Thu, Nov 22, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Japan detains five fingerprinted foreigners at airport

AGENCIES , TOKYO

Japan detained five people matched against a blacklist in the first day of its controversial new system to fingerprint all foreigners entering the country, immigration officials said yesterday.

"Five people were detained on the first day after their fingerprints matched our data of people who pose a security risk. Authorities currently are in the process of reviewing them," a spokeswoman for the immigration service said.

Japan on Tuesday became the second country after the US to compile biometric data of foreigners entering the country.

Among the five, one has been ordered to leave the country, an official at the justice ministry said. The other four were detained at the airport.

Citing privacy concerns, the two officials declined to give further details on the detainees or why they were detained.

Japan has a combined list of 14,000 wanted people from the Japanese police and Interpol, as well as a list of 800,000 illegal residents, the immigration official said.

The system requires all foreign visitors aged 16 years and older to have their fingerprints scanned and have photographs taken on arrival.

The new procedure ran into minor problems because of computer glitches and people with dry or worn fingertips.

The new checks had little effect on waiting times at Narita Airport, an immigration official said.

Japan modelled the controls on the US-Visit system launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

As in the US, the system has sparked controversy, with rights activists saying it treats all foreigners as suspects.

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