UK needs citizen ID system to avoid another Windrush scandal, think tank suggests

The ID registration system for EU citizens in the UK after Brexit should also be rolled out to British citizens to avoid another Windrush scandal, a think tank has suggested.

Extending the documentation programme for the 3.6 million Europeans living here to everyone else is among a sweeping overhaul of the immigration system recommended in a new report to strengthen the UK border.

Britain leaving the EU is the perfect time to come up with new ways of controlling national borders, the paper published on Monday by Policy Exchange suggests.

The idea of a national ID system for British citizens has been controversial for some time, with many people opposing it on civil liberties grounds.

A £5 billion national identity card scheme was introduced by the last Labour government in 2006 but a Bill to scrap it was the first legislation introduced by Theresa May when she became home secretary in 2010.

EU citizens already in the UK will have to pay £65 and join a registration scheme if they wish to stay in Britain after the end of the transition period on December 31 2020 under changes announced by the current Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

In the report, David Goodhart, Policy Exchange’s head of demography, immigration and integration, suggests that the scheme should be widened to Britons, initially on a voluntary basis.

He said: “We strongly recommend reopening the debate about ID management to reassure people that we know who is in the country, for how long, and what their entitlements are.

“A proper national ID system would have prevented the harassment of the Windrush victims.”

Among the other ideas in The Border Audit: A Post-Windrush Review, are:

  • A more decisive removals process, that gets people out before they can judicially review their cases, plus reforms to allow applications for asylum from outside the UK and private sponsorship of them.
  • An amnesty for illegal immigrants who have been in the UK for 10 years or more
  • More cash to pay illegal immigrants to leave and a joint scheme involving the Department for International Development to help them set up businesses in their countries of origin
  • A British version of the US Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) that allows non-UK citizens to use e-gates at borders and made it quicker for “low-risk groups” to enter
  • One single “command” responsible for sea borders, under one person based in Portsmouth
  • Make rail and ferry operators provide more information about passengers and introduce more collaboration with Irish authorities to close down the Common Travel Area “backdoor”
  • Reduce citizenship application fees from £1,500 per person and almost £5,000 for a family with two children to a level “more closely aligned to public policy, not just revenue needs”
  • Higher overall investment, including better detection systems for lorries at Calais and Dover, more staff and more border patrol boats

Mr Goodhart added: “Illegal immigration is not only unfair on legal immigrants who wait their turn in the queue and the employers and businesses who play (and pay) by the rules, it also fosters a twilight world of criminality, dependence and exploitation in which modern slavery flourishes.

“Combating illegal immigration should be overtly linked to minimum wage enforcement, private landlord licensing and action against modern slavery.

“While a general amnesty for the estimated 500,000 illegal residents here would send the wrong signal, some form of regularisation should also be considered for those who have been here for more than 10 years, who are now parts of their communities with ties to the UK and often become the focus of grassroots campaigns.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “We are pursuing an ambitious programme of reform at the border as well as investing in new capability to improve passenger experience.

“Examples of this include e-Passport gates and motion detection technology which benefit passengers and improve security.

“Border Force invested £63.5 million in new technology and capability in 2017-18 and £90.4 million in the two previous years combined.

“Decisions on the future immigration system will be based on evidence.

“This is why we have asked the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to advise on the economic and social impacts of the UK’s exit from the EU and also on how the UK’s immigration system should be aligned with a modern industrial strategy.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Steve Parsons / PA Wire.