People have been migrating since their existence. For most of the history Europe, which now has the so called “Migrant Crisis” on its hands, people moved relatively freely and to do so they didn’t even know of passports or papers with which one could prove their identity. Passports came into existence as letters requesting safe passage, but haven’t been used much. Europeans didn’t use any identification to travel up to at least World War I. Some countries still don’t require Identification papers, although if one wants to travel they will surely need them, at least in order to step into another country if not to leave their own.
An interesting issue with Migrants today is that a lot of them don’t have identification papers, passports or anything of these sorts, either because they never had them or because they had chosen not use them. The sheer size of the population that has been on the move makes identifying them while they are travelling as borders would normally do tricky if not impossible. Most of the time they shift the burden to the country that people say they want to go to these days.
This issue asks for a debate of the purpose and need of both borders and identity cards. At first glance it seems that if everyone holds identity papers, everyone is safer because at least Law Enforcement can track someone down. The trouble is that to this day there are ways of avoiding identification in Europe or elsewhere even though most of those endeavors may be quite illegal. If someone wanted to give birth to a child without the knowledge of the State one could go through the trouble of doing so. Another way would be cutting and getting rid of every single identity proof one has in order to, for example, cause trouble or simply go off-grid. In the same way Migrants might want to get into Europe with different agendas. Could thorough screening help? Perhaps, but most likely it wouldn’t. The biggest fear, that is terrorism, cannot be avoided whether people have papers or not. Most terrorist acts on European soil had been, non-the-less, committed by naturalized persons, not recent migrants.
Whatever the reason, we should question reasons for identification in the same way as Gandhi for example opposed identification of Indians in South Africa. Racial, Ethnic, Religious or whatever kind of profiling is dangerous if in the wrong hands as we know well from our past. As some parts of the world get more and more into economic troubles, people get more restricted because of the papers they hold.
Whether one is Muslim or Christian, Black or White, Male or Female, a National or a Migrant, Naturalized or an Alien, the State should not hold us or them suspect simply because of something on the paper. Not only is it unjust, it’s also incredibly dehumanizing. What’s more, it enables abhorrent violations of personhood by the Powers–that–Be, especially when (not if) in the wrong hands.