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Visa violators in Japan are on the wane, but the fingerprinting of foreigners may soon be revived, according to the 2005 Immigration Control report released Tuesday by the Immigration Bureau.

As of Jan. 1, there were 207,299 people illegally present in Japan, down 5.5 percent from 2004 and 30.6 percent from the peak of 298,646 in 1993.

The report says the numbers represent Japan’s progress under a five-year plan begun by immigration authorities in 2004 to halve the number of illegal immigrants and visa violators it says have turned to crime by the end of 2008.

As a public safety and counterterrorism measure, however, the Immigration Bureau is also considering submitting a draft bill to revise the immigration law in 2006 to make the fingerprinting of foreigners legal again. Visitors’ prints would be taken upon arrival.

The bureau said the stricter measures against immigration law violators are being taken comprehensively.

“While (the Immigration Bureau) will continue making efforts to remove those who disturbed (Japan’s) safety and order, it has been taking each person’s situation into consideration,” a bureau official claimed. “Even if a person has violated our rules, there have been cases in which the justice minister has given him or her special residence permits.”

According to the report, the number of those who received special residency permits in 2004 was 13,239, or nearly double that in 2000.

The report also shows that the number of new foreigners reached a historical record of 6,756,830 in 2004, jumping 18 percent from the previous year. Midterm and long-term foreign residents also set a new record of 1,973,747.

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