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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 March 2006, 09:25 GMT
Japan plans foreign fingerprinting
Fingerprinting in Atlanta (file photo)
Japan is following the US' lead
Japan's Cabinet has approved controversial plans to fingerprint and photograph most foreign visitors, in an effort to tighten security.

The measures would apply to all foreigners over the age of 16, except permanent residents and those on official business.

Japan's justice minister acknowledged human rights concerns but said fighting terrorism was more important.

The US introduced similar measures after the 11 September 2001 attacks.

Japan's proposed legislation still needs approval by parliament.

Chiho Nakai of the Justice Ministry's Immigration Bureau said it would be submitted during the current session, which ends on 18 June.

Critics have argued the Bill violates a constitutional principle to treat people with respect.

"Not all terrorists are foreigners, and even if such a foreigner tries to enter Japan, we may not have physical information about the person in advance," the Japan Federation of Bar Associations said in a statement in December.

Security worries

But Justice Minister Seiken Sugiura argued on Tuesday that the controversy was worth it.

"There may be a problem [with human rights] I think. But domestic policies to reduce illegal immigrants and anti-terrorism measures are more important," he told reporters.

The number of foreign visitors to Japan hit a record high of 7.45 million in 2005, according to the justice ministry.

Japan is worried it could be a target for terrorism due to its close links with the US, and its despatch of troops to Iraq.

But the issue of fingerprinting foreigners in Japan is particularly sensitive. Until a few years ago, it fingerprinted all resident foreigners.

Representatives of various minority groups called on Tuesday for Japan to enact a law to outlaw racism and other discrimination.

Doudou Diene, UN special rapporteur on racism, compiled a report to the UN made public in January which accused Japan of profound discrimination against its minorities, and urged the government to pass a law against it.

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