Thursday, November 22, 2007

Look, fingerprint and don't smile!

Every country is heading towards such a system and truly there is a bad feeling, "un malaise", in some particular countries, where nationalism (xenophobia some say) fits security and police enforcement mania. Example was given this week in Japan who began taking fingerprints and photographs of foreign nationals aged 16 or older, at their entry at its 27 airports and 126 seaports nationwide. It is a revised immigration law as part of antiterrorism measures.

[The photo demonstrates that Japan always uses women in case of crisis management]

Foreigners who are terrorists or just foreigners who overstayed their visa, I wonder? I have no appetite to fly with such mad men but I wonder what will happen in a country like Japan who loves monitoring its population and has a bad trend to consider foreigners like potential criminals... Lately even Japanese policemen are allegedly obliged to carry with them a GPS device to inform their superiors of their gestures and moves, after some insensitive cops were allegedly found harassing teen agers and sometimes, as in one case, committed a "crime passionel"!

But, is it efficient and well set? Here again time will say and our Japanese hosts will maybe improve the system. "Kaizen desu". Indeed as one of the French consulate official told me: " The problem lays with what to do with a fingerprints data base" and he added that the problem is to know if this data base will be adequate and technically adapted to the mission.

Now facts from agencies and complaints from residents and humanitarian organizations:

Quotes: "The Justice Ministry has instructed regional immigration bureaus to forcibly take fingerprints from foreigners who refuse to be fingerprinted or to leave the country, sources close to the ministry said. The ministry's Immigration Bureau sent the directive to regional immigration bureaus prior to the introduction of a system on Tuesday, under which all foreigners who enter Japan, except for a limited number of people such as special permanent residents and visitors under the age of 16, must be photographed and fingerprinted at airports and ports.

The ministry HAD explained that it HAD no intention of forcibly taking fingerprints from foreigners who visit Japan. The directive cites a clause in the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, which empowers immigration officers to conduct body checks on foreign visitors if such measures are necessary for safety reasons. It then urges immigration officers to forcibly take fingerprints from those who refuse to cooperate and film them on video.

Japan became the second country after the United States to introduce the system that collects biometric data from foreign visitors amid lingering calls for a review by the Japan Federation of Bar Associations and human right groups that claim the data could be made available for criminal investigations on an unlimited basis. Entering foreign visitors must show their passports and submit entry cards before they are guided by immigration officials to have their face pictures taken and index fingers scanned.

The revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law was enacted in May last year in a bid to block entry into Japan mainly of individuals designated as terrorists by the justice minister. Under the law, scanned fingerprints and other biometric data will be stored in a computer to be instantly checked against those of past deportees, in addition to about 800,000-900,000 pieces of information relating to suspects wanted by the Japanese police and Interpol. The measure excludes ethnic Koreans and other permanent residents with special status, those under 16, those visiting Japan for diplomatic or official purposes, and those invited by the Japanese government.

Meanwhile, a total of 67 civic groups in and out of Japan released a joint statement Monday opposing Japan's biometric screening of foreigners entering the country that started Tuesday morning. Representatives of the groups including those from Japan, Europe and the United States said at a news conference in Tokyo they have mailed the joint statement to Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama. Adopting the procedures of taking fingerprints and photos of foreign passport holders aged 16 or older was a highly political decision taken after almost no public discussion or policy reviews, the statement says. It added that the policy treats all foreign visitors to Japan as if they were criminals and that collecting their personal information under a centralized management system could pose risks of violating privacy. The joint statement was compiled by Privacy International, a nongovernmental organization headquartered in Britain." End of quotes (Agencies)

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