Monday, March 16, 2009

The UK is a State of Oppression

Evidently this scheme has been flying under the radar for awhile. If you do a little googling, you can find references dating back to 2005. But now, with the plans more fully developed, news stories are appearing.

Leaving on time is a thing of the pastFrom the Telegraph:

The full extent of the impact of the government’s “e-borders” scheme emerged amid warnings that passengers face increased congestion as air, rail and ferry companies introduce some of the changes over the Easter holidays.

In a column in the Times online, Libby Purves opines that this is not going to sit well with the average Brit, which will cause “ministerial outrage”, since government is just doing this “for your own good”:

…ministerial outrage will be heard more and more as people come to realise exactly what is involved in the vast new “e-borders” system, currently being set up to track everybody’s international travel just because a tiny minority are up to no good. A huge new database near Manchester will hold your personal travel history and mine for up to ten years. A pilot is already running on “high-risk” routes; by the end of April 100 million will be tracked, by next year all rail, air and ferry travellers; by 2014, everyone.

And what will they know?

- - - - - - - - -
Who you are, where you live, how you paid, your phone and e-mail, where you’re going, who’s with you, where you plan to stay and when you’ll be back. In most cases they want your intentions logged a full day in advance. We may be forced to be “EU citizens” in a hundred other ways, but there’ll be no more casual booze-cruises or spontaneous hops to the Normandy gîte or Frankfurt office; not without telling Nanny.

At the extremes, by 2014 pleasure boats, fishing vessels and private planes will be included. I recognise that yachtsmen are a minority, even counting big sail-training vessels with young crews. I can see that our problems with weather and last-minute changes of crew are hobbyist stuff. But all the same, it may interest you to know that the Royal Yachting Association and others have been trying without success to get government to say how it will work, and have little hope of modifying it.

This causes consternation, what with a £5,000 fine for not notifying your movements online 24 hours early and heaven knows what penalties for accidentally being blown on to an unplanned coast…

As she points out, this new oppression includes travel to the Republic of Ireland, too. No more booze cruising.

But here is her main concern:

Opposition voices have pointed out the complexity, the cost, the paucity of consultation, the extraordinary power given to the UK Border Agency by statutory instruments without parliamentary scrutiny. Given the cases of councils already using anti-terrorist powers to catch litterbugs and school admissions cheats, there is a real fear that e-borders will be used to trump up tax claims or detect petty infringements like taking your children abroad in the school term. And there is something profoundly dispiriting in the principle of us all being suspects: universal surveillance rather than targeted concentration on known criminals and murderous creeps with terrorist ambitions.

This is insane. The terrorists are already in Britain. Why lock the exit doors now, when they left the entry doors wide open for so long that the UK is a ticking bomb?

I think it’s an oxymoron called “government logic”.

The Telegraph has more of the nitty gritty details - and yeah, that’s definitely where the devil dwells, in the odious minutiae:

Anyone departing the UK by land, sea or air will have their trip recorded and stored on a database for a decade.

Passengers leaving every international sea port, station or airport will have to supply detailed personal information as well as their travel plans. So-called “booze cruisers” who cross the Channel for a couple of hours to stock up on wine, beer and cigarettes will be subject to the rules.

In addition, weekend sailors and sea fishermen will be caught by the system if they plan to travel to another country - or face the possibility of criminal prosecution.

The owners of light aircraft will also be brought under the system, known as e-borders, which will eventually track 250 million journeys annually.

Even swimmers attempting to cross the Channel and their support teams will be subject to the rules which will require the provision of travellers’ personal information such as passport and credit card details, home and email addresses and exact travel plans.

The full extent of the impact of the government’s “e-borders” scheme emerged amid warnings that passengers face increased congestion as air, rail and ferry companies introduce some of the changes over the Easter holidays.

The new checks are being introduced piecemeal by the UK Border Agency. By the end of the year 60 per cent of journeys made out of Britain will be affected with 95 per cent of people leaving the country being subject to the plans by the end 2010.

Boaters and private pilots get a break. They have till 2014 to comply with the new rules, which involve sending their information via the internet twenty-fours ahead of time. Failure to comply means a £5,000 fine.

In most cases the information will be expected to be provided 24 hours ahead of travel and will then be stored on a Government database for around ten years.

What a bucket of gold for the bureaucrats!

In case you’re wondering about the EU open borders policy, here’s the deal:

Exit controls for departure to other countries within the European Union were scrapped by the last Conservative Government. The rest were scrapped by Jack Straw, when he became Home Secretary, after Labour won the election in 1997.

However, passport inspections at ports have gradually been reintroduced as the Government looks to prevent anyone on a Government watchlist fleeing the country.

Gwyn Prosser, Labour MP for Dover and a member of the all-party Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “I think e-borders are absolutely necessary,” he said. “Governments of all complexions have always been criticised for not knowing who is in the country. This is a very sophisticated way of counting people in and out.”

The Telegraph compares e-borders to the US’ demand to have the same information from anyone wishing to visit here. They don’t say it makes sense to want to know who’s coming in but it’s merely a bureaucratic boondoggle to require exit information. I mean, the people are leaving for land’s sake. Why do you need their information and why do you need to store that data for a decade?

Here’s just one scenario: Joe Blow’s company has an emergency in Brussels and they want him to take the next flight. Tough luck. He has to wait 24 hours for e-Borders to register his trip and all the attendant information: where he’ll be staying, how long he’ll be there, etc.

Or perhaps you get word that your mother has been in an accident while traveling in France. The hospital warns you her condition is grave and urges you to get there immediately. “Not so fast”, says e-Borders. “Fill out this form. Give us your flight information, your hotel, your credit card number, your passport information, and how long you’ll be there. We’ll get back to you within twenty-four hours.”

Sure they will. And they’ll guard your private information, too, just as efficiently as they have other personnel data. This would be funny if it weren’t so idiotic, so detrimental to the economy, and so gob-stoppingly creepy:

Ferry firms and Eurostar - who, unlike airlines, do not gather such detailed passenger information - have also raised concerns about the impact on passengers and warned the plans may not even be legal under EU law.

The changes would mean that Eurostar, Eurotunnel and ferry companies will now have to demand passport details from passengers at the time of booking, along with the credit card information and email address which they would have taken at the time of the reservation.

“We are also concerned that the implementation of e-borders could prove expensive and time consuming. For passengers this could mean longer check-in times,” a Eurostar spokesman said.

“This will lead to unwelcome queues of vehicles at ferry ports and risks adding unnecessary complications to what always have been and ought to be a simple and straightforward journey,” said a spokesman for the Chamber of Shipping.

Ms. Purves draws out the implications:

All this began when Tony Blair was embarrassed by a question about how many failed asylum seekers were here, and when it became clear that UK immigration control is ludicrously ineffective in an enlarged, porous EU. The depressing thing is that there used to be a reasonable system for knowing who was here - exit checks on passports. These were largely abandoned in 2004 to save money.

Under e-borders, the idea is that the pendulum will swing back until they know everything about everyone. And having so much information, they will become even more confused and give your plans to some cowboy IT contractor, who will leave it on a train seat to be picked up by grateful burglars, blackmailers and gossips.

They’ll write in saying this is a caricature. It’s not. It’s an extrapolation, based on experience.

Welcome to Soviet Britain. Check your freedoms at the door, please. No smoking, no littering but be aware of the fines for not recycling, no taking pictures of policeman. Be careful what you say and do because we have cameras everywhere.

Do have a nice day, sir.


X said...

Of course it'll most likely be used to to control environmental "damage". Watch: they'll spin it as part of this effort to limit travel in order to protect the earth from global warming.

Right now they're discussing a minimum price on alcohol and a punitive tax on freaking chocolate - though that one got laughed out of parliament so perhaps it won't happen for a few years.

I won't give up hope. Not yet...

My uncle regularly sails over to Ireland to work as an architect, though perhaps that's been curtailed somewhat with the whole recession thing going on. I have yet to hear what he thinks of this but I expect it'll provoke a fairly lengthy rant. He's very good at ranting. It's an Irish thing, I think.

And my own family makes regular trips to France for wine. I can see customs using this asn an excuse to prevent this little "loophole". They've been smarting ever since a court ruling prevented them from completely pulling people's cars apart and then selling them at auction because they brought over more wine than customs had arbitrarily decided they were allowed to bring.

I don't think this will fly. It's the proverbial step too far. Border control is one thing but they'll be monitoring everything we do, every journey we take. EVERYTHING. It's been a right in this country to travel anywhere you like without fear of meddling from the government for a thousand years. Even with all the curtailments they've stuck on it there's always been the illusion that travel is still a right. This will strip that illusion away entirely, exposing the people to unfavourable reality when their lives are already stressed to breaking point by islamists, credit and the fear of losing everything. This is the Poll Tax moment, I reckon.

Robohobo said...

But the whole EU thing was to make travel easier, was it not? You know, we are all EUropeons now? Like that?

jonny10buds said...

Welcome to the 'surfdom' that the UK has become, it takes me back to my history lessons at school. presumably MP's are the new 'freemen' who can travel without hinderance?

Unknown said...

If like me, you are middle aged and British, it is worth remembering the respect that our "chatering classes"once had for the old D.D.R. During the early and middle 80`s East Germany was offten held up by pundits, broadcasters, even pop stars as an ideal"progresive" state. After 1989 some of thease people offerd post facto"qulifications"to there glowing tributes. Most just shut up and a tame media refused to confront them over it. There have long been disturbing rumours of Stasi infultration of the N.U.S.,the union to which all further and higher education students in the U.K. belong automticaly. This is supposed to have happened from around the year 1970 onwards. If such an inflentual body was even partialy in the grip of the Stasi it could play a part in explainig why Britian now seems so East German. Espcialy with its new "E Berlin Wall" clearly designed,like its Esat German orginal, to keep people in when curiously most Britains are worried about who is comming in.