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Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008

Fingerprint screening stops 846

Justice minister praises contentious biometric scanning regime for catching undesirables

Staff writer

The new biometric system that fingerprints and photographs all incoming foreigners at airports and seaports prevented 846 undesirables from entering the country over the past year, the Immigration Bureau said Friday.

All were forced to leave Japan immediately, immigration official Aiko Oumi said.

The number accounts for 8.5 percent of about 10,000 foreigners whom immigration officers at airports and seaports expel every year after learning, through questioning and other measures, they had criminal records or were involved in illegal acts.

Despite complaints from foreigners who say mandatory fingerprinting, which resumed in November last year, makes them feel like they are being treated as criminals and violates their human rights, Justice Minister Eisuke Mori praised the system for helping to block illegal entries.

"As we can see, the new monitoring system can stop those with fake passports from entering," Mori said at a news conference. "I think it is very efficient."

The new system was launched on Nov. 20, 2007, after the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law was revised to require all non-Japanese aged 16 and older, including those with permanent resident status, to provide biometric data upon entering the country to help keep terrorists out of Japan.

Incoming foreigners must place their index fingers on a scanner at the immigration booth, where the biometric data are checked against the Justice Ministry's list of international terrorists and foreigners with criminal records.

Of the 846, 748 were ordered to leave Japan and 98, most of whom used fake passports, were expelled from Japan and banned from entering the country for the next five years.

Of the 748, 290 were South Koreans, 137 were Filipinos and 83 were Chinese. The other 98 included 18 Filipinos, 16 Iranians, 10 Sri Lankans and 54 others.

The number of foreigners who entered Japan for the one-year period ending Nov. 19 rose 3.6 percent to 9.37 million from the previous year.

The Immigration Bureau, which is run by the Justice Ministry, also said the system reduced waiting times at airport immigration booths.

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The Japan Times

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