09 February 2009

UK ID cards ready to go, no machines to read them

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After the government has spent months encouraging foreign residents in the UK to get their biometric identity cards, it now has to face the embarrassing situation of not being ready for them, reports The Times.

The £4.7 billion scheme is designed to increase the security of Britain's borders by ensuring all foreign residents have a biometric identity card, and as thousands of cards are being issued it has come to fruition that there are no machines ready to read the information electronically stored on them.

After a website company obtained the details through a Freedom of Information Request, the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) has confessed that police stations, border and immigration points and job centres are still waiting to have the chip readers installed.  It is also unclear as to when these checkpoints would have their chip readers set up, and that it was part of the police stations' discretion as to whether they would invest in the technology.

"The timetable for the roll out of scanners of biometric chips will be in incremental stages.  Scanners capable of reading electronic chips for foreign nationals will become more readily available as we ramp up the issuing of cards," a Home Office spokesperson said.

By April, 50,000 identity cards are to be issued to UK visa holders, with that number predicted to reach 3 million by 2010.

The cards will hold all personal information, biometric details including fingerprints, and their working rights in the UK.

Although the Opposition has mocked the government's attempt at securing Britain's border, the Government defends the scheme, saying that it would become a success as soon as the machines are in place and in working order.

"ID cards will help protect against identity fraud, illegal working and immigration, crime and terrorism, and those trying to abuse positions of trust and will make it easier for people to prove they are who they say they are," said a spokesperson for the UK Border Agency. 

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in UK visa and immigration services.

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