Tagged: Japan fingerprinting

Illegal Immigrants Reason for Fingerprinting non-Japanese

Anger among Japan’s foreign community at the new immigraion laws continues to grow. Nearly all foreigners, including permanent residents, are now being fingerprinted every time they enter Japan, and can be denied entry for any reason the Ministry of Justice pleases.

Isn’t the point of fingerprinting to stop terrorists entering Japan?

That’s what I first thought. I even wrote a comparison between fingerprinting in Japan and the UK, showing that Japan couldn’t justify fingerprinting foreigners under the “War on Terror” banner because unlike the UK, it has never been a victim of a terrorist attack from non-Japanese. In contrast, the UK has repeatedly been the target of terrorism, but hasn’t yet implemented fingerprinting at the border, and doesn’t appear to have any plans for a Japanese-style ”we don’t care about your visa, just give us your fingerprints” approach.

The “War on Terror” banner is all encompassing

Now, the talking-heads on the Japanese TV news describe the fingerprinting system as a means of preventing “terror, etc.” What exactly is that “etcetera”? Well, on the program I watched this morning, they went on to talk about Japan’s illegal immigration problem, citing last year as the first time ever, over 10,000 foreigners tried to illegally enter Japan.

Illegal immigrants are a menace to Japan!

The way the panel of “experts” discussed the “problem” was disgusting. They presented these 10,000 people as criminals and a danger to society. I know first hand of someone who fell for this hook, line and sinker, believing that fingerprinting was absolutely necessary to stop over 10,000 foreign criminals entering the country every year and running amok.

There are actually very few illegal immigrants in Japan

Here’s a reality check for those who accept these news shows as gospel:

10,000 illegal immigrants per year is actually so low, it’s a figure that Japan should be proud of, not a reason to install fingerprint machines that violate the human rights of everyone forced to use them. Here’s a quick comparison with some other countries:

Japan has a population of 127,433,494 (Jul, 2007 est.) and the news stated that approximately 10,000 illegal immigrants come to Japan each year. Estimated number of illegal immigrants in Japan: 250,000 (0.2% of population).

The U.S. has a population of 301,139,947 (July 2007 est.) and it is estimated that between 400,000 and 700,000 illegal immigrants have entered the United States each year since 1992. Estimated number of illegal immigrants in the U.S.: 12,000,000 (3.9% of population).

France has a population of 60,742,000 (late 2006, est.) and 80,000 – 100,000 illegal immigrants are estimated to enter France each year (though most in transit). Estimated number of illegal immigrants in France: 400,000 (0.7% of population).

The U.K. has a population of 60,776,238 (July 2007 est.) and the Telegraph claims 30,000 illegal immigrants make the journey across the English channel every year. Estimated number of illegal immigrants in the U.K.: 400,000 (0.7% of population).

Illegal immigrants are all criminals!

An illegal immigrant is by definition a person who enters and lives in a country in violation of that country’s laws, so technically, they are criminals. That doesn’t mean they are dangerous people who we should all be afraid of. Here are two stories about illegal immigrants in Japan:

Fingerprinting will not stop illegal immigration

I’m not an expert on illegal immigration, but I would assume the easiest way to become an illegal immigrant is to overstay your visa. Surely, most of Japan’s illegal immigrants entered the country legally and just didn’t return home. If this is the case, how will fingerprinting make any difference?

Why do illegal immigrants stay in Japan?

They come for a better life, and stay because they find employment. But who employs them, and at what cost? The article Japan: Chinese Boat People from 1997 suggests that

Illegal immigrants from China, Korea, and Pakistan are smuggled into western Japan aboard fishing boats by Chinese “snakeheads” and Japanese yakuza gangsters. Instead of obtaining the $25,000 fee to be smuggled in advance, many snakeheads charge only $2,000 in advance, with the balance due upon successful entry into Japan. The boat trip from Fujian to Japan normally takes one week. In order to pay off smuggling fees, some Chinese immigrants commit crimes in Japan.

It’s no secret that Japanese are hiring illegal immigrants. By giving them jobs, they are providing the incentive for illegal immigrants to come to and stay in Japan. Of course, these employers won’t be fingerprinted.

Labeling illegal immigrants as dangerous criminals is fear mongering

Compared to other countries, Japan does not have an illegal immigrant problem worth mentioning. The fact that these low numbers are being presented under the guise of outrageous, disturbing figures that the Japanese masses should be alarmed by is absurd. The fact is, the three main reasons for fingerprinting foreigners – terrorism, illegal immigration, and crime – are all easily exposed as ridiculous exaggerations of threats to society. Installing these fingerprinting devices is an abuse of power that seems to have been done for reasons other than national security.

Comparing the UK and Japan’s Fingerprinting Plans

There’s an awful lot of talk, and rightly so, about Japan’s implementation of biometric fingerprinting at international airports this month. As I understand it, any foreigner over the age of 16 who doesn’t have diplomatic status or a “special” permanent residency visa will be photographed and fingerprinted on entry to the country.

Here’s a poster and more official information on the new entry procedures.

Fingerprinting to start in Japan

Foreigners outraged by new security measures

First, any permanent resident who thinks they are free of these new security measures should read the above again. Only “special” permanent residents are exempt, so green card holders such as this very angry 40-year-old mother of two Japanese citizens, must still line up with the other suspected terrorists.

Permanent foreign residents can’t be trusted

Why do I say suspected terrorists? Because that is who the immigration officials are looking for. As you pass through border control, they run your fingerprints against an international database of criminals and terrorists, and either detain or deport you if they find a match. If you weren’t a suspect, you would be allowed into Japan, just like the “trustworthy” diplomats and “special” permanent residents. 

No fingerprinting for Japanese citizens

It goes without saying that Japanese citizens are also exempt from this very expensive means of preventing terror, despite them being solely responsible for all previous acts of terrorism in Japan (i.e. the Tokyo subway sarin attack and the bombings of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and the Hokkaido Prefectural Government office).  

Who is on the international list of criminals and terrorists?

One of my concerns is who exactly is on this list of criminals and terrorists? They must mean suspected criminals or terrorists. I mean, if they had already been proven guilty and charged for their crimes, then they would either be behind bars or have finished serving their time, not galavanting around the world on a fake passport. Under what conditions do these people get on the list? It seems political activists qualify and are no longer allowed to fly, and now there are more than 755,000 names on the US terrorist watch list.

Comparison with a real terror target – The U.K

The United Kingdom has been the victim of countless terrorist attacks in the past. The Provisional IRA were responsible for a series of fatal attacks between 1969 and 1997, including the 1984 Brighton hotel bombing, in which the IRA tried to assassinate British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. More recently, four radical Islamic suicide bombers killed 52 commuters and injured 700 when bombs exploded on trains and buses on July 7th, 2005. Incredibly, the bombings took place at the exact same times and places that 1,000 anti-terrorist officers were conducting terrorism drills [Source: ITV interview on YouTube]. 

British citizens are consumed by terrorism propaganda

Concerns over terrorism seem to be at an all time high in the U.K. Far more so than during the IRA’s terror campaign last century. These days, racial tensions and finger pointing, coupled with on going coverage of the “War on Terror” have made British citizens paranoid. At least that’s the impression I get from reading some of the 130 pages of comments on BBC’s Have Your Say.

I remember the days during the threat of the IRA when we were told by our Government to carry on regardless and to get on with our lives – and we did just that. In these new days of the Islamic threat, the Government have allowed the terrorists to win by curtailing our civil liberties and forcing us to do anything but carry on regardless.

Should the Brits be afraid? Well the Terror Alert website has the current threat warning level at “Severe”, and that would make me paranoid, too.

UK Terror Threat Level

Biometric fingerprinting at U.K. airports

Despite a terror threat far greater than that of Japan, the U.K has only just begun a trial period of biometric fingerprinting. The trial is underway at London’s Gatwick airport, and is being used to confirm that the foreigner entering the country is the same person who applied for a visa in his or her own country. The trial is also limited to visitors from Sierra Leone.

Infowars.com reports:

A Home Office spokeswoman explained that Sierra Leone was chosen because the main flight into Gatwick from the country arrives at a quiet time with a low number of passengers. This makes it logistically easier for immigration staff to trial the tech. In addition, citizens of Sierra Leone require visas to enter the UK.

The article goes on to say that fingerprinting is being used to “stamp out multiple visa applications and identity fraud”. It also says that:

The Border and Immigration Agency is aiming to use biometric measures for all non-visa nationals arriving from outside the European Economic Area by 2011.

Here’s a video of the U.K fingerprinting trial (Reuters link):

Conclusion

If the U.K, a country with a “severe terror threat” level, and victim of an attack during the current “War on Terror”, is only planning to fingerprint visa applicants from outside the EU, why is Japan launching this all-foreigner policy when it has never been victim of a foreign terrorist attack? I can only assume it is copying the United States, which added green card holders to its own fingerprinting program last year. Clearly, the number of permanent foreign residents is too small to make any protest heard, and the Japanese have been misled by their media to believe that foreigners are the root cause of all crime in this country, so we won’t be getting any support from them.

Further reading

The Japan Times has two good articles about the new anti-terrorism measures in Japan, one for fingerprinting and one against fingerprinting. Fellow Kakamigahara blogger, Jason, wrote in favor of fingerprinting, whereas the Australian wife of a Japanese man outright refuses to return to Japan, ever again! Japanese TV celebrity Kazutomo Miyamoto prasied the system, hoping it will reduce foreign crime and make Japan a safer place, while Japanese social activist Debito Arudo, is working hard to protest the new fingerprinting measures.

Addition: The crazy world of fingerprints

If you were a criminal or terrorist needing to get into Japan, all you would need to do is to Google “fake fingerprints”, click any result and follow the simple steps to faking a fingerprint. If this really works, it makes a mockery of the whole fingerprinting issue.