The Home Office has recently announced a new passport design, to be issued from October 2010. In an attempt to counter identity-theft and fraud, the passport is being marketed as “speeding up travellers’ passage through border controls” and includes enhanced security features such as holograms, two photographs and hiding the security chip from view. The Chief Executive of the Identity and Passport Service states that “Through its combination of physical and electronic security features, the UK passport remains one of the most secure and trusted documents in the world, meeting rigorous international standards.” Its use at border and immigration controls and the continual challenge of fighting fraud means that the passport and its associated (biometric) technologies reflect broader attitudes towards migration, security, belonging and citizenship.
In their paper in Geography Compass, Alexander Diener and Joshua Hagen (2009) examine how despite predictions of a borderless world, “state borders remain one of the most basic and visible features of the international system”. They argue that although it is clear there is growing interaction between different places and that globalisation has clearly impacted flows of migration and international trade, “borders continue to play a central role in shaping, dividing, and uniting the world’s societies, economies, and ecosystems”. The distinct political geographies of borders, territory and identity are reflected upon by Diener and Hagen, who use historical and contemporary examples of how ‘borders matter’. This article is a useful summary of research on border studies and the benefits for geographers and others within the social sciences. The continued improvement and re-configuration of passports and border security reflects wider ideas about the role of borders and the importance of territory in the international system.