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Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2007

Rally targets Justice Ministry

Staff writer

Dozens of protesters, both foreign and Japanese, gathered outside the Justice Ministry on Tuesday to voice opposition to the new policy of fingerprinting and photographing visitors entering Japan.

News photo
Foreigners and activists stage a protest Tuesday outside the Justice Ministry over the new biometric data scanning of non-Japanese entering the country. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

The biometric screening system was launched Tuesday over the strong objection of foreign residents as well as human rights organizations, including Amnesty International Japan.

"We are alarmed by the fact that various human rights, (including) the collection of very personal information, (have) been violated in the name of antiterrorism measures," said Makoto Teranaka, secretary general of AI Japan. "We want to strongly point out the fact that these foreigners are being targeted and discriminated" against by the government.

One protester, Australian Rebecca Miller, who has been in Japan since July through the Rotary World Peace Fellowship Program and is a student at International Christian University in Tokyo, said she is strongly opposed to the new biometric system.

"It's a xenophobic policy and it does have undercurrents of racism in it," Miller said. The new system "makes it an uncomfortable, suspicious world to live in as well, when we really should be trying to expand the ties between people. This just separates people even further.

"I just don't think this is a very useful policy because unless you're already known as a criminal, you won't be caught at the airport," Miller pointed out. "So it's just data mining lots of innocent people." Data mining refers to using algorithms to sift through large amounts of information.

Renate Tamamushi, who came to Japan from Germany in 1961 after marrying a Japanese, has two Japanese children and four grandchildren. She said she was saddened by the new rule.

"I considered Japan as my second home," Tamamushi said. "It makes my heart heavy to think that every time I return from my birth country (to Japan), I will be treated like a terrorist."

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The Japan Times

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