Identity cards have had a bad name since their first introduction in 2006, but now with illegal immigration at an all-time high, maybe we should put our privacy issues to one side

The world is currently facing an immigration crisis with economic migrants. Every day, thousands of people are risking their lives by escaping from places like Africa in a bid to secure a better future within the European Union. Only in August, 70 people drowned while attempting to sail from Libya to Italy. Britain is included in the list of countries struggling to deal with significant numbers of immigrants entering the country from France, something that has left the Eurotunnel in absolute chaos.

In an act of deterrence, the UK Government has begun to introduce strict laws. For example, the Home Office announced they would strip families of the automatic right to benefits if their asylum applications are rejected. Security measures are also increasing. The French Government has stationed 550 police officers in Calais, additional fencing has been built in Coquelles, and extra search dogs deployed to examine vehicles.

Although these actions may help in the short term, they will not solve the current immigration crisis. Immigrants are particularly attracted to the UK because of its strong economy, and as a result many think they will find work here. However, as Home Office Minister James Brokenshire stated, ‘the UK is not a land of milk and honey’. Something must be done to stop economically driven migrants from settling in the UK illegally.

First and foremost, immediate assistance must be given to African countries to help them become more prosperous. This will then create less of a need for individuals to enter the UK for economic purposes.

However, this does not address the problem currently facing the UK. In 2006, the Identity Cards Act was passed but subsequently repealed. Ten years on, I suggest that the notion of identity cards should be revisited.

There are many advantages to identity cards, namely helping to identify illegal immigrants more efficiently and discouraging people from illegally entering the UK.

According to some human rights lawyers, identity cards are a violation of human rights, particularly Article 8 (right to a private life) and Article 14 (right to non-discrimination) of the European Court of Human Rights. However, identity cards are fairer than the introduction of strict laws, many of which have caused the government to be labelled as acting in a ‘morally reprehensible way’.

Identity cards do not violate human rights. Regarding Article 8, identity cards do not present an invasion of privacy. Although information in the UK is not stored in one place, the state has the power to obtain all of our information. An identity card would not provide the state with any information it does not already have access to. Therefore, there is no actual invasion of any privacy, as there is no privacy to be invaded. Moreover, in times of crisis, the balance between the right to privacy and the public interest arguably shifts. In fact, an invasion of privacy is in the interests of a British citizen. In this case a proportionality test should be applied, and the invasion of privacy outweighs an individual’s right to privacy.

Regarding Article 14, discrimination will not occur if sufficient safeguards are put in place and identity cards are used for their correct purpose. If a person is illegally in the UK for pure economic reasons, it would not be a violation of human rights to remove them from the country and identity cards will help spot such illegal immigrants.

Of course technical details would need to be carefully discussed before such a scheme is implemented, but logically identity cards could solve a number of current issues. Other countries work well using identity cards and so there is no reason why the UK should not follow suit.

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