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Fingerprint fears and TELL news

by Angela Jeffs

Immigration law

Michael asks how the new immigration law for foreign arrivals will affect those with re-entry visas. “Can we still use the Japanese national line, or will we have to go to the foreigners line? Japanese nationals are not being photographed or fingerprinted.”

Stricter checks at immigration, including the compulsory photographing and fingerprinting of foreigners on arrival, were laid down in a revised immigration bill the Justice Ministry earlier on the year, but have not as yet been made law.

The revised law, which would allow Japan to deport any arriving foreigner it considers to be a terrorist, follows on from the introduction of fingerprinting and photographs at U.S. immigration checkpoints in 2004. Details are still being thrashed out, as the whole matter is extremely controversial.

Japan’s Federation of Bar Associations states the plan here should be abandoned because the fingerprinting of foreigners violates a constitutional requirement to treat people with respect.

The issue is an especially sensitive one in Japan, where for years local governments were required by law to fingerprint all resident foreigners, including “special permanent residents” of Korean and Chinese origin.

Many of these residents are descendants of those brought to Japan as forced labor before and during World War Two. Local government fingerprinting was halted in 2000.

Now it looks like we may be heading back into the Dark Ages.

TELL boost

A bit of good news from the Tokyo English Life Line (TELL), which has been providing counseling services to Japan’s foreign and Japanese populations for over 30 years.

The Japanese government Cabinet Office has approved the TELL’s application for NPO status, making it the first organization providing comprehensive mental health services to the international community in Japan to gain that status.

This recognition will allow TELL to promote programs in collaboration with both government and private-sector organizations, as well as advocate for the international community on mental health issues. TELL will also be able to expand its efforts to new areas such as psychiatric prescribing.

While originally focused on the foreign community, over the years TELL has seen a significant increase in the demand for its services among the Japanese population, as international marriages proliferate and more Japanese experience difficulties readjusting after their return from living or working overseas.

For more information on TELL, visit www.telljp.com

The Tokyo English Life Line telephone support service is available on (03) 5774-0992, from 9 a.m.-11 p.m. daily, while information on TELL’s Community Counselling Service is available at (03) 3498-0231 in English and (03) 3498-0232 in Japanese.