Friday, June 16, 2006

The Great Immigration Fraud

Have you ever had your credit card declined in a shop? It's an embarrassing feeling - and particularly frustrating when it turns out to be an error on the part of the bank. Was your last payment applied to the wrong account? Your direct debit mysteriously cancelled? Has some artificially intelligent system decided your recent spending looked a bit suspect, and it would be nice if you rang the bank before you carried on using your card? Now imagine if it wasn't your credit, but your very right to exist in this country that was called into question. This is all too possible, if the National Identity Register (NIR) is used as a population tracking system.

It's come to our attention that David Blunkett is extolling the virtues of the ID card and the NIR as a way of tracking "illegals". And you can only track illegals if you track all the "legals" too. However, the article above outlines some of the reasons why this is a false hope/empty threat (depending on which side of the immigration debate you sit). Here are a few highlights of the reasons given, and a few reasons why we believe the "Catch Immigrants" claim is as empty as the "Stop Terrorists" claim:

  • For this to even have a chance of working, it would first be necessary to make carrying the ID card compulsory for everyone in the UK, and to insist that the ID card was checked on a regular basis. This is inconsistent with the Government's current claims that the ID card won't be made compulsory. It also doesn't bode well for the overall cost of the scheme.

  • Nor does it address the loophole regarding legitimate visitors from the EU who probably can't be compelled to carry ID cards because of freedom of movement laws - this will be tested in the court at great expense. This arguably means we'd need a second, parallel system, something like France's Carte de Sejour - this hasn't been budgeted for, as far as we can tell.

  • The data needed to populate the tracking database are far from the "clean data" of which David Blunkett speaks. As the article nicely puts it - the only clean database is an empty database: as records are added and updated, it is inevitable that some error will creep in. Even if the database itself is perfectly implemented, it is impossible to rule out operator error. Be prepared to have your ID card (and your status as legitimate resident of the UK) called into question. Irritating of you're trying to access your bank account, potentially lethal if trying to access healthcare.

  • The data available from various sources, even within the home office, is stored in many different places and in many different systems - and these don't all necessarily play nice together. The recent debacle concerning the failure to deport of criminals for whom immigration was recommended by the sentencing judge demonstrates this only too well. Collating these into the NIR would be problematic, to put it mildly.

  • To track someone, you need to keep records of where they are and what they are doing. So data is going to be collected on a regular basis and the number and type of places that the card must be shown at expands dramatically. Had an appointment with a specialist? It's in the database. Applied for a new job? It's on the file. Won the lottery and bought a stack of investments? It's all in there my friend. Therefore the potential for abuse of, and the temptation to access the data is very high indeed.

So again, we're being sold a pup - the home office is pandering to the baser racist instincts of the population/making empty promises to hardworking families it can't keep*. Don't believe the hype - either the ID card won't track anyone, or it will track us all - are you prepared for the cost, should that come about?

(*delete as appropriate - depending on which newspaper you read)

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