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Friday, March 31, 2006
Bill to fingerprint, photograph arrivals clears Lower House
By MASAMI ITO
The House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday to require fingerprinting and photographing of foreigners entering Japan as a measure to prevent terrorism.
Despite strong criticism from opposition parties, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations and human rights groups, including Amnesty International Japan, the majority of Lower House members voted for the bill.
The bill will be further debated in the Upper House and is expected to be approved by the chamber in the current Diet session due to end June 19.
With the revision of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, the estimated 6 million to 7 million foreigners entering Japan annually will be obliged to provide personal identification information in electromagnetic format, including fingerprints and photographs.
The collected personal information will be electronically registered and collated with a blacklist of data of past deportees and internationally wanted criminals.
Those who refuse to provide the data or people who are recognized as terrorists by the Justice Ministry can be deported.
The measure, however, exempts foreigners under age 16, ethnic Koreans and other special permanent residents, those invited by the government and people entering Japan for diplomatic or official purposes.
Lawyer Mitsuru Namba expressed concern over the bill, stressing it could lead to discrimination against foreigners.
"This is a measure to strengthen control and surveillance over foreigners," Namba said. "By targeting only foreigners, (this bill) could encourage prejudice and discrimination against foreigners, and I believe it could disturb the society in which we coexist with foreigners."
After Thursday's vote in a plenary session of the House of Representatives, members of the opposition parties told reporters they plan to continue arguing against the bill in the Upper House because there are too many vague points, including how the information will be preserved.
"The problem (regarding this revision) is that it involves biometric information like fingerprints and facial photographs," said Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Satoshi Takayama.
"People cannot change (this information) even if they wanted to. This is completely different from other personal information, like where you live or your bank savings. We believe that biometric information must be handled with extreme caution."