Friday, October 05, 2007

Fingerprinting and Photographing

Japan is set to level the playing field by requiring that all foreign nationals submit to fingerprinting and photographing at the nation's points of entry. The new system will start on November 20th.

This is a trend that was made all the rage when the United States started it a few years ago, and similar programs are being operated in countries from Europe to South America.

Like other nations, Japan's government sees this as, "a bid to block the entry into Japan of individuals designated as terrorists by the justice minister." Apparently nobody bothered to tell them that all recent terrorist acts committed within the Japanese homeland have been carried out by Japanese nationals.

Another major difference between the United States and Japan is how "free" the person is after clearing immigration at the airport. A visitor to America is, for the most part, allowed to go and do as she pleases (so long as it coincides with the type of visa that the person has in her passport). No special card is issued. Japan, on the other hand, requires that foreign nationals report any change in residence or job to their local ward or city office. They are also issued cards that mark them as non-Japanese and must carry these with them at all times (not doing so is illegal).

Personally, I am not a big fan of all the fingerprinting and photographing, and I would like to see it done away with everywhere. That said, Japan is perfectly justified in embarking upon a little tit-for-tat because Japanese people are forced to deal with this type of humiliation when they enter countries in Europe and the Americas.

At the same time, Japan should do away with the "gaijin cards" (foreign registration ID cards) now that it has an effective way to keep undesireables out of the country. With both systems intact, non-Japanese are essentially "on parole" while living in Japan.

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