Hoo-hah. Here’s the best argument yet for fingerprinting almost all foreign visitors, er, all foreigners, yet–all put together nicely for one-stop shopping. November 19, 2007 editorial in the Yomiuri–with its fundamental association of extranationality with criminality and insecurity. Note how anti-crime has been Trojan-Horsed into the arguments for anti-terrorism now. Thanks Yomiuri, wouldn’t have expected anything less from you. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Use fingerprints, photos to boost security
The Yomiuri Shimbun Nov 19, 2007
Courtesy of Thomas Bertrand
The revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law will go into effect Tuesday, introducing new immigration checks that require foreign visitors to be fingerprinted and photographed when they enter the country.
The main objective of the revised law is to block terrorists and foreign criminals from entering the country. If it is proven to be effective, Japan’s reputation as a safe country will be bolstered.
Foreign visitors, including tourists, aged 16 or older will be subject to the new immigration examinations with the exception only of diplomats and special permanent residents such as South and North Korean residents in Japan.
The number of foreigners visiting Japan has been steadily rising. Last year, it totaled about 8.1 million, up more than 650,000 from the previous year.
One reason behind the increase is that the government, which has been trying to strengthen the tourism industry, has implemented measures to woo foreign tourists.
The government needs to give careful consideration in conducting the immigration checks to avoid a system breakdown or possible confusion in connection with the new examination procedures.
Electronic data collection
An electronic reading device will be used to collect fingerprint data from the index finger of each hand and foreign visitors’ faces will be digitally photographed. The scanned fingerprint data will be cross-checked against a blacklist on a database in a few seconds. If the data matches that of suspected criminals on the police’s wanted list or information on terrorists obtained through the United Nations and Interpol, the Immigration Bureau will immediately reject their entry into Japan and notify the police.
In the past, a man linked to Al-Qaida passed through Japan’s immigration despite the fact there was an international warrant for his arrest, complete with his fingerprints. Such a blunder must not be repeated. Fingerprint data collected at immigration can be used in criminal investigations in cases in which police find fingerprints at the scene of a crime believed to have been committed by non-Japanese.
The blacklist includes people who have been deported from Japan in the past. An increasing number of people who were once kicked out have later reentered the country with a fake passport or a passport that they obtained by changing their name. The new immigration checks will be useful in preventing such illegal entries into Japan.
International effort needed
The government needs to cooperate with other countries and constantly update the database. The bureau apparently expects the new measures will bring about a deterrent effect, which could make suspicious foreign visitors abandon their attempt to enter the country.
The United States has already introduced measures to fingerprint and photograph all foreign visitors in principle. Britain obliges visa applicants to be fingerprinted upon issuance. Indeed, many other countries are interested in obtaining personal identification data from foreign visitors, including fingerprints.
The government dispatched relevant officials to China, South Korea and Taiwan to explain Japan’s new immigration check system. The Asian neighbors, according to the government, basically expressed understanding for the envisioned measures. Fighting terrorism is a common task for the international society. These countries obviously recognize its importance.
Japan will host the Group of Eight summit meeting at the Lake Toya hot spring resort in Toyakocho, Hokkaido, next year. Together with strengthening immigration checks, we hope the government will take all possible means to ensure coastal security and prevent terrorism in this country.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 19, 2007)