Report urges closer watch on foreigners

Critics deride proposal to let Justice Ministry handle all data

Foreigners living in Japan should be allowed five-year visas but kept under the eye of a new unified Justice Ministry-run nationwide identification system, a government panel on immigration control said in its report released Wednesday.

The panel, made up of university professors and private-sector executives, said a new foreigner registration system and revision of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law should aim at creating “a symbiotic community” by providing a “pleasant environment for foreign residents in Japan.”

While the report emphasizes that the proposed measures will enable the government to provide better services for foreign residents, critics view the new registry system as increased state control.

Key pitches in the proposal include abolishing the current alien registration cards and replacing them with IDs issued by the Justice Ministry and creating a registry system of foreign residents on a household basis ? rather than an individual basis.

The report also proposes deregulation, including extending the renewal period for visas to a maximum of five years. Currently, visas must be renewed every one to three years.

“It remains unclear how the government will respond under the proposed system to each unique case of overstayers. Unified control by the Justice Ministry could result in aggressive deportations,” said Hiroo Osako, chief secretary of the nongovernmental group 119 Network for Foreigners.

The Saitama Prefecture-based activist said improving administrative support for foreigners can be achieved without revising current regulations. The proposed tighter controls, he warned, endanger privacy and basic human rights of foreign residents in Japan.

“For the government to think that strict control over foreigners will solve their issues is wrong,” Osako said.