Report Date: Wednesday, November 12, 2003
ID Cards will criminalise foreigners
The government has been accused of double standards over crime committed by foreign nationals
As Home Secretary David Blunkett announced the introduction of an ID card yesterday, his department defended its’ decision to target immigrants in the first wave of the schemes roll-out.
The Home Office claim foreigners are being targeted because immigrant offending was a “very significant” problem.
But Karen Chouhan, director of the 1990 Trust, said that the government were forcing asylum seekers into criminality by taking away all state support.
Chouhan said that Home Office logic was flawed because immigrants were statistically less likely to offend than British citizens as a whole.
She accused Blunkett of creating more crime by leaving refugees destitute through ‘Section 55’, which mean that people who fail to claim asylum at the ‘port of entry’ have all cash and housing aid cut.
Campaigners believe decisions to axe all state support from thousands of asylum seekers, made under section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, leave many refugees no option but to enter illegal trades to survive.
Chouhan said: “On the one hand the government is inflating the problem of crime committed by immigrants to justify forcing them to carry ID cards before the rest of the population have to.
“They claim ID cards will reduce crime, yet on the other hand the same department is taking away the support for asylum seekers which means that they are sometimes forced to turn to crime.
“Many of these asylum seekers are afraid to return home but find they are denied support because they were so afraid of authorities when they came here that they did not claim asylum immediately at the airport for fear of being sent back.
“Not only is it a catch-22 situation, but it is leading to asylum seeker women turning to prostitution, and asylum seekers being exploited by the illegal ‘black market’ whose bosses have no regard for the minimum wage or health and safety.”
Keith Best, chief executive of the Immigration Advisory Service, said ID cards would be used in a discriminatory way and could herald a return “to the bad old days of the Sus laws.”
Best also said targeting foreign nationals would enflame anti-asylum sentiment in elements of the media.
He said: “The Home Secretary is playing into the hands of those who wish to portray immigrants as carrying diseases, committing crime and disorder or as a social evil.”
Tauhid Pasha, legal and policy director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: “This is plainly discriminatory in that those who are visually different will be targeted. It will heighten tensions between communities and the government.”
The Home Office denied double standards. A spokesman said: “ID cards will have an impact on the problem of immigrant offending, which is a very significant one.”
The spokesman said ID cards would reduce illegal working, adding: “We utterly reject any suggestion that the entitlement to cards is being applied on the basis of ethnicity or race. Any evidence that ID cards could be used for discrimination will be looked at.”
In separate developments, Conservatives yesterday claimed ID cards would not prevent international terrorism.
Shadow home secretary David Davis claimed the ID card proposals were the product of compromise and a ten-year deferral designed to appease the Prime Minister and others in the Cabinet who supported ID cards.
Davis stated that the two key tests of ID cards were first, did they work and secondly, what were the implications for civil liberties. On both counts, the Government had failed to make the case for ID cards.
He pointed out that EU nationals, UK citizens abroad and certain groups of third country nationals would be exempt from holding a UK ID card: this was an obvious loophole, which would be abused by illegal immigrants.
Davis also questioned whether there was actually an ability to enforce the ID card system, arguing that any efforts by the police to request an ID card would lead to illegal immigrants disappearing into the system. The Government’s proposals did not amount to a workable system, he declared.
The shadow home secretary questioned whether ID cards would have prevented terrorist attacks such as September 11. This was unlikely since a foreign national could spend up to three months in the UK without having to hold an ID card, he added.
On the issue of benefit fraud, Mr Davis pointed out that the vast majority of social security fraud resulted from people making false claims about their health or economic circumstances, rather than about their identities. Again, Davis declared, the Government’s proposals for an ID card would not work.
Responding, Blunkett declared the ID scheme would reduce fraud. On the issue of terrorism, the Home Secretary told the Opposition that ID cards were backed by the security services, who thought that the introduction of such ID cards was viable.
ID cards would tackle international terrorism by limiting the opportunities available to terrorists, who currently used multiple identities, he added.
Entitlement to What? 1990 Trust statement on proposed ‘entitlement cards’ Nov 2002
On external sites
Response to Blunkett’s ID card push (Liberty)
Whatever the question, ID cards aren’t the answer (The Telegraph)