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.
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.
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.
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):
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.
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.If you have a comment, find me on Twitter at @longcountdown. I'd love to hear from you!