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:
- Illegal immigrants risk life and limb in Japanese factories – Bangladeshi Abul Kalam Idrish, his son Jakin Prince Alsafa and daughter Saudia are part of the 270,000 so-called “undocumented foreigners” living in Japan long term who do not officially exist.
- Hard Work, Furtive Living: Illegal Immigrants in Japan – After 11 years of illegal work in low-paid jobs, Martinez has become adept at blending in with the crowd… Japanese society extends little protection from exploitation for powerless illegal immigrants.
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.