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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 AI-based technologies is on the rise in many sectors, including the ‘management of migration’. The literature 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 is 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 will explore how the use of new technologies challenges the principles of data protection and non-discrimination based on gender, nationality and ethnic backgrounds. Broadly, it will investigate how cooperation and conflict between the public and private sector transform the state structure and the centralist management of migration. The project will make use of qualitative methods, including desk-based research of existing legislation and 30 online interviews with data analysts and officers responsible for policy-making and implementation of the legislation in the case studies of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan – where biometric and blockchain technologies were tested at a large scale with the arrival of Syrian refugees.

The team