When travelling across the world, people are being subjected to multiple forms of tracking and profiling by unaccountable state agencies.

Local and international travel is changing radically as concerns about terrorism and migration increase. Security agencies require access to travellers’ information before they leave their homes, compulsory identification of travellers now includes the collection of fingerprints and facial images, and secret watchlists, dossiers and profiles are being developed. These policies and procedures are extremely costly, the potential for abuses and miscarriages of justice is high, and the benefits are debatable. 

Our work includes investigating the systems that are planned and deployed, evaluating the methods and techniques, raising awareness about the implications of these new policies for the human rights of citizens and foreigners, and advocating for policy change.

What is the problem

Migrants are bearing the burden and losing agency in their migration experience. Their fate is being put in the hands of systems, driven by data processing and tech innovation. These systems are feeding the surveillance and data exploitation ecosystem driven by governments, whose objective is to dissuade individuals from migrating, and by companies, which see migrants’ data as yet another business market.

Borders have become more militarised and policies have become more hostile, with the explicit purpose of making the lives of migrants, who are already in vulnerable situations, even more precarious.

Governments are using migrants as the testing ground for many of their so-called innovations – biometric schemes, invasive mobile phone extraction procedures, and more. The standard of proof for being a ‘legitimate migrant’ has now dramatically expanded.

Migrants are now expected to hand over their devices, their social media passwords, and even their DNA. They are being exposed to systems that demand more and more of their data, so that immigration authorities can build a profile of them, their families, and their activities.

What is the solution

Government and public authorities responsible for immigration must stop using invasive techniques for immigration control. They also must be transparent about the new ways in which technologies are being used to make decisions about migrants, including through the expansion of databases, watchlists, and the types of data now being used.

Immigration policies and practices must be designed and deployed within a legal framework based on the principles of fairness, accessibility, and respect for human rights.

Companies must stop supplying invasive techniques to governments that use such tools to implement immigration policies that curtail the rights of migrants. There must be transparent procurement and due diligence processes to ensure that the solutions they are providing to governments are not used to violate the rights of migrants.

What PI is doing

Our work includes investigating the systems that are planned and deployed, as well as the companies that enable them. We evaluate their methods and techniques, raising awareness about the implications for the human rights of citizens and foreigners.

We work with and support migrants rights organisations in advocating for policy change.

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