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Technology on the margins: AI and global migration management from a human rights perspective

Petra Molnar

Keywords: migration; migration management; new technologies; artificial intelligence; global governance; international human rights law

Experiments with new technologies in migration management are increasing. From Big Data predictions about population movements in the Mediterranean, to Canada's use of automated decision-making in immigration and refugee applications, to artificial-intelligence lie detectors deployed at European borders, States are keen to explore the use of new technologies, yet often fail to take into account profound human rights ramifications and real impacts on human lives. These technologies are largely unregulated, developed and deployed in opaque spaces with little oversight and accountability. This paper examines how technologies used in the management of migration impinge on human rights with little international regulation, arguing that this lack of regulation is deliberate, as States single out the migrant population as a viable testing ground for new technologies. Making migrants more trackable and intelligible justifies the use of more technology and data collection under the guise of national security, or even under tropes of humanitarianism and development. The way that technology operates is a useful lens that highlights State practices, democracy, notions of power, and accountability. Technology is not inherently democratic and human rights impacts are particularly important to consider in humanitarian and forced migration contexts. An international human rights law framework is particularly useful for codifying and recognising potential harms, because technology and its development is inherently global and transnational. More oversight and issue-specific accountability mechanisms are needed to safeguard fundamental rights of migrants such as freedom from discrimination, privacy rights and procedural justice safeguards such as the right to a fair decision-maker and the rights of appeal.

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