Message from our Chief Executive, Fizza Qureshi:
“Like many of you, our thoughts today are dominated by the Russia-Ukraine war. Some of you may be desperately worrying about loved ones caught up in the conflict; others are working hard to support people already in this country or who may be arriving soon. None of us know what will happen in the coming weeks and months, but it seems possible that millions of people could be displaced.
We have partnered with over 50 other organisations to urge the Government to offer accessible and safe routes to protect those fleeing violence in Ukraine. We want Ukranian nationals and nationals of other countries that are trapped in this conflict to be offered safety and protection at this traumatic time. You can read the text of our joint call to the Government here“.
Alongside more obvious rights like access to employment, housing and welfare benefits, issues around the use of digital technology and our personal data is becoming increasingly pertinent. It’s an issue we’ve been discussing with Open Rights Group, and for this month’s newsletter we asked them to explain more:
In the past decade, governments have increasingly turned to new technologies to uphold old systems of discrimination and violence. Open Rights Group was set up in 2015 to defend our data rights in the face of these new technologies– through campaigning, strategic litigation and local actions, supported by our 20,000 strong membership spread throughout the UK.
In the past few years, the immigration system in the UK has increasingly becoming datified, the government agencies responsible for handling matters around immigration depending on technologies and data collection powers more and more. In 2019, we set up our Immigration, Data and Technology programme, now known as the Migrant Data Justice Programme, in order to fight against the harms that digital technologies can cause for the migrant community. Our vision is a world where technology and data can’t be used to discriminate against vulnerable people, particularly as migrants and groups of people on the move are often seen as testing grounds for new technologies before they are used on the population at large.
What have we done so far? In the past two years, we’ve organised events for the migrants rights sector, at which we’ve shared knowledge and raised awareness of the potential harms of digital technologies. We’ve brought migrants rights groups together, for example by starting our newsletter where we update people on all the news they need in this space. We’ve campaigned around this area and pursued strategic litigation, both aimed at protecting the data and privacy rights of migrants. Most recently, we teamed up with the3million to litigate around the Immigration Exemption of 2018, which makes it more difficult for migrants to access the data that the Home Office keeps on them. We also work with migrants rights groups to better understand how we can help them navigate this space and identify technology-related issues as they arise, and we’re passionate about coalition and relationship building against harm and discrimination.
Our new campaign: We’ve recently launched a new campaign, Stop Data Discrimination. The government is trying to roll back our data protection rights, currently enshrined in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This would not only make us all vulnerable to surveillance and our personal data exposed to misuse, but it would hit vulnerable groups like the migrant sector hardest of all. The government will use its new powers to wield them against those who already face the brunt of government surveillance and oppression. We’ve done a full briefing here, which explains our position more fully.
These changes would destroy the pioneering work done by groups such as JCWI, Foxglove and Bail for Immigration Detainees to defend migrant rights in this area. Without the existing safeguards of the GDPR, we would all be left more vulnerable to around how data collected can be used by the government.
What are our next steps? On Tuesday, the 22nd February, we hosted a small event bringing together members of ORG local groups and migrants rights networks around the country for the first time. The feedback shows us that there is so much more work to be done in this area, and that there’s a real opportunity to form a powerful coalition opposing all kinds of discrimination against people on the move.
Click here to read more of March’s newsletter including: our call for MAP mentors, our #WordsMatter campaign, upcoming events, and recent sector vacancies, including our own vacancy for Policy Manager! And do keep an eye on our Twitter feed (@migrants_rights) for all the latest developments.