Mon, Sep 03, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Japan to introduce neighbors to new fingerprinting policy

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA, TOKYO

The Japanese government plans to dispatch officials to four Asian locations, including Taiwan, later this month to brief the public about the imminent implementation of a fingerprinting policy at gateways to Japan, a Japanese daily reported yesterday.

The Mainichi Shimbun said that beginning Nov. 1, all foreign visitors will have their fingerprints taken at customs upon entering into Japan after an amendment to entrance management laws is brought into force. The amendment, aimed at keeping terrorists at bay, was passed by the Japanese Diet in 2004.

Officials from the Japanese Ministry of Justice are expected to visit Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and South Korea this month to meet journalists and travel agencies to give people of the four countries and areas a better understanding of the fingerprinting policy, the Mainichi Shimbun said.

According to Japanese customs' statistics, about 2.37 million South Koreans visited Japan last year, followed by 1.35 million Taiwanese, 980,000 Chinese as well as 310,000 Hong Kongers.

Visitors from these four areas made up about 60 percent of foreign visitors who traveled to Japan last year.

At Japanese customs offices, in-bound foreign nationals will be asked to place their two index fingers on a fingerprint reading machine so that their fingerprints may be taken to help the Japanese law enforcement authorities identify individuals of interest and prevent those persons from entering the country, the newspaper reported.

The report quoted a senior Ministry of Justice official as saying that fingerprinting is a vital measure to keep lawbreakers and other unwanted visitors at bay.

To date, only a few countries, including the US, have imposed a similar fingerprinting policy on foreigners visitors.

Japan's policy will not be implemented until November since many private groups -- including the federation of Japanese bar associations -- have expressed strong opposition to its implementation. These groups have claimed that the the policy would infringe upon the privacy of foreign visitors.

Under the new regulation, some people will not be required to have their fingerprints taken upon entrance into the country, including South Koreans and North Koreans who are permanent residents of Japan; people under the age of 16; and public office workers as well as experts visiting Japan at the invitation of the Japanese government, according to the Mainichi Shimbun report.

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