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Digital tech a threat to refugee rights, Amnesty International says

13 February 20240 comments

Amnesty International has published a document warning that the advance of digital technology is eroding the right of refugees.

The paper, titled ‘Defending the Rights of Refugees and Migrants in the Digital Age’, says there has been pervasive and rapid deployment of digital technologies in asylum and migration management systems across the globe including the United States, United Kingdom and the European Union.

“This is a snapshot of some of the key digital technology developments in asylum and migration management systems focusing on the increasing digital alternatives to detention, border externalisation technologies, data software, biometrics and algorithmic decision-making systems,” said Amnesty International Adviser on Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights Technology Matt Mahmoudi.

“The proliferation of these technologies risk perpetuating and reinforcing discrimination, racism, disproportionate and unlawful surveillance against racialised people,” he said.

The paper say digital technologies are increasingly becoming a key human rights concern as states deploy them in ways that violate their human rights obligations towards refugees and migrants.

The paper describes how governments across the world have deployed specific technologies in asylum and migration systems.

It says border authorities in the United States have used the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP) and the Electronic Monitoring Device Program, to monitor migrants and asylum seekers released from detention arguing that the intention was to provide release options for migrants and asylum seekers. But these products have been linked to violations of human rights.

The briefing also highlights the US government’s deployment of “smart” surveillance infrastructure such as Al-driven watchtowers along the US-Mexico border increasing the risk of profiling black, Latin American and other racialised communities.

“In the UK mandatory electronic ankle ‘tagging’ has been used to monitor all foreigners facing deportation, while facial recognition-enabled smart watch tracking has been proposed,” Amnesty says.

“The European Union (EU) has deployed aerial real-time surveillance and drones over the central Mediterranean Sea to identify refugee and migrant boats at sea and coordinate with Libyan authorities to block them from reaching European shores.

“An EU-funded automated border control system called iBorderCtrl was piloted in Hungary, Greece and Latvia. The project used an artificial intelligence (AI) ‘lie-detecting’ system to interview travellers seeking to cross borders, while assessing the minute details of their facial expressions using facial and emotion recognition technologies. Travellers deemed to answer questions honestly by the system are provided with a code allowing them to cross the border.”

The paper also shows how Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Norway and the UK are increasingly introducing laws that allow for the confiscation of phones belonging to asylum seekers for the purposes of corroborating their testimonies when processing their asylum cases.

“These technologies are reinforcing exclusion and blocking the movement of black, Muslim, and other racialised migrants, asylum seekers and refugees,” Amnesty says.

“They are building border regimes that discriminate based on race, ethnicity, national origin, and citizenship status.”

The paper recommends nations should protect the rights of people on the move by refraining from using technologies that are at odds with human rights and ensuring digital technologies address systemic racism, xenophobia, and discrimination and prohibit the use of AI-based emotion recognition tools, especially in the context of migration, asylum, and border control management.

They should also conduct human rights impact assessments and data protection impact assessments before deployment of digital technologies; prohibit automated risk assessment and profiling systems in migration, asylum management, and border control, and; prohibit any use of predictive technologies that wrongfully threaten the right to asylum, the paper recommends.

Read more here:  Global: Amnesty International publishes an introduction to defending the rights of refugees and migrants in the digital age – Amnesty International