The UK Border Agency (UKBA) scheme of “e-Borders“ is set to come into effect this year. Over half the £1.2 billion contract was awarded to the ‘Trusted Borders’ consortium (which includes Raytheon, Serco, Accenture, and Qinetiq) in 2007, who pocketed £650 million of public money to develop certain aspects of the scheme. E-Borders is yet another intrusive plan that represents another step towards an ever increasing surveillance society, and threatens everyone’s privacy and freedom.
According to the UKBA the plan is to:
“electronically collect and analyse information from carriers (including airlines, ferries and rail companies) about everyone who intends to travel to or from the United Kingdom before they travel.”
The timetable for the introduction of this scheme is extremely rapid; they aim to catalogue 60% of all international passengers (and crews) by the end of this year. The intention is to use that data:
“to check that 60% against lists of people who are of interest to authorities”.
This is quite a loose statement and can conceivably mean anyone from criminals to asylum seekers or activists.
The e-Borders scheme will be mandatory, with the aim of 95% coverage over all international travel by as soon as 2010. Even travel to outlying areas of the UK will be covered by the scheme. Though airlines and ferry companies have been quick to co-operate with the scheme, there has been a lack of support from recreational boaters who, if they refuse to comply with the plans, could undermine the whole draconian system.
At present ID cards are only compulsory for foreign nationals, and “modernised entry methods” such as the Iris Recognition Immigration System (IRIS), are only voluntary, but the government is open about wishing to bring all these programmes together. Once considered unthinkable, these developments have become entirely unsurprising in the context of the constant monitoring – with CCTV Cameras estimated in excess of 4million – and other restrictions on freedom of assembly and protest. According to Privacy International, the UK is one of the most intrusive societies in the world, labelled as having “endemic surveillance”, with border developments described as:
“measures that are ill-considered and disproportionate”.
Borders are being built up around all of us. Hysteria about migration is being used as an excuse to increase levels of social control and public monitoring. We are against repression in all its forms, this enlargement of the surveillance society via the UKBA is a direct attack on everyone’s freedom of movement.