The Justice Ministry and National Police Agency are at sharp odds over the ministry’s recent announcement that it plans to abolish the practice of fingerprinting foreigners living in Japan.The Liberal Democratic Party’s subcommittee on immigration policies basically approved the ministry’s stance Thursday, but some members in the ruling party remain skeptical about revising the Alien Registration Law. Because of the split, it is uncertain where the debate will head.Justice Minister Shozaburo Nakamura said in a Diet committee meeting last Tuesday that the Immigration Bureau is drafting a bill to amend the law to abolish the fingerprinting requirement for all foreigners.Nakamura also said the bureau is speeding work to submit the bill to the next regular Diet session, which starts in January. But NPA chief Yuko Sekiguchi has expressed hesitation toward the abolition of fingerprinting. In a news conference Thursday, he said the matter warrants a thorough examination, such as what implications the legal change will have on national security and whether an effective alternative measure could be created.The ministry tried to abolish the fingerprinting system in 1992, but was forced to scale down its plan in the face of opposition from the NPA, which has maintained that the procedure serves to fight crime and maintain peace and order.In the 1992 revision of the law, fingerprinting was abolished only for foreigners with permanent residency status, mostly of Korean and Taiwanese descent. At the same time, the Lower House Committee on Judicial Affairs adopted a supplementary resolution seeking a review of the system in five years with an eye toward abolition. The revision took effect in January 1993.Under the current law, foreign permanent residents need to submit only a photograph, information on family members, such as names and birth dates, and their signatures as identification.Other foreigners aged 16 and older living more than a year in Japan are still obliged to be fingerprinted upon applying for alien registration cards at local municipal offices. The total number of applications for registration this year is estimated at 600,000.From the outset, fingerprinting has been exceedingly unpopular with foreigners, who argue that the system smacks of the view that authorities consider aliens to be potential criminals.
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