Japan To Fingerprint Foreign Visitors

Japan to Fingerprint Foreign Visitors

Published: October 26, 2007

TOKYO (AP) — Japan hopes to thwart potential terrorists from entering the country by fingerprinting and photographing all foreigners aged 16 or over on entry starting next month, an official said Friday.

Only some permanent residents, diplomatic visitors, and children under 16 will be exempt from the measures after the system goes into effect Nov. 20, Immigration Bureau official Takumi Sato said.

Under the new system, all adults will be photographed and fingerprinted on arrival in Japan. Incoming aircraft and ship operators also will be obliged to provide passenger and crew lists before they arrive.

Resident foreigners will be required to go through the procedure every time they re-enter Japan.

Immigration officials will run the images and data through a database of international terror and crime suspects as well as against domestic crime records. People matching the data on file will be denied entry and deported.

''We hope the system will help keep terrorists out of the country, and also put at ease the minds of both the Japanese people and the foreigners who come here,'' Sato said.

The bureau plans to store the data for ''a long time,'' Sato said, while refusing to disclose how long due to security concerns.

It is unclear how many people will be affected; Japan saw 8.11 million foreign entries in 2006, Sato said.

Opponents of the new system say the measures amount to discrimination against foreigners and a violation of their right to privacy.

Tokyo's staunch support of the U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and dispatch of forces to each region have raised concerns that Japan could become the target of deadly terror attacks.