By Isabel Reynolds, Reuters
TOKYO — Japan is to fingerprint and photograph foreigners entering the country from next month in an anti-terrorism policy that is stirring anger among foreign residents and human rights activists.
Anyone considered to be a terrorist — or refusing to cooperate — will be denied entry and deported.
“This will greatly contribute to preventing international terrorist activities on our soil,” Immigration Bureau official Naoto Nikai said in a briefing on the system, which starts on Nov. 20.
The checks are similar to the “U.S. Visit” system introduced in the United States after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
But Japan, unlike the United States, will require resident foreigners as well as visitors to be fingerprinted and photographed every time they re-enter the country.
“It certainly doesn’t make people who’ve been here for 30 or 40 years feel like they’re even human beings basically,” said businessman Terrie Lloyd, who has dual Australian and New Zealand citizenship and has been based in Japan for 24 years.
“There has not been a single incident of foreign terrorism in Japan, and there have been plenty of Japanese terrorists,” he said.
There are more than two million foreigners registered as resident in Japan, of whom 40 percent are classed as permanent residents.
The pictures and fingerprints obtained by immigration officials will be made available to police and may be shared with foreign immigration authorities and governments.
Diplomats and children under 16 are excluded from the new requirement, as are “special” permanent residents of Korean and Chinese origin, many of whom are descended from those brought to Japan as forced labor before and during World War Two.
Local government fingerprinting of foreign residents when issuing registration cards, long a source of friction, was abolished in 2000.
Amnesty International is calling for the immigration plan to be abandoned.
“Making only foreigners provide this data is discriminatory,” said Sonoko Kawakami of Amnesty’s Japan office. “They are saying ‘terrorist equals foreigner’. It’s an exclusionary policy that could encourage xenophobia.”
The new system is being introduced as Japan campaigns to attract more tourists. More than 6.7 million foreign visitors came to Japan in 2006, government statistics show. Immigration officials say they are unsure how long tourists can expect to wait in line for the checks to be made.
Britain is set to require non-European foreign nationals to register biometric details when applying for visas from next year.