Will civil liberties be eroded by eborders legislation?

COULD Big Brother soon be keeping tabs on Isle of Man residents’ travel arrangements?
That’s the fear of political lobby organisation the Positive Action Group, which is concerned about the extension of the UK’s e-Borders programme and its effect on travellers between the Isle of Man and the UK.

E-borders is an integrated electronic travel monitoring system that aims to combat terrorism, drug trafficking, illegal immigration and other serious crime.

The Manx Government has agreed in principle to be involved in the programme.

It means that when someone books a flight or ferry their details would be checked on the UK e-Borders database.

The plan is to collect, in advance of travel, extensive personal information on people using airline and ferry reservation data and passengers’ biometric passport data.

But PAG fears Island travellers could be stopped and searched randomly — and their travel plan blocked for even minor offences, such as unpaid parking fines.

There are also concerns about the storage of people’s personal travel history for up to 10 years.

A pilot is already running on ‘high-risk’ routes; by next year all rail, air and ferry travellers will be tracked; by 2014, even pleasure boats, fishing vessels and private planes will be included.

PAG chairman Roger Tomlinson said: ‘A number of our members are concerned about the restrictions the system could impose on passengers as we have just learned that the new Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill proposes a new power for the UK authorities to randomly subject to ‘stop, search and delay’, passengers entering the UK from the Isle of Man.

‘We face having to carry a passport to get into the UK, booking at least 24 hours in advance to travel off Island and possibly having travel plans disrupted due to no fault of our own. The restrictions will apply to pleasure craft and the fishing fleet as well as private air travel.’

He said taxpayers may have to fund new building works at the Sea Terminal to allow for identity checks.

‘In addition there will be a need for expensive new passport reading electronic equipment at the Sea Terminal and Ronaldsway in order to pass all the data to the UK Home Office. It will indeed be Orwellian,’ he said.