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Gov't plans to require all foreigners to carry IC cards for crime control

by MADHU KARIPPACHALIL on 6/8/2005 | Comments | Viewed 4239 time(s) | Full Page View
This news was originally published in Japan Today, Wednesday, June 8, 2005 at 07:18 JST

TOKYO — The Japanese government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party plan to require all foreigners staying in Japan for more than 90 days to carry identification cards equipped with integrated circuit chips, with all data to be kept at an "intelligence center," party lawmakers said Tuesday.

The LDP and the government claim the new policy is aimed at keeping track of foreigners as part of measures to prevent terrorism and crimes.

But the new system, intended to replace the current Certificate of Alien Registration that foreigners have to carry, is likely to raise concerns over the sharing of information between the immigration and police authorities, as well as protests from foreigners that it unfairly discriminates against them.

Under the plan, foreigners will have to carry with them at all times IC cards that contain information such as their name, nationality, address, birth date, passport number, visa status and place of employment or study. Holders will be required to report any change of address and obtain permission to change jobs.

The data of all card holders will be kept at the intelligence center that the Justice Ministry plans to set up to gather and analyze information on suspicious foreigners. The information will be shared between immigration and police authorities when foreigners are involved in crimes.

Currently, foreigners' registrations are kept at the municipality of their residence. The municipal governments, which issue the alien registration cards, are required to send a copy of the registrations to the Justice Ministry.

Under the new policy, companies and schools where foreigners work or study will also be required to report to the authorities about when the foreigners move or change jobs, and will be subject to penalties for any falsified information.

The government is aiming to submit budget requests as early as for next fiscal year, beginning next April, and to have related law revisions as well as new legislation made in two years.

Short-term visitors in Japan for up to 90 days and those with special permanent residency, including Korean residents in Japan, will be exempt.

Japanese nationals are not required to carry any form of identification, but foreigners aged over 16 who fail to carry their alien registration cards with them at all times currently face a maximum penalty of one year in prison or a 200,000 yen fine. The maximum penalty for special permanent residents is 100,000 yen.

The current alien registration card contains the holder's name, nationality, date of birth, place of birth, address, passport information, visa status, occupation and company or school.

Japan's treatment of foreigners has often been criticized as being discriminatory, especially with the fingerprinting system it introduced in 1952. After decades of protests, Japan finally stopped requiring the fingerprinting of permanent foreign residents in 1992 and of those with nonpermanent status in 2000. (Kyodo News)