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RSC Public Seminar Series, Michaelmas term 2023

The use of new technologies in immigration and asylum governance: implications for human rights

A seminar held on 25 October 2023.

This seminar critically examined the current and emerging practices in the use of new technologies within the fields of immigration and forced displacement. Starting with an overview of Dr Derya Ozkul’s recent report, titled “Automating Immigration and Asylum: The Uses of New Technologies in Migration and Asylum Governance in Europe”, the seminar provided insights into various use cases, incorporating the latest updates in this fast-changing field. Throughout, the seminar focused on how new technologies are shaping border control, immigration processes, and asylum decision-making. Providing illustrative examples, the seminar delved into recent advancements involving predictive analytics, automated risk assessments, and profiling within the immigration context. Furthermore, it shed light on recent technologies that have emerged in the realm of asylum application processing, including dialect recognition and mobile phone data analysis. Subsequent to Dr Derya Ozkul’s presentation, Professor Lorna McGregor and Dr Petra Molnar explored the report’s findings, with a particular focus on the associated legal questions regarding fairness and the broader implications for human rights. The seminar’s scope initially encompassed practices in and around Europe before expanding to encompass a global perspective.


Dr Derya Ozkul is a Senior Research Fellow at the Refugee Studies Centre, Department of International Development, University of Oxford. Her work explores the use of new technologies in migration and asylum governance and their impact on migrants, including asylum seekers and refugees. She is one of the project leads of the Algorithmic Fairness for Asylum Seekers and Refugees (AFAR) research project. She is particularly interested in examining the perception of the use of these technologies among asylum seekers and refugees, with a focus on transparency and power relations between different stakeholders.

Lorna McGregor is a Professor of International Human Rights Law and Deputy Dean at Essex Law School. She is the Director of the multi-disciplinary Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project (HRBDT), initially funded with £4.7m from the UK Economic and Social Research Council. A central part of her research focuses on the role of the international human rights system in addressing the impact of new and emerging digital technologies on human rights. She recently published a report on Digital Border Governance: A Human Rights Based Approach with Petra Molnar, in partnership with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and funded by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland. Her book, Detention and its Alternatives under International Law will be published later this year with OUP and addresses the use of new and emerging technologies in decisions to detain as well as ‘alternatives’ to detention.

Dr Petra Molnar is a lawyer and anthropologist specialising in the impacts of migration technologies on people crossing borders. She co-runs the Refugee Law Lab at York University and the Migration and Technology Monitor, a multilingual archive of work interrogating technological experiments on people crossing borders, and is a 2022-2023 Fellow at the Berkman Klein Centre for Internet & Society at Harvard University. Petra also works on issues around immigration detention, health and human rights, gender-based violence, and the politics of refugee, immigration, and international law. She is an advisor to various UN bodies, and her work has appeared in numerous academic publications and the popular press. Petra’s first book, Artificial Borders: AI, Surveillance, and Border Tech Experiments, is coming out in 2024.

Chair: Professor Cathryn Costello (UCD Sutherland School of Law)

Watch the video on YouTube