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Cambridge Liberal Democrats

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Julian Huppert MP

ID cards for foreigners could hit Cambridge economy - Howarth

November 24, 2008 12:18 PM

NO2ID logoSenior Cambridge academics and community leaders have strongly criticised plans for "ID cards for Foreigners".

Over 100 people, including Cambridge's MP, have signed an open letter pointing out that new visa procedures will deter overseas students from coming to Cambridge, damaging both Universities, thriving languages schools, and the town's economy.

David Howarth, MP for Cambridge, said: "The government is trying to bring in ID cards by stealth by picking first on weaker groups, such as foreigners and students.

"But they know that their national database system will not work even in theory unless everyone is on it, not just a few people. They are just softening up public opinion by trying to link ID cards with the immigration issue. But since anyone who is here illegally will neither have nor need an ID card, this change will make no difference.

"I am also worried about the effect of this move on the economy of Cambridge, which relies on a stream of highly qualified scientists, engineers and academics from all over the world. Treating highly qualified people as potential criminals rather than as welcome guests is not going to put us at the top of their list of places to go to use their talents."

Ross Anderson, Professor of Security Engineering and Member of Cambridge University's Council, said "This will place yet another burden on non-EU students and spouses in Cambridge (on top of the recent huge increases in visa fees).

"People will have to trek to Croydon to get fingerprinted and interviewed. In fact one of my own foreign students is hurrying to write up and leave the country before his current visa ends in January precisely to avoid this.

"This will not merely be an annoyance but will make UK universities less competitive. It's basically an attempt to introduce ID cards by stealth by picking on relatively defenceless people."

Andrew Watson, joint Cambridge coordinator of the NO2ID campaign, said:"The government originally planned to use British airport workers and students to test its unpopular ID card scheme, but both groups are resisting strongly. It seems the Home Office now plans to use non-EU students as guinea-pigs instead, forgetting that they can always study in other countries.

"Non-EU students contribute over £3 billion to the UK economy every year; risking driving them away for no better reason than to test the doomed ID card scheme is sheer folly."