Opinion on Proposed Ministry Ordinance to Amend the Implementation Ordinance of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act
An act to amend the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act enacted during the 164th session of the Diet requires foreign nationals except special permanent residents, etc. (hereinafter referred to as "special permanent residents") to provide personal identification information such as fingerprints upon entering Japan and introduces automatic gates at immigration control which foreign nationals with special permanent resident status, etc. may pass through without receiving a seal of verification for landing but with the use of provided fingerprint information. These provisions are to be enforced by November 23, 2007.
The Ministry of Justice is currently calling for public opinions on its proposed ordinance to amend the Implementation Ordinance of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act for setting up procedures in order to implement the above mentioned provisions and for enabling Japanese those who satisfy with a certain requirement to pass through automatic gates as well.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) voiced opposition to the amended act in the Opinion Paper on the Creation of a New System to Reinforce Immigration and Residence Control of Foreigners (December 15, 2005) and the Statement to Request Thorough Deliberations of a Bill to Revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (May 15, 2006), and again prepared a written opinion on the proposed ministry ordinance and submitted it to the Minister of Justice on October 11, 2007.
The main points of our opinion are as follows.
- Requiring the provision of fingerprints and facial images
The proposed ministry ordinance requires all foreign nationals except special permanent residents to provide not only facial images but also fingerprints at the application for landing in Japan. However, obligating the provision of personal identification information equals a restriction on the right to privacy or the right to control personal information and such restriction should be kept to the minimum extent necessary. Therefore, fingerprints in addition to facial images should not be included in the personal identification information to be provided.
The JFBA also urges the Diet to reconsider the timing for putting into effect the provision to require all foreign nationals except special permanent residents to provide personal identification information at the application for landing, with taking into account the comprehensive international trend.
- Storage and use of provided fingerprints and facial images
The proposed ministry ordinance does not set up provisions concerning storage and use of fingerprints and facial images of foreign nationals obtained at the examination of landing on. However, personal identification information is important information and is protected by the right to privacy or the right to control personal information. Therefore, the ministry ordinance should specify that provided personal identification information should be immediately erased upon the completion of immigration checks such as verification of passport information and checks against the information of those who have been deported from Japan, and should not be stored in order to use it for subsequent foreign residence control and criminal investigations.
- Provision concerning automatic gates
The proposed ministry ordinance does not stipulate whether fingerprints and facial images provided for the purpose of using automatic gates could be used for other than the primary purpose. Fingerprint and facial information is important information and is protected by the right to privacy or the right to control personal information. Therefore, the ministry ordinance should stipulate that fingerprint and facial information of citizens including Japanese should not be used for the purposes of criminal investigations, foreign residence control, or monitoring lives of citizens.
The JFBA also stresses that comprehensive immigration procedures should be accelerated to avoid any inconvenience of those who do not use automatic gates.
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
October 11, 2007