ID cards planned for foreign students

Alexander Glasner 13 November 2008

Foreign students will be forced to have Identification cards, under a government scheme that will begin on 25 November.
The Home Office has said that, from November to April, 50,000 students and their spouses will be issued with biometric ID cards. This scheme will affect students that come from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland and will take the place of the former system, which required foreign students to have visas in passports.
This move is being seen as the first stage of the government’s plan to introduce ID cards to the general population. By 2015, it is expected that 90% of foreign nationals will be covered.
Although in initial announcements the government said that the cards would be widely used, a few hours later a press release said that the cards would simply replace the old visas. Jacqui Smith has said that, “‘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.”
NO2ID, a pressure group which campaigns to reverse the introduction of ID cards argues ,however, that this is not a full ID scheme, it is simply “a piece of plastic that they can call a success for the ID project.”
He says that the cards, which will be the size of a credit card, will be much easier to forget or lose and that you cannot enter the UK without it, “it’s stupidity in every way.”
The government claims that they have already identified 3,500 cases of identity fraud and that Britain is one of just three countries in the EU without an ID card scheme.
NO2ID representative, Andrew Watson, said that this was “a case of picking of foreign students to use as guinea-pigs. As they don’t vote they can’t object.”
The new system is expected to be much more expensive and the cost will be paid for by foreign students applying for visas.
“This will drive students away to other countries. This is an own goal for the UK, it is us who will lose out.”
The process is already expensive with the average cost totaling £500, almost twice the cost two years ago, whilst some students have paid up to £800.
June Wang, a Chinese student from Newnham told The Cambridge Student (TCS), “It is appalling that we are being classed in the same category as criminals and terrorists. We already have to register at the police station every time we get a new visa.
“I think that the system is already too expensive and they reject loads of people too.”
“NO2ID will be working hard to communicate this stupidity.”
Watson has told TCS that this “is not a system to help you confirm your identity, but one that subjects the nation constant surveillance.
“Why implement the tools for totalitarian government? We do not know what future governments will do with the information.”
Watson said that the Government has continually delayed ID cards because of “such great resistance from the public”.
Whilst the scheme is being implemented foreign students have been advised not to travel abroad.

Alexander Glasner
Deputy News Editor