Activists blast Japan’s plan to fingerprint foreign visitors

Japan’s plan to fingerprint and photograph all foreigners entering the country ages 16 or over to guard against terrorism is a serious violation of human rights, activists said Monday.

Only some permanent residents, diplomatic visitors and children will be exempt from Japan’s new entry controls, which take effect Nov. 20.

“The introduction of this system is a violation of basic human rights, especially the right to privacy,” said Makoto Teranaka, secretary-general of the human rights group Amnesty International Japan. He said it unfairly targets foreigners since Japanese could also be terrorists.

Under the new regulations, all adults will be photographed and fingerprinted on arrival in Japan, according to the country’s Immigration Bureau. Incoming aircraft and ship operators also will be obliged to provide passenger and crew lists before they arrive.

Resident foreigners will be required to go through the procedure every time they re-enter Japan, the bureau said. Immigration officials will compare the images and data with a database of international terror and crime suspects as well as domestic crime records. People matching the data on file will be denied entry and deported.

“I know this may cause a lot of inconvenience, but it’s very necessary to fight terror,” Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama told reporters Monday.

“We are facing a terrorist threat as a reality today, and Japan may also become a victim of a terrorist attack,” Hatoyama said.

Similar measures have been introduced in the United States.

Tokyo’s support of the U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and dispatch of forces to each region have raised concerns that Japan could become a target of terror attacks.

Japan previously fingerprinted foreign residents in Japan, but that system was abolished in 1999 following civil rights campaigns involving Japan’s large Korean and Chinese communities.