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Gov’t to create system to check from overseas whether air passengers are blacklisted

  • October 29, 2021
  • , Nikkei , p. 4
  • JMH Translation

By as early as FY2023, the government will create a system to prevent terrorists from boarding airplanes at airports overseas and flying to Japan. Airlines overseas will determine whether to allow a person to board an airplane bound for Japan by checking the passenger’s name against a database of blacklisted individuals. The system will allow overseas airports to access the same information as that used by Japanese immigration officials when travelers enter Japan.


The government is creating a database of “blacklisted” individuals. Before ticketing or passenger check-in, airlines at airports overseas will access the database and check would-be passengers’ identities. The system will allow airlines to refuse boarding if a passenger has been blacklisted.


Japan aims to earmark a total of 1.8 billion yen in the draft budget for FY2022–23. The system may also be able to be used for economic security purposes, including preventing the outflow of critical technologies.


Another way that Japanese authorities can prevent a person from entering Japan while the person is still overseas is to refuse to issue a visa. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, people from nearly 70 countries or regions were allowed visa-free entry to Japan prior to the COVID pandemic. Countermeasures were urgently needed.


If Japanese authorities refuse a passenger entry at a domestic airport, they are required to take procedures to return the person overseas. In 2019, a total of 1,414 travelers were refused entry to Japan based on fingerprint examinations. This is 1.7 times the figure five years prior. Returning a person overseas involves more work, and the number of immigration inspectors is limited. With the new system, checks will be performed at two stages of the passenger’s journey: at the overseas airport and the Japanese one.


The Immigration Services Agency started using fingerprints and facial photographs in immigration inspections in 2007. In FY2021, it introduced artificial intelligence (AI) that identifies people likely to commit crimes.


The Immigration Services Agency will also consider a Web-based system for travel authorization applications for short-term stays. This is effective in fighting terrorism and human trafficking. The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which was created by the United States in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, is an example of the kind of system envisioned. Europe plans to introduce its own ESTA in 2022.


To process Web-based applications for travel authorization requires a mechanism to check passengers before they depart overseas. The system to be developed soon will be a step toward the development of a Japanese version of ESTA.

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