Compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals

New identity cards will be introduced across the UK from November this year, starting with certain classes of migrants. 06 October 2008. Compulsory identity cards for foreign nationals from outside the European Economic area cost £30 and kick start the National Identity Scheme. The UK Border Agency plans to issue the cards to categories of immigrants believed to want to abuse the country’s immigration system, including students and people seeking leave to remain on the basis of marriage.

The card is then due to be rolled out to all foreign nationals who visit from outside the European Economic area for more than six months by 2011. The new credit-card sized document will show the holder’s photograph, name, date of birth, nationality and immigration status. A secure electronic chip will also hold their biometric details, including fingerprints, and a digital facial image.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the unveiling of the ID cards showed their “commitment to introduce the National Identity Scheme in order that we can enjoy its benefits as quickly as possible.” She said the "ID cards will help protect against identity fraud, illegal working, reduce the use of multiple identities in organised crime and terrorism, crack down on those trying to abuse positions of trust and make it easier for people to prove they are who they say they are. "ID cards for foreign nationals will replace old-fashioned paper documents, make it easier for employers and sponsors to check entitlement to work and study, and for the UK Border Agency to verify someone’s identity. This will provide identity protection to the many here legally who contribute to the prosperity of the UK, while helping prevent abuse."

A coalition of opposition parties, trade unions and civil liberties campaigners condemned the symbolic release of the pink and blue cards, which will be introduced for foreign nationals living in Britain from next month. Critics attacked the project as a dangerous waste of money that would undermine hundreds of years of civil rights and warned that targeting foreign residents could lead to discrimination and abuse.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the pressure group Liberty, predicted that the scheme would lead to court action if people from ethnic minorities were targeted: "As a daughter of migrants to this country I think it’s a pretty nasty piece of politics to pick on foreign nationals first. It’s a divide-and-rule approach when they cannot sell the idea of compulsory ID cards for everybody."The introduction of cards for foreign nationals is part of the National Identity Scheme and will be followed by the first ID cards for British citizens, targeting workers in sensitive roles and locations like airports from 2009.

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