Japan begins fingerprinting foreign visitors

[JURIST] The Japanese government on Tuesday began fingerprinting and photographing foreign visitors, pursuant to an anti-terror bill [BBC report] that was approved by Japan's upper house of parliament [JURIST report] in May. If the government determines that a visitor poses a terrorist threat or if they refuse to comply with the identification procedures [Bureau of Immigration outline], they will be denied entry into Japan and returned to their port of origin. Several human rights groups have criticized the new policy, and opponents staged a protest outside the Justice Ministry in Tokyo on Tuesday. The bill's detractors say the policy violates the human rights of foreign visitors because the fingerprints and photographs are retained after foreigners are confirmed as non-terrorists. In an October letter [text, PDF] to the Justice Ministry, the European Business Council in Japan and the Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan [group websites] said that the policy will hinder tourism and frustrate business travelers.

The process entails a separate line for foreigners, including business travelers, tourists, and some foreign-born residents, at airports. Some groups have been exempted from the requirement, such as diplomats, children under 16, and residents of Korean or Chinese origin who are descended from forced laborers during World War II [JURIST news archive]. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan [party website] and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations [group website; opinion paper] have warned that gathering the data and storing it in a database would violate foreigners' privacy. Reuters has more.

 

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