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Foreign-born citizens in Japan file suit against police over racial profiling: ‘they think I’m a criminal’

A group of Japanese citizens, including a man of Pakistani descent, launched a civil lawsuit against the country’s police on Monday, accusing the authorities of racial profiling and discrimination and demanding an end to the alleged practice.

One of the three plaintiffs, Syed Zain, a 26-year-old Japanese citizen of Pakistani descent, says he has been repeatedly stopped by police, including getting searched in front of his home. He has lived in Japan for two decades, attended Japanese schools and is fluent in the language, he said.

“They don’t recognise us as a Japanese,” he said of the police. “From the first moment, they think I’m a criminal.”

The three plaintiffs are demanding 3 million yen (US$20,000) each in punitive damages over “unconstitutional and illegal” treatment, plus 300,000 yen (US$2,000) per plaintiff in lawyer fees.

“Racial profiling is nothing but discrimination on the basis of race, nationality and colour,” their claim alleges.

One of the other plaintiffs, Matthew, a man of Indian descent who has lived in Japan for more than 20 years and holds permanent residency, said he had been questioned by police countless times. He said he is afraid to go out for fear of being stopped again.

“I never knew what social withdrawal was until recently,” he said, declining to provide his surname for fear of harassment.

“I feel like every time I finish work, I’m hiding in my house.”

Maurice, an American who did not provide his surname, said he hoped to raise awareness of the issue among Japanese people and make life easier for others.

“I want them [Japanese people] to understand that this is an everyday occurrence, it’s an everyday thing, and that we have to do something to prevent that,” he said.

The complaint targets the