    Email Share Print
    Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs said he’ll never return to Japan after officials at an airport barred him from taking Ninja throwing stars aboard his private plane, SPA! magazine reported in its latest issue.

    A security scan at Kansai International Airport, near Osaka, detected the weapons inside the executive’s carry-on luggage in July as he was returning home to the U.S. from a family vacation in Kyoto, the Japanese magazine reported, citing unidentified officials at the airport and the transportation ministry.

    Jobs said it wouldn’t make sense for a person to try to hijack his own plane, according to the report. He then told officials he would never visit Japan again, the magazine reported.

    Apple, based in Cupertino, California, disputed the magazine’s account.

    “Steve did visit Japan this summer for a vacation in Kyoto, but the incidents described at the airport are pure fiction,” said Steve Dowling, a spokesman for the company. “Steve had a great time and hopes to visit Japan again soon.”

    Takeshi Uno, a spokesman at Kansai airport, said a passenger using a private jet was stopped at the end of July for carrying “shuriken,” the Japanese word for Ninja throwing stars and other handheld blades. The passenger, whom Uno declined to identify because of the airport’s privacy policy, threw away the blades, he said. The airport doesn’t have separate boarding arrangements for private-jet users, Uno said.


    — That’s kinda dumb of Steve. Post them.

  • That whole thing of asking “foreign-looking” people at airports for passports etc. is really meaningless. Because overstayers etc. would probably not be so dumb and just hang around at the airport for hours.
    Also, real terrorists would probably aware of the police strategies and and try to blend in (by choosing a Japanese or Asian looking person for that job) ==> example: the so-called “shoe bomber” managed his way on the plane by blending in (in his case by having British nationality)
    my point: the real dangerous people would probably try to find ways to blend in and not to stick out … so if the police is only targeting people who stick out … than we can only pray nothing will happen

    Steve V. (17): sorry to hear about your experience at Fukuoka airport. I’ve never had this experience at KIX. I suppose at KIX (because it’s a bigger airport) those guys are probably smart enough to figure out that if you queue at the Japanese-only line no matter how you look … then it’s probably because you really have a Japanese passport.

    final comment:
    travelling together with babies or small children usually really helps … you are very unlikely to be stopped by anyone
    … or spend a few hours inside some Starbucks or so … because police officers are unlikey to enter coffee shops for passport checks

  • I wonder if these poor buggers will be instantly picked up upon arrival like the rest of us NJs?!

    BBC News 28 September 2010 Last updated at 07:03 ET
    Japan welcomes Burmese refugees

    Eighteen Burmese refugees have arrived in Japan from Thailand, marking a new turn in Japan’s asylum policy.

    It follows Japan’s agreement to accept about 90 Burmese under a third country resettlement plan promoted by the UN.

    The three ethnic minority Karen families have been living for 10 years in a camp in north-western Thailand after fleeing persecution in Burma.

    Japan has been criticised in the past for allowing in far fewer refugees than other wealthy nations.

    The BBC’s Roland Buerk in Tokyo says the refugees arrived at Tokyo’s Narita airport wearing jackets against the autumn chill.

    Japan says it is the first Asian country to take part in the UN-backed resettlement programme.

    Japan is one of the world’s most generous donors to refugees overseas, but gives scant welcome to asylum seekers at home, our correspondent says.

    Last year just 30 people were granted refugee status. Another 501 received special residence permits on humanitarian grounds, but with fewer rights.

    The Burmese refugees are expected to spend the next six months in Tokyo learning Japanese.

    The government says if they integrate well into society it may consider allowing more refugees into the country.

  • Racial Profiling at Narita. On June 14, 2013 while I was awaiting my flight to New York in the Business Class lounge at Narita, I heard my name being paged. I went to the gate and someone with a very serious face told me to follow her. I followed her past the gate check-in counter and soon as I passed through I was brought to the side (but in front of all the Japanese passengers waiting at the gate) and was frisked, my hands swabbed and my bags searched. I felt that I was the victim of racial profiling. It was embarrassing and humiliating. They had the nerve to thank me for my “cooperation” after my humiliation. I work for a large Japanese company’s US headquarters but after the experience, will never return to Japan.

  • Rhona, it is likely that this has nothing to do with being racially profiled by Japanese staff. The Department of Homeland security mandates enhanced screening for air passengers this includes US domestic flyers and passengers to the US from overseas locations. It involves additional questioning on check-in and requires airlines to conduct enhanced screening or gate-checks (like the one you had with ETD sampling) immediately before boarding on identified individuals. These checks are really common in US domestic airports and for screening outside the US, those requiring the screening are allocated by the DHS in the US based on passengers list and information (including passport details) given by the airline a few days before travel. US airlines must do these extra checks as required by US government. Japanese security staff have no say over who they must give enhanced screen to. You were not selected or profiled by anyone Japanese, but by your own country’s “security” system. The solution to this is not to avoid Japan, but vote for change against the police state your country is rapidly becoming (also can be avoided by not using US-based carriers as the DHS has more control over them and by not flying domestically in US).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>