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Wednesday, 3 July, 2002, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Europe's ID card experience
An invasion of privacy? A useful document? Or a waste of time and money? As the UK considers introducing identity cards BBC News Online looks at the experiences of people in countries where the cards are already in use.


Ian Carr-de Avelon, Poland

I've been out of the UK for 10 years now, living first in the Netherlands and now in Poland.

Having to carry an ID card is a real pain and putting it in a drawer for two weeks is one of the greatest reliefs of a trip home.

Ian Carr-de Avelon: Long delays for a card
If the UK introduces one, you will have all the problems which I see every day... of office blocks where the security guard holds your ID while you are in the building, but accepts no responsibility if it gets lost.

Of hotels which demand your card stays with them despite the fact that you are not allowed out without it, and people who can't drive or get hospital treatment when they need it because they are waiting for replacement papers.

They are also too easy to forge but because people trust the card this leads to cars and houses being sold by people with forged cards.

I have a 10 year polish resident's card, which has an error on it but i haven't sent it back as it took over 6 months to get it.

Also, if you carry an identity card, along with the cash in your pocket which might get you mugged, you have a card which in the hands of an illegal immigrant or terrorist, would greatly increase their chances of avoiding detection.


Stephen Follows, Belgium

I have now been living in Belgium as an ex-pat for seven years.

After the first six months of being here we were told it was law to own an identity card.

At first we asked the questions: 'Why? Surely they are just another small item to be lost? Whose business is it to know all about us?'

However, these were our still immature thoughts towards a very beneficial system.

Instead of needing a passport to travel around mainland Europe I can use my ID card

Stephen Follows, Belgium

Only once in seven years have I been asked to present my ID card to a police officer, and that was at a concert, where security is pretty tight.

No longer do I see the ID card as a hindrance on my free movement, or as a way for government officials to spy on my life, but as a simpler, smaller replacement of personal identity that already exists in the Britain.

Instead of needing a passport to travel around mainland Europe I can use my ID card.

Instead of a medical bracelet, an ID card is used, I know friends whose lives have been saved through the time saving system of finding out medical record through the ID card, instead of the long process of contacting GPs or relatives.

To simply have the common sense to carry around an ID card along with wallets, phones etc seems a small price to pay for the immense benefits of an identity card.

At the end of the summer I am being moved back to the UK and although it will be good to return home, I fear that as a result of not having an ID card I will have a loss of safety and freedom.


Graham Grice, Italy

I live in Italy and the population here use ID cards all the time and they are generally of a huge benefit, particularly as we can use our ID cards to travel throughout Europe without a passport.

At some stage just about every week you have to prove your identity, for example in Britain if you want to buy an item in a shop on HP, the first thing they ask for is ID.

You want to drive a car, you need a licence - another form of ID.


The population here use ID cards all the time

Graham Grice, Italy
You want to go on holiday you need a passport, yet another form of ID.

Why can't all of these things be collated into on simple document as it seems to be for many Europeans?

It really irritates me that people can not see the benefit of carrying an ID card, I have done so for 20 years.

It causes me no problems and I am happy to produce it when requested, in fact on occasions it has even been of benefit for me to do so.

It is often said that only those with something to hide have something to fear, this is very true.


Frank Goovaerts, Belgium

I've no problem with carrying an identity card - I got one when I was 12 years old and have carried it with me ever since.

To me it's no different to carrying a passport.

I use it a lot in Belgium, when you're outside of Belgium it's worthless.


These days it's so easy to identify people, an additional card makes very little difference.

Frank Goovaerts, Belgium
There are so many things in my wallet that people can identify me with - bank cards and credit cards, all sorts of things with my name and number , I don't need an identity card for people to identify me, but I have absolutely no problem with carrying one.

I have also lived in Canada and in the US and when the police stop you and ask for ID you give them your driving licence, when they stop you in Belgium and ask you for ID you give your identity card and for me it's exactly the same thing.

The information they get from them is exactly the same - they enter it into the computer system and find out everything they need to know about you.

I don't see any particular advantage to them, but I don't see a disadvantage either, I have absolutely no problem with it.

These days it's so easy to identify people, an additional card makes very little difference.


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Background/analysis
 VOTE RESULTS
Should Britain introduce ID cards?

Yes
 56.60% 

No
 43.40% 

2470 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

03 Jul 02 | UK Politics
Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


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