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Human rights organizations say EU’s biometric border controls negatively impact migrants

Human rights organizations say EU’s biometric border controls negatively impact migrants

The continuous and expansive use of digital technologies such as biometrics in the implementation of digital border control policies known as ‘techno-borders’ by European Union (EU) countries is infringing on the privacy and human rights of migrants, according to a publication by human rights watchdogs Statewatch and EuroMed Rights.

EuroMed Rights was previously known as the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, and is made up of 68 human rights advocates and groups from 30 countries.

Analysis in the report suggest that such infringements are facilitated by the increasing use of mobile biometric systems used by border control officials such as handheld fingerprint scanners.

The publication notes that while the intension for deploying such technologies on the one hand is to facilitate the movement of ‘bona-fide’ travellers, the huge amount of data collected from them will be used to train algorithms intended for future tech applications.

It also mentions that the digitized EU borders policy aims to “detect, deter and repel refugees and migrants seeking to enter EU territory through irregular journeys,” through the use of “drones, cameras, social media monitoring, satellite imagery and networks of sensors form part of an elaborate surveillance architecture that is being continually extended.”

Per the publication, big spending will also be required in implementing the EU technology border program, noting that money that will contribute to the border policies has increased by 94% in the current budgetary period (2021-27). It cites the examples of Greece and France whose budgets related to border management have seen a significant jump.

“Through its security research programme, the EU has invested in automated lie detectors to be deployed at border crossing points, the development of automated border control gates, systems using “big data” to try to predict migration movements, and swarms of drones for border surveillance,” notes a part of the publication’s executive summary.

Legislation, the publication notes, will also be crucial in the techno-borders policy implementation, and that the four texts currently under scrutiny within the EU Council and Parliament in this regard will “have substantial implications for the rights of migrants and refugees.”

While reflections on how to best implement the EU digital borders policy continue and cognizant of the influence they have on future policy developments, the two rights groups recommend “continuous, close and critical investigation as part of the broader struggle to implement humane migration and asylum policies.”

“The development of techno-borders not only presents substantial challenges for the protection of human rights in and of itself. It also creates certain ‘path dependencies’ that have substantial influence over future developments.”

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