The government has tried to justify this scheme with claims that it will reduce benefit fraud, illegal immigration and the threat of terrorism; the targeting of students in particular is explained by the governmentÂ’s analysis that they are amongst the groups most likely to abuse immigration rules. These justifications are absurd, and speak of a governmental racism which could fatally undermine the diversity which foreign students bring to our universities.
Given that ID cards will not be issued to those staying in the country for less than three months it seems ridiculous to believe that they will increase security or reduce illegal work and immigration. This must lead to the conclusion that the introduction of these cards is not an attempt to better protect British citizens, but a Â“softening up exerciseÂ” as argued by Phil Booth, head of the national NO2ID campaign.
The early focus on foreign nationals is a way of getting people to gradually accept a scheme which will eventually encompass all British people by playing on their fears of illegal immigrants. By gradually introducing ID cards, first to immigrants, then to those working in sensitive sectors like airports and power stations and then to all on a voluntary basis, the government is seeking to put everyone on its national identity register, without ever having to hold a discussion on the planÂ’s merits. This scheme is predicted to cost Â£4.7 billion.
ID cards further intrude on British values by increasing governmental persecution and decreasing our privacy. Ironically, the reason why ID cards are not being issued to immigrants from the EU is because they are deemed to restrict the right to free movement. Politicians from both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, as well as many single issue campaigning groups have criticised the cards, with Liberal Democrat shadow home secretary Chris Huhne saying that ID cards are Â“a grotesque intrusion on the liberty of the British peopleÂ” and criticising the government for Â“using vulnerable members of our society, like foreign nationals who do not have the vote, as guinea pigs for a deeply unpopular and unworkable policyÂ”.
Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, tried to justify the introduction of the cards by allusion to the introduction of CCTV; just as the function of CCTV has crept from ensuring our safety to enforcing parking fines as will the function of ID cards creep from preventing terrorism and illegal immigration to allowing the government to pry into our private lives. This concern over Â‘function creepÂ’ has been raised by the parliamentary home affairs select committee, with Committee Chairman Keith Vaz warning of Â“potentially disastrous consequencesÂ” if the data collected is misused. This is certainly a valid concern, given the governmentÂ’s willingness to abuse its surveillance powers as demonstrated by the revelation in April that Poole Borough Council had spied on a family it suspected of cheating the school catchment system.
Furthermore should we trust our details with a government prone to sheer incompetence? The government has repeatedly shown its utter inability to keep peopleÂ’s confidential information, such as bank details and child benefit entitlement, secure. Last year alone the government lost two disks which together contained 25 million peopleÂ’s details. With that kind of track record, it seems reasonable to be reluctant to hand over fingerprints too. Just imagine the amount of damage terrorists or criminals could do with every British personÂ’s address, photo and fingerprints. Far from protecting us, ID cards could be the most dangerous terrorist tools of the next ten years.