Mass Travel Brings New Risks, Says Blair

Biometrics not a cure-all, say opponents.

by / March 29, 2007
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair hosted a seminar Wednesday with leading biometric and immigration experts as the government published a new strategy for securing the UK's borders.

Under the plans, all foreign visitors from outside the European Union will be required to give a biometric sample before they arrive at UK shores, or upon arrival.

"The ease of modern travel means many more people can visit countries like Britain to work, study, meet relatives and friends or for a holiday. Such visitors bring huge benefits to our society. But mass travel also brings new risks. It makes it more important than ever that we know with confidence who is entering our country."

The Prime Minister said biometric technology was an integral aspect for securing Britain's borders. "We have to think beyond the idea of national borders as a line on the map. Even guards every 50 yards around our borders would not tackle false identities," Blair explained. "Once people are here, ID cards are the only way of tracking them inside the UK."

"The Prime Minister persists in his blind faith that 'biometrics' will solve a whole host of problems, much as he does with ID cards," says Philip Booth, National Coordinator of NO2ID. Booth says all Blair's program will do is make traveling more a hassle, which could have a negative affect on tourism and education, as well as create more bureaucracy. "Fingerprinting someone who lands on our shores for the first time will achieve precisely nothing, and trying to match the fingerprints of an unknown to the records of the over 90 million per year who pass through our borders is a technical impossibility."

Blair and Home Secretary John Reid were given a demonstration of biometric data capture equipment, before the Prime Minister delivered a presentation to delegates about the government's plans, which include the introduction of sponsored family visits and a review of all visas regimes.

Gina M. Scott Writer