US Embassy warns of “suspected racial profiling” by Japanese police

TOKYO (Reuters) – The United States Embassy in Tokyo on Monday warned in a tweet of incidents of alleged racial profiling of non-Japanese by Japanese police.

Japan is a largely ethnically homogeneous country where some people equate more immigrants with increased crime, although foreign labor is increasingly needed to compensate for a declining and aging population.

“The US Embassy has received reports of foreigners arrested and searched by Japanese police in connection with suspected racial profiling incidents. Several have been arrested, questioned and searched,” the tweet read.

“US citizens must have proof of immigration and request consular notification if they are detained.”

The tweet is an unusual move by the United States, a key ally of Japan.

A spokesperson for the United States Embassy said the Embassy had nothing more to add to the tweet and the National Police Agency was unable to comment immediately.

When asked about the US Embassy warning, government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno only said that police question suspicious individuals based on various factors, but these decisions were not based on ethnicity or nationality of a person.

A week ago, Japan closed its borders to all non-resident aliens in one of the strongest global measures taken to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Naomi Kawahara, founder of advocacy group Japan for Black Lives, said racial profiling by Japanese police was not new, especially to foreigners or mixed-race Japanese.

“I had a friend who was questioned by the police more than 30 times in the six years he lived here,” she told Reuters of her African-American friend, who left Japan a few years ago.

“Sometimes it was in front of his house, as he was about to walk his dog.”

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