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Japanese police stop foreigners in ‘suspected racial profiling incidents,’ U.S. Embassy in Tokyo warns

Pedestrians in Tokyo on Nov. 30. (Franck Robichon/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
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The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo warned in a post to Twitter on Monday that it had received reports of foreigners being stopped and searched in “suspected racial profiling incidents.”

The unusual tweet came a week after Japan closed its borders to nearly all travelers amid the early spread of the omicron coronavirus variant — a particularly stringent step, even compared to those taken by most other countries that imposed new restrictions.

The embassy also advised U.S. citizens to carry their immigration papers and notify consular authorities if detained.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo told Reuters that the embassy had nothing further to add. Hirokazu Matsuno, a Japanese government spokesperson, told Reuters that police were not profiling.

The Japanese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Japan closed its borders to foreigners for a month starting Nov. 30. Japanese national and foreign residents were exempted from the ban, but those returning from countries where the omicron variant had been found will have to quarantine for three to 10 days at a facility designated by the government, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at a news conference.

The move made Japan one of the few countries — along with Morocco and Israel — to completely shut its borders to travelers in the wake of the new variant.

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo tweeted on Sunday travelers arriving in Japan and required to quarantine may be flown to Chubu International Airport in central Japan, at the expense of the Japanese government, due to insufficient accommodations around Narita International Airport outside Tokyo.

The Japanese government on Monday confirmed the first known case of a Japanese national infected with the omicron variant — a man in his 30s who had traveled to Italy, according to the Japan Times. This the third case of the variant detected in the country.

Scientists and global health officials critical of border closures have warned that the measures, given their economic cost, could be ineffective, in face of evidence that the omicron variant is already spreading globally.

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