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ID Cards - intergovernmental cooperation in worldwide implementation

Nathan Allonby
for The Corbett Report

9 January, 2010

[Note: Click here to download an mp3 audio interview with the author about this article.]

This is an update on the earlier article ID Cards - a World View, published on Global Research, August 31, 2009. That article gave a pretty bleak view of worldwide implementation of ID cards, in a global surveillance matrix:

"Electronic ID cards have made alarming progress towards becoming universal, around the world. Already, over 2.2 billion people, or 33% of the world's population, have been issued with 'smart' ID cards. Of those, over 900 million have biometric facial and fingerprint systems. On present plans, over 85% of the world's population will have smart ID cards by 2012. Most of the remaining population won't have escaped - largely, they are already enrolled in earlier generation ID systems, often in repressive states, such as Myanmar (Burma)..."
   -Nathan Allonby, ID cards - a World View

Unfortunately, the situation is even further advanced than this, as will be discussed below.

For some people, however, it appears it was not enough to show comprehensive, world-wide implementation of ID and database systems - they refused to see any significance in this unless it could be shown that implementation was being coordinated internationally, and the exact mechanisms via which this had been enacted. Finding this has taken a little further time and research.

Simultaneous introduction of biometric, smart ID cards around the world is not just a coincidence, it is not merely due to nations copying effective schemes in other nations, and is not just a phenomenon related to the sudden maturity of technology. Implementation of these ID card schemes was pushed. It is being driven in a coordinated programme, via international organisations and conferences, led by the US and the European Union (EU).

To make such claims, it is necessary to back them with hard evidence. Discussing this evidence can be slow and interrupt the flow of the narrative, so we shall go through this twice: - first, the short version; then go through documents, for those who want the back-story.


1. The ID schemes and database projects are harmonised and conform to international standards, designed to be coordinated and interoperable. The smart ID cards being adopted by different nations worldwide are all on a common format: - ICAO 9303 part 3. (This document available can viewed online here)

2. Behind the ID project, the participating nations are also all adopting a common format for personal information on government databases. This is what ID cards are about - more than the physical cards themselves, they are an interface to access databases of personal information. Adopting a common format for cards implies adopting a common format for data systems and databases. Interoperability of systems and universal accessibility of data has been an explicit goal, not merely implicit. There is also a project to make your personal data available to all other governments, worldwide.

3. The adoption of these systems has been coordinated, by a government process, conferences, aid and support.

4. This policy is being projected worldwide by the European Union (EU) and the US. They have been the leading movers in promoting common format "smart" ID cards and databases.

5. It seems probable that Russia and the Eastern Bloc nations will also be joining the project - under the EU-Russia Common Spaces agreements.

6. Smart ID cards will cover at least 90% of world population - perhaps over 95%. This figure is even higher than that in my earlier article, in Global Research. Only about 2.5% are definitely not going in with the common-format ID scheme (e.g. Burma, North Korea, Madagascar, etc). For about 8% of world population, I haven't been able to track down solid, reliable information, e.g. small countries such as Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, etc.

The indications are that these small nations will be joining regional schemes. Examples these include: - the East African Economic Union ID card scheme; the Andean Community of Nations, which already shares an interoperable ID card system; likewise the Union of South American Nations; the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) which has established a Single Domestic Space with a single internal passport - the Travel Card, which is in fact a standardised ICAO biometric ID card; the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) has established a common ID card as part of its project for customs and monetary union - other Arab states such as Egypt and Algeria have already joined this ID scheme. Other political unions are moving in the same direction: - the West African Economic and Monetary Union (or UEMOA), the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa and the Pacific Union, which will include Australia and New Zealand and 14 other smaller Pacific Island states. Within these regional groups, all nations agree to adopt a common ID card, which is interoperable with the other nations in the region and, incidentally, also globally, because of the common ICAO format, discussed above.

7. The aim of this process is to track population movement - migration of population. The system of immigration and border controls has evolved into worldwide system of monitoring population movement, to stop potential immigrants. The aim has progressed from stopping potential illegal immigrants at the borders of the EU or the US, into extended border controls, that stop migrants hundreds or thousands of miles before they reach the borders. This requires systems of population monitoring and surveillance, in "third nations." ID systems are part of this strategy.

This appears to have developed into a project effectively to monitor the location and movements of everyone, all the time, to spot people going where they don't belong. Incredible, unbelievable technology and resources have been deployed, such as tracking migrants by satellite. A pan-European border surveillance system, called Eurosur, will link national coastal surveillance systems and the EU's Galileo satellite (Links: Guardian, BBC).

ID cards are another part of this matrix - a system for tracking people and their movement, regularly, frequently, to spot people somewhere they shouldn't be, where they don't belong, to spot people migrating towards protected borders.

8. The root issue is the huge numbers of people, displaced by globalisation, who become refugees or migrants. For example, in India alone, 40% of the population or 450 million people will be displaced - made homeless, unemployed and destitute - in the next 10 years; similar figures apply to much of Africa. This displacement can be traced to World Bank policies promoting urbanisation and the government of India selling-off land and mineral resources, to service debt.

These displaced people have been coming to the affluent West both as refugees and as economic migrants. Yesterday's internal refugees, perhaps driven out of their homes by "civil war" or by state seizure of the land, become today's slum-dwellers, desperate to escape as "economic migrants." ID card schemes are part of a system for managing this displaced and mobile population, internationally and within their home nations also.

Perhaps it's worth pausing to consider what this displacement represents: - the greatest robbery in the history of the world. Roughly one third of the world's population is going to lose - to be robbed of - everything they have - not just their land, their homes, their possessions, their livelihoods, but also their history, their traditions, their identity, their dignity - everything that gives their lives meaning. These are people with, in some cases, incredibly ancient cultures, which have lived in harmony with their environment, sustainably, for thousands of years. They are going to lose everything, and be driven into unspeakable slums, into lives of virtual slavery, to be exploited in the Third-World sweatshop economy. This is being done explicitly to fuel economic growth, to make these people work to serve the Western economy.

Considering this helps to put into context the claims that ID cards will help to cut crime. This is connected to the biggest heist in history, and ID cards are part of the means to subdue the victims.

9. People in the developed world will also be monitored all the time, not just immigrants from the developing world. The European Union is implementing a project called the Digital Tsunami, which is like Total Information Awareness on steroids. Tony Bunyan of Statewatch described it thus:

"Every object the individual uses, every transaction they make and almost everywhere they go will create a detailed digital record...that can be data-mined and applied to different scenario"

"...leading to behaviour being predicted and assessed by "machines" (their term) which will issue orders to officers on the spot"

"It will "allow unregulated automated access to data and intelligence by hundreds of national state agencies across Europe."

The Digital Tsunami is conceived very much as a public-private partnership, where data about customers, gathered by private corporations, would become available to governments, via projects such as the Internet of Things. There will be an 'information system architecture' to bring about the sharing of all data across the EU.

10. Under the developing "Euro-Atlantic Area of Cooperation on freedom, security and justice," the US and EU will be adopting common, integrated systems. If this is the future of the EU, it seems very likely this will be the future of the US and Canada also.

All the claims above, (1) - (10), are supported by evidence in government documents in the public domain. Let's get on to the really controversial thing - the lack of public awareness or opposition.

Fighting Back

11. The most terrifying thing is, there is little effective opposition at present. The opposition is desperately thin, fragmented and quite unequal to the rate of progress implementing these surveillance projects. It is really vital that the public gets involved and that more people become activists. More of the public have to understand, there simply isn't someone else to do it all for you. Unless we want a futuristic totalitarian surveillance state to develop, we all have to do something ourselves.

The real mistake would be to imagine that there is someone else out there who can oppose this for us. The best any campaign can do is to alert us to the issues and invite us to join in.

12. Let's not get overwhelmed but instead emphasise how much we can do to fight this project. We should not lose sight of how much power we have, or how much the authorities seem to fear us.

The Digital Tsunami project is a public-private partnership, involving private corporations, such as supermarkets, and internet companies. That's a weakness and something we can exploit. These corporations are deadly frightened of consumer power. Campaign group CASPIAN (Consumers Against Surveillance, Privacy-Invasion And Numbering) has shown that in capitalism, sometimes we have more power as consumers than as voters. A strategy of boycotts and press campaigns has been successful in making leading corporations back away from collecting consumer data. CASPIAN is one of the best organisations out there - and it's free to join.

What CASPIAN has shown us is how much we have cooperated with the implementation of this sick, odious project. They have shown we can stop it, if only we make the effort. We have to start protecting our own data. We have to become aware how much information we recklessly give away. It's incredible how much people have willingly cooperated in surveillance of their lives. Try not to leave a digital record. Use cash, not cards - don't let your card identify you. Your bank-card is an ID card issued by a bank.

Think of this as the first step on a larger journey.

The Back-Story: - Documents and Appendices

The following includes a series of extracts of relevant passages from official documents (some of them long) and one commentary.

Let's begin with the UK government's report to Parliament on its term of Presidency of the EU, and in particular: -

- agreement on harmonisation of biometrics on national ID cards within the EU.

- agreements with 'third countries' on managing migration, "to improve their capacity to protect refugees and control flows of illegal migration."

Prospects for the European Union in 2006 and retrospective of the UK's presidency of the EU, 1 July to 31 December 2005

Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, January 2006

54. Following discussion at Hampton Court, the December European Council agreed a new Counter-Terrorism Strategy, ... the UK Presidency delivered substantial outcomes including:
    - a Directive on the Retention of Communications Data, ...
    - intergovernmental agreement on the introduction of common biometric security standards into national ID cards, to prevent these from becoming a weak link in travel documentation;

Asylum and Immigration

55.The human tragedy caused by irregular migration across the Mediterranean during 2005 highlighted the extent of the challenge of managing migration for all Member States. The UK Presidency worked to develop the EU's ability to work in partnership with third countries to improve their capacity to protect refugees and control flows of illegal migration. Following discussion at the Hampton Court Summit, the December European Council agreed a paper outlining priority actions for managing migration flows, with a particular focus on Africa and the Mediterranean. The UK Presidency also saw progress on negotiating readmission agreements with key third countries, initialling readmission and visa facilitation agreements with Russia, and advancing negotiations with Ukraine and Morocco.

You might well ask, 'what the hell does this mean?' It sounds quite bland and impenetrable, but is actually laden with significance.

Since at least 2002, and probably much earlier, the EU has adopted a new approach to controlling immigration, in response to the problems of : -

- huge numbers of immigrants and refugees, generated by large-scale population displacement, by both war and the economic pressures of economic globalisation

- free movement within the EU, with no internal borders

- the difficulties of policing an extremely long border, with variable quality of policing.

The new EU response to this has been to try to stop the immigrants reaching the EU's borders in the first place, trying to stop them further back, hundreds of miles and several borders before they reach the EU. The EU has, in effect, begun sub-contracting the whole process of managing migration to other nations - &auot;third nations" - via what is euphemistically called 'partnership.' The EU has done this via exporting systems for control of migration, such as providing resources and expertise to implement biometric ID systems, and training for border and migration police, all coordinated with EU systems and bodies, such as FRONTEX.

Although this policy was new to the EU, it was copied from US practice, managing immigration from Central and South America. The migration policy has been tied to aid and development programmes. Apparently, the EU has development and aid programmes with almost all African nations, so this influence is quite pervasive.

Implementation of the migration control policy has also been supported by a range of other institutions, such as the UN, the G8, the OECD, the OSCE, the International Organisation for Migration, the World Bank and regional development banks. This programme was described as early as 2003 by a group called IRR - the Independent Race and Refugee news network: -

From refugee protection to managed migration: the EU's border control programme

Having effectively equated asylum seekers with immigrants, and criminalised such migration as 'illegal', the European Council (which is the body representing the EU heads of state and government) is now stepping up the defence of its borders.

Australia and the US: pioneers in border defence

The EU Council's Border Control Programme draws heavily on Australian and US models where the debate around security of borders is routinely linked to the need for enhanced security against terrorism. In 1995, the Clinton administration broadened the US military's role on the 2,000-mile Mexican border from that of a 'war on drugs' to a 'war on illegal immigration'. And, to conduct this war, the US border patrol was issued with military equipment...

The EU Council has indeed absorbed the lessons of the Border Protection Act, and studied the US's military approach to its border with Mexico. The Council has moved to ensure that the piecemeal approaches to border control of the various member states are consolidated into one overarching paramilitary system which involves increasing reliance on military technology and equipment. It is a strategy that needs to be seen in the wider context of decreasing spending on European welfare and social security, and increasing spending on defence. The ultimate objective of such border control is to stop the victims of persecution, civil war and forced migration from reaching Europe. But, of course, this is not openly acknowledged. Instead, [this] is justified as vital for the maintenance of Europe's security against the dual threat posed by traffickers and terrorists.

Border protection: objectives and outcomes

The EU Council's border control programme is not solely an EU affair. In fact, it is a programme that, if it is to be effective, requires substantial external support. To this end, a whole list of non-EU countries are being brought into the managed migration process. At the European Council Seville Summit, heads of state and government endorsed the Council's border protection programme and committed the EU to the integration of immigration policies into the Union's relations with third countries, through a targeted approach which makes use of all appropriate EU external relation instruments, including development policy, to address the underlying causes of migratory flows. ... In December 2002, the European Commission, warning that migration was a 'major strategic policy for the European Union' ... The Commission spoke of 'strengthening third countries capacity to manage migratory flows' through EU-backed schemes aimed at the 'management of external borders' and the creation of migration projects in third countries. But European Commissioner for External Affairs, Chris Patten, added that 'the struggle against illegal immigration is now a strategic priority of the EU and aid programmes should be reviewed towards the aim of adjusting them to those new priorities. However, such an approach, according to the European Commission, 'necessitated coaxing third countries to cooperate before penalising those resistant to or incapable of cooperating.'


Cooption of non-EU countriesThe European Council is also pushing out its 'integrated border management' policies into non-EU countries, principally Turkey and Morocco. Just as with eastern Europe, integration into EU border control programmes will have a profound effect on countries which have not developed their own border control mechanisms, and now must do so, not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of their richer European neighbours.

In September 2002, ministers of the member states of the Council of Europe, met with representatives of the governments of Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria to discuss 'the orderly management of migration flows'.


The background to these measures is the EU's concern about the increasing movement of sub-Saharan Africans... Research by the International Labour Organisation suggests that, each year, some 80,000 people from various African countries, notably those beset by civil war or dictatorships, find their way to the Maghreb.


a visit of ten European experts to Morocco...concluded Morocco...did not have the capabilities to deal with mass movements from the sub-Saharan African countries of Nigeria, Mali and Liberia.


This strategy will be enforced through programmes and policies aimed at:

  Exporting border controls to eastern Europe:...

  Coopting Morocco and Turkey into EU border protection programmes: This will be done through financial inducements, including increased development aid. To the same end, negotiations have already started with other countries, such as Algeria and Tunisia.

  Massive investment - pioneered by the defence industry, in new technology and research in order to protect the inner core of EU nations from migratory movements.

  Formulation of a new policy towards countries deemed to be the source of migratory flows: Albania, China, Morocco, Russia and Turkey and other countries are to be forced to adopt a series of measures to prevent people entering and leaving at pain of economic and political sanctions.


Resources are also being ploughed into developing surveillance and detection programmes capable of predicting refugee movement, profiling potential 'illegal immigrants' and 'averting refugee flows'. A system of common risk assessment, whereby attempts are made to determine the type of person likely to be an illegal immigrant and the likely method used to enter the EU, has been introduced. Surveillance of refugee movement and averting refugee flows are deemed to be vital components of Europe's post-September 11 security needs. Philippe Busquin, EU Commissioner for Research, argues that the 'Global Monitoring for Environment and Security' project, in which the use of satellites, originally designed for tracking coastal erosion, air pollution and climate change, will be used ... to track refugees outside the EU's borders, is essential if Europe's security needs are to be met.

At this point, you should recall that the article, 'ID Cards - A World View,' made extensive reference to the use of ID cards in tracking mobile and migratory populations, for example, in India, China and Africa.

OK, so much for what other people say - what does the EU say about itself? Now we have the background story, we can understand the terminology in EU documents.


Brussels, COM(2008) 611/3



The Global Approach to migration can be defined as the external dimension of the European Union's migration policy. It is based on genuine partnership with third countries, is fully integrated into the EU's other external policies, and addresses all migration and asylum issues in a comprehensive and balanced manner. Adopted in 2005, it illustrates the ambition of the European Union to establish an inter-sectoral framework to manage migration in a coherent way through political dialogue and close practical cooperation with third countries.

...Nevertheless, it is now time to strengthen the EU's external migration management so that it can become better coordinated and more coherent.

The Communication of June 2008 on A Common Immigration Policy for Europe highlighted the need to strengthen the Global Approach to ensure a coherent, common European migration policy4, reiterating the principle that effective management of migration flows requires genuine partnership and cooperation with third countries and that migration issues should be fully integrated into the EU's development cooperation and external policies, as well as incorporate issues emerging from them.


2.2. Fight against irregular immigration

The EU offers assistance for strengthening border management in third countries, for capacity building for border guards and for migration officials, for financing information campaigns on the risks of irregular immigration, for improving reception conditions, and for developing the use of biometric technologies to make travel or identity documents more secure. FRONTEX and the Immigration Liaison Officers Networks have been instrumental in achieving progress in this regard.


Accordingly, the Commission proposes to:

- Acquire and provide timely and updated information on changes in migratory routes towards the EU by promoting reliable comparable data to be collected in both sending and destination countries, exploring new scientific methodologies, and making full use of new technologies, such as the electronic mapping system.

- Provide assistance to key third countries to strengthen their migration management, e.g. sharing experiences on border control issues, training of border guards and the exchange of operational information.

- Support third countries in the adoption and implementation of National Integrated Border Management Strategies in line with EU standards.


- Intensify, with the active involvement of origin and transit countries, particularly in the European Neighbourhood Policy context, joint operations and cooperation in setting up a border surveillance infrastructure under the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR).

- Encourage due attention to the human trafficking issue in the political and cooperation dialogue with partner countries and with regional organisations such as the African Union, ECOWAS, SADC, ASEAN and ASEM.

The paper goes on to describe the intense diplomatic effort required to put all of this into place: -

Ouagadougou Action Plan of November 2006 ... Cotonou Agreement ...

Ministerial conference on migration and development in Rabat in July 2006, setting up a framework for comprehensive action, followed by concrete initiatives, workshops and a second ministerial Conference in Paris in November 2008. The Global Approach also inspired the Ministerial Conference of Tripoli (November 2006), which, for the first time, ushered in a common approach between the European Union and the whole of Africa. The first ever Euromed ministerial meeting on migration in Albufeira (November 2007) set priorities in the form of concrete cooperation initiatives. The EU-Africa summit in Lisbon (December 2007) translated the common approach into concrete terms by the adoption of the EU-Africa Partnership on Migration, Mobility and Employment.

Lastly, the paper describes some of the bodies involved in this multi-lateral effort: -

Finally, the EU and its Member States should adopt a higher profile and actively engage in promoting the Global Approach in various multilateral, global and regional cooperation frameworks such as the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), that will hold its next session in Manila in October and will provide an opportunity for the EU to present a coherent and consolidated position, the United Nations and its relevant specialised agencies, the G8, the OECD, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the International Organisation for Migration, the World Bank and regional development banks, as well as the regional consultative processes.

For yet more detail on EU involvement in "third nations," this recent document discusses schemes in more detail, such as EU support for biometric ID card schemes in Morocco and Cape Verde.

These documents do also go on at length about laudable aims, such as : -development, providing meaningful employment and stopping human trafficking. Unfortunately these are “window-dressing” and do not withstand even casual examination.

For example, there is an aim to secure "development" and "worthwhile employment," so people do not need to migrate; this would read better if we did not already know about World Bank plans for urbanisation, and the prior intention to force them into service to the Western economy. Development is not about benefiting these people - it was always about securing fresh supplies of cheap labour and outsourcing for lower production costs.

When the document talks about fighting human trafficking, are these really agreements to "help the victims of human trafficking," or they just agreements to repatriate illegal immigrants? Why are the priorities so heavily skewed towards stopping only the people-smugglers who help migrants to cross our borders, not stopping the world‘s trade in forced, trafficked labour? Some commentators have claimed that there is more human slavery in the world today than at any point in history.

300,000 Indians and Bangladeshis used as slave-labour in Dubai alone? Or the trafficked workers exploited by US construction companies in Iraq?

Statewatch and the European Civil Liberties Network have written about how the EU has systematically criminalised legitimate refugees, riding roughshod over the protections guaranteed them in international law. The EU is becoming a militarised, "securitised," fortress state where human rights are being diminished and under threat.