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Minorities piqued with ID cards

The new scheme will make scapegoats out of Britain's ethnic minorities, reports Nabanita Sircar.

india Updated: Mar 14, 2006 18:56 IST

Civil liberty campaigners and representatives of ethnic minority communities from across the UK expressed outrage at Home Secretary Charles Clarke's recent comments on ID cards, which sought to justify the scheme in a way that would they believe, inevitably scapegoat members of Britain's ethnic minorities.

Phil Booth, NO2ID's national coordinator, said, "How does Clarke expect to have a 'massive impact on illegal immigration' with ID cards unless he is promising a country where anyone who might be foreign is subject to continual intrusive ID checks?

"The experience of Paris just a few months ago shows the sort of social upheaval and civilian backlash he can expect if the Government proceeds down this path."

Lord Navnit Dholakia, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs, was more forceful, "It is deeply disturbing to see the Government make such an emotional appeal to prejudice. Yet again, Government's rhetoric and unsubstantiated claims on immigration and asylum will only add to alienation and fuel tensions within ethnic minority communities across Britain.

"If the new points system is to be administered through a compulsory ID card system, what assurances can be given that this legislation will not unduly prejudice British Muslims or other visible ethnic minorities in the workplace and out on the street?"

Milena Buyum, co-ordinator of the National Assembly Against Racism said, "It is deeply misleading for government to re-introduce the tired argument about ID cards as a defence against so-called 'illegal immigration', especially when the cards will have no bearing on people entering the country.

"Instead of whipping up fears based on racism and prejudice, the government should abandon this untested, unpopular scheme."

Asad Rehman, chair of Newham Monitoring Project, pointed out that Clarke had been at the forefront at the erosion of "our civil liberties having presided over detention without trial, shoot to kill policies, rendition flights and the use of evidence obtained by torture".

"So it comes as little surprise that he plays the race card in a last desperate attempt to win public support for the hugely unpopular ID card scheme. We hold no doubt that ID cards will further institutionalise Islamophobia and herald a return to the bad old days of the SUS laws."

First Published: Mar 14, 2006 18:56 IST