UK Home Office plans to fingerprint children starting 11
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"Restricted" documents circulated among officials in the UK Identity and Passport have shown Home Office plans to fingerprint children aged 11 years and over, beginning with 2010, as part of the programme for the introduction of new biometric passports and ID cards.
The fingerprints are to be stored in a big database expected to cover about half a million children by 2011 that will be also used by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate to store fingerprints of asylum seekers.
The programme of introducing biometric elements on ID cards foresees that all citizens over 16 will be taken fingerprints, eye and facial details when applying for passports. Initially, children were supposed to be exempt from the programme, but the new proposals show that this has been reconsidered.
Once a child reaches 16 his fingerprints pass from the stored database to the National Identity Register covering information on almost 50 million adults.
The ministers argue that ID cards are necessary to prevent identity theft and fraud but private campaigners and opposition politicians consider that these plans will turn Britain into a "surveillance society".
David Davis, the shadow home secretary, criticized the plans by stating: "This borders on the sinister and it shows the government is trying to end the presumption of innocence. With the fingerprinting of all our children, this government is clearly determined to enforce major changes in the relationship between the citizen and the state in a way never seen before."
The critics also complain about the trouble involved by children having to travel up to 150 km to special Home Office screening centres to have their fingerprints taken when applying for a passport and on the costs that this programme would involve. A combined ID card and passport that could rise up to about 160 euro as documents show.
"The government's determination to build a surveillance state behind the backs of the British people is becoming increasingly sinister. It is a measure of ministerial arrogance that plans are being laid to fingerprint children without public debate." said Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman.
The plan is considered by the opponents as a "Big Brother" scheme which is badly planned, too expensive and inefficient. The Tories declared that, in case they win the next elections, they would scrap the scheme.
Children of 11 to be fingerprinted (4.03.2007)
Children's prints to be held on database (4.03.2007)
Ministers clash over Labour's 'sinister' plans to fingerprint children