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An iris scanner machine © © UNHCR/Jared Kohler
An iris scanner used for refugee registration and identification at Khalda registration centre in Amman, Jordan

The use of biometrics and automated decision-making technologies is on the rise in many sectors, including the ‘management of migration’. The existing research suggests that the deployment of these technologies has been opaque, with little knowledge about who has access to the data, with whom it is shared, and who is accountable for the wrongdoings of humans and automated decision-makers. The aim of this project was to understand the roles of the public sector, international organisations, such as the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and private tech companies in the use of AI-based technologies, during various processes of migration management, including registration of migrants and asylum seekers, access to asylum, distribution of humanitarian aid, and resettlement to third countries.

Specifically, the project explored how the use of new technologies challenges the principles of data protection and non-discrimination based on gender, nationality and ethnic backgrounds. Broadly, it investigated how cooperation and conflict between the public and private sector transform the state structure and the centralist management of migration. The project used qualitative methods, including desk-based research of existing legislation and online interviews with stakeholders that use personal information (including biometric information) and automated decision-making systems across the humanitarian field. The project focused on Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan where some of these technologies were introduced at a large scale with the arrival of Syrian refugees.


  • Derya Ozkul
    Derya Ozkul

    Assistant Professor in Sociology, University of Warwick