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Refugee Law Lab in the Media

ComputerWeekly.com: Home Office signs tech and data sharing deal with Frontex

Sebastian Klovig Skelton (February 23, 2024)

[…] “We know the state has the ability to prevent people drowning in the sea – tech is a lens through which to understand power in society, and nowhere is that more clear than in immigration and border enforcement,” said Petra Molnar, associate director of the Refugee Law Lab, a research and advocacy group that looks at the impact of new technologies on refugees. “It’s not about not knowing what’s happening, it’s making deliberate choices to [use tech to] sharpen borders and make it more difficult for people to come.”

Full article available here.

The Border Chronicle: The New Gospel of Violence: Surveillance Meets Border Violence in Palestine

Petra Molnar (December 20, 2023)

“Israel’s brutal crackdown in Gaza is a bleak reminder of how authoritarianism and technology go hand in hand, as rockets and drones in the sky dim the stars of Bethlehem…”

Full article available here.

Just Security: EU’s AI Act Falls Short on Protecting Rights at Borders

Petra Molnar (December 20, 2023)

“Despite years of tireless advocacy by a coalition of civil society and academics (including the author), the European Union’s new law regulating artificial intelligence falls short on protecting the most vulnerable….”

Full article available here.

Politifact: How viable is Donald Trump’s 2024 immigration plan?

Marta Campabadal Graus and Maria Ramirez Uribe (November 21, 2023)

“Building mass detention camps, suspending the refugee program and invoking a centuries-old law to deport people without due process. A key adviser told The New York Times that these are among former President Donald Trump’s immigration plans if he wins the White House in 2024…”

Full article available here.

The Varsity: U of T could open its doors to Canada’s dreamers – if it wants to

Georgia Kelly (October 30, 2023)

“It’s a situation that legal clinic program director Sarah Pole is familiar with: someone comes to Canada as a minor, attends junior and high school in Canada, and makes plans — just like their classmates — to attend university. Then, they find out that they don’t have the legal documentation that universities require from them to apply…”

Full article available here.

CBC News: Indian refugee claims in Canada began rising after Prime Minister Modi took power, data shows

Jorge Barrera (September 30, 2023)

“Randhir Singh said the Indian police officers kicked him in the face, knocking out two teeth, and beat him with wooden sticks while they held him at the station for three days…”

Full article available here.

People of Color in Tech: AI Lie Detectors At Borders: Who Does The EU’s AI Act Actually Protect?

Samara Linton (September 22, 2023)

“The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has upheld the decision to restrict public access to information about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) lie detectors at EU borders…”

Full article available here.

CNN: Britain’s shadowy border

Katie Polglase, Livvy Doherty, Sarah-Grace Mankarious, and Byron Manley (July 31, 2023)

“The Channel between the United Kingdom and France is one of the busiest waterways in the world. Hundreds of vessels from oil tankers and passenger ferries to small fishing boats transit through an area that at its narrowest is only 21 miles wide…”

Full article available here.

Open Global Rights: Borders and AI: Human rights-enhancing legal technologies

Sean Rehaag (May 28, 2023)

“Can artificial intelligence (AI) be used to advance the rights of asylum seekers and other people on the move?…”

Full article available here.

Al Jazeera: Ban racist and lethal AI from Europe’s borders

Lucie Audibert (April 20, 2023)

“The European Union is in the final stages of crafting first-of-its-kind legislation to regulate harmful uses of artificial intelligence. However, as it currently stands, the proposed law, called the EU AI Act, contains a lethal blind spot: It does not ban the many harmful and dangerous uses of AI systems in the context of immigration enforcement…”

Full article available here.

Al Jazeera: The new US-Canada border deal is inhumane – and deadly

Jamie Liew, Petra Molnar, and Julie Young (April 19, 2023)

Razak Iyal and Seidu Mohammed recently celebrated becoming Canadian citizens. Their stories have been intertwined since they crossed the Canada-United States border to seek asylum near Emerson, Manitoba, on Christmas eve of 2016…”

Full article available here.

Toronto Star: Why do Roma living in Europe flee to Canada? Is life that bad there?

Nicholas Keung (April 16, 2023)

“In Romania, Laurentiu David Cobzaru was called the “tigan” or the untouchable…”

Full article available here.

Canadian Lawyer: Osgoode’s Refugee Law Lab launches online app to help lawyers win refugee protection cases

Angelica Dino (April 10, 2023)

“Osgoode Hall Law School’s Refugee Law Lab has launched a new online application that could provide lawyers with critical legal data to improve their chances of winning refugee protection cases…”

Full article available here.

Global Voices: Why do Western governments delegate border control to AI more and more? An interview with Petra Molnar

Filip Noubel (April 5, 2023)

“Activists estimate that in 2022, 30 million people were on the move as refugees, many of whom attempted to seek protection in the US and the European Union. But what they often experience when entering Western countries is not protection, but rather a dehumanizing process of categorization that relies heavily on AI and unchecked technology…”

Full article available here.

Coda Story: Europe’s borders are a surveillance testing ground. The AI Act could change that

Isobel Cockerell (March 7, 2023)

“The European Union is currently drafting a new omnibus framework — the first of its kind in the world — to regulate the use of artificial intelligence for border control. The Artificial Intelligence Act is an attempt to create a legal framework that tech companies and governments would have to adhere to when testing new AI-powered technologies along European borders….”

Full article available here.

BNN Bloomberg: The UK Is Using Drones to Prosecute Small-Boat Migrant Smugglers

Saksha Menezes (March 4, 2023)

“In July 2020, 36-year-old Iraqi Rebwar Ahmed piloted an inflatable small boat carrying 20 migrants across the English Channel…”

Full article available here.

Computer Weekly: New Border Force unit to deploy more surveillance tech in Channel

Sebastian Klovig Skelton (February 9, 2023)

“A new Border Force unit set up to curb English Channel crossings will deploy a range of “new technologies” alongside 730 additional staff to bolster its existing surveillance capabilities, as the Home Office takes back Channel policing duties from the military…”

Full article available here.

EU Observer: Racist algorithms and AI can’t determine EU migration policy

Alyna Smith, Caterina Rodelli, Sarah Chander, Petra Molnar (February 9, 2023)

“Stranding people at sea and leaving them to drown instead of rescuing them. Decisions about people’s lives in the hands of unreliable lie detector tests. Major decisions about security in the hands of algorithms…”

Full article available here.

Law.com International: New Forms of AI Open Up a World of Opportunities for Legal Researchers

Gail J. Cohen (January 17, 2023)

“A law professor who has used artificial intelligence and machine learning to examine immigration decisions in Canada’s federal courts says it’s getting much easier and faster for researchers to analyze decision-making in the courts…”

Full article available here.

Policy Options: A broader approach to AI would cut bias in immigration decisions while adding speed

Joshua Gans and Avi Goldfarb (December 22, 2022)

“Canada has set a goal of welcoming 500,000 immigrants to the country in 2025. This represents a 25 per cent increase over 2021 and a much larger increase compared to 2018, 2019 and 2020. Processing times, however, take years. The Canadian start-up visa has a 32-month wait period. Family sponsorship for a spouse living outside the country can take 18 months. For parents or grandparents, it is 38 months. Expanding immigration rapidly might overburden the public service officers tasked with processing these applications efficiently and effectively…”

Full article available here.

Neos Kosmos: UN calls on Greece to monitor private security used in migrant camps and at sea

Author unknown (December 18, 2022)

“The regulation of private security companies in migration was the focus of an eight-day visit to Greece by a United Nations group of human rights experts…”

Full article available here.

National Post: In Jordan, refugees scan irises to collect aid. But is it ethical?

Nazih Osseiran (December 13, 2022)

“AZRAQ, Jordan, Dec 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – At a grocery store checkout in the Jordanian refugee camp of Azraq, Sameera Sabbouh stares wide-eyed into a scanner to pay for her shopping – her iris scan unlocking payment from a digital aid account with the help of blockchain technology…”

Full article available here.

Vice News: These Tiny Greek Islands Have Become Unlikely Laboratories for Global Corporations

Katy Fallon (November 18, 2022)

“ASTYPALEA, Greece – On a small island in the middle of the Aegean Sea, there’s an unfamiliar but distinctive sound behind the bleating of goats and sheep, and the clanging of their bells: the faint hum of electric cars…”

Full article available here.

The Guardian: Revealed: how coyotes and scammers use TikTok to sell migrants the American dream

Johana Bhuiyan (October 23, 2022)

“The TikTok video starts like most other travel snaps on the platform do, with selfie shots showing the user* and his companions sitting on a plane and walking through the airport…”

Full article available here.

Law 360: Commons committee recommends ‘national pause’ on use of facial recognition technology

Amanda Jerome (October 11, 2022)

“A ‘national pause’ on the use of facial recognition technology (FRT), ‘particularly for federal police services,’ was recommended by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, in a recently tabled report on the impact of FRT and the ‘growing power of artificial intelligence [AI].'”

Full article available here.

Computer Weekly: Surveillance tech firms complicit in MENA human rights abuses

Sebastian Klovig Skelton (September 30, 2022)

“Surveillance technology companies are ‘deeply implicated’ in human rights abuses against migrants across the Middle…”

Full article available here.

CBC Radio: Drone surveillance and crowdfunded ransom: How tech is changing borders and those who cross them

Olsy Sorokina (September 16, 2022)

“Migration has always been a part of human history, but today tens of millions of people are on the move in the biggest forced displacement since the Second World War…”

Full article available here.

Taiwan News: Is Greece failing to use EU-funded border surveillance?

Deutsche Welle (September 8, 2022)

“On August 15, 2022, a group of 38 Syrian and Palestinian men, women and children were picked up by Greek authorities in the Evros region on the Greek-Turkish border and taken to a nearby refugee center for processing. Their rescue marked the end of an internationally-reported, weekslong ordeal during which the asylum-seekers said they had been stranded on a small, unnamed islet in the Evros River — the natural border between Greece and Turkey…”

Full article available here.

The Register: People who regularly talk to AI chatbots often start to believe they’re sentient, says CEO

Katyanna Quach (July 4, 2022)

“IN BRIEF Numerous people start to believe they’re interacting with something sentient when they talk to AI chatbots, according to the CEO of Replika, an app that allows users to design their own virtual companions…”

Full article available here.

WIRED: The Fight Over Which Uses of AI Europe Should Outlaw

Khari Johnson (June 30, 2022)

“IN 2019, GUARDS on the borders of Greece, Hungary, and Latvia began testing an artificial-intelligence-powered lie detector. The system, called iBorderCtrl, analyzed facial movements to attempt to spot signs a person was lying to a border agent. The trial was propelled by nearly $5 million in European Union research funding, and almost 20 years of research at Manchester Metropolitan University, in the UK…”

Full article available here.

CBC Radio: Syrian couple builds community in Sweden through ‘the right to host

CBC Radio (June 13, 2022)

“When Ibrahim Muhammad Haj Abdullah and Yasmeen Mahmoud fled Syria after the civil war began, they ended up in an unexpected place: Boden, in the far north of Sweden…”

Full article available here.

The New Humanitarian: Fixing Aid | The dangers of border technology for refugees

Author unknown (May 19, 2022)

“Biometrics, drones, sensor towers, and robot dogs: In this episode of Fixing Aid, host Alae Ismail explores the growing use of border and surveillance technology and looks at the grave consequences and long-lasting impacts for refugees and migrants around the globe…”

Full article available here.

Thomson Reuters Foundation News: OPINION: The AI Act: EU’s chance to regulate harmful border technologies

Petra Molnar and Sarah Chander (May 17, 2022)

“Prison-like refugee camps replete with drone surveillance, biometrics, and artificial intelligence (AI) tools are springing up across the European Union, but these technologies face very little scrutiny and regulation. The EU is now grappling with how to govern AI, but its proposed Regulation on Artificial Intelligence (the AI Act) needs to better protect refugees against high-risk border technologies. The deadline for changes to the Act is June 1, 2022. In their deliberations, Members of the European Parliament should not forget all the ways that border technologies harm people…”

Full article available here.

European Data Journalism Network: Digital Fortress Europe #3: Automation and surveillance in Fortress Europe

Kostas Zafeiropoulos, Janine Louloudi, and Nikos Morfonios (May 2, 2022)

“In late June 2020, Robert Williams, an African-American resident of Detroit, was arrested at the entrance of his home in front of his two young daughters. No one could tell him why. At the police station, he was informed that he was considered a suspect in the 2018 robbery of a store, as his face was identified by store-security surveillance footage. The identification was based on an old driver’s licence photo. After thirty hours in custody, Robert Williams was eventually released. The cynical confession of the Detroit police officers was disarming: ‘the computer probably made a mistake.'”

Full article available here.

Infosecurity Magazine: Why Is the UN Collecting the Biometric Data of Ukrainian Refugees?

Tiara Ataii (May 2, 2022)

“More than two months since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, over 5.3 million refugees have fled to neighboring countries, including Poland, Romania, Russia, Hungary and Moldova…”

Full article available here.

Counterpunch: How the U.S. Exports Its Border to Ukraine

Todd Miller (April 8, 2022)

“On March 26, the U.S. Department of State announced that it would provide Ukraine with $100 million for law enforcement, critical infrastructure, and ‘essential border security.’ Included in this would be personal protection, tactical, and communication equipment; medical supplies; and armored vehicles for the Ukrainian Border Guard Service. On April 5, the director of the State Department’s Bureau for Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), Todd Robinson, wrote on Twitter that the INL’s support ‘for the State Border Guards…is unwavering in the face of Russia’s devastating war. I had a chance to personally review equipment & supplies we are providing to support Ukraine’s efforts’…”

Full article available here.

CBC Kids: Experts answer 10 questions from Canadian kids on Russian invasion of Ukraine

CBC Kids News (March 4, 2022)

“The UK government is under fire for spending tens of millions of pounds on border surveillance technologies to deter migrants from crossing the English Channel, rather than using those resources to provide safe passage…”

Full article available here.

CBC Radio: China’s high-tech repression of Uyghurs is more sinister — and lucrative — than it seems, anthropologist says

Nahlah Ayed (February 17, 2022)

“When people started to disappear in China’s northwest province of Xinjiang in 2014, then-PhD student Darren Byler was living there, with a rare, ground-level view of events that would eventually be labelled by some as a modern-day genocide…”

Full article available here.

Xtra: Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board updates guidelines for LGBTQ2S+ claimants—but there’s more work to be done

Dale Smith (January 28, 2022)

“A queer man is turned away from a refugee claim because the term for his same-sex partner in his native language translates to “girlfriend”; a bisexual person loses their refugee claim because their understanding of bisexuality differs from Western definitions; a queer person seeking refugee status is asked to share his Grindr profile to verify his sexuality. Around the world, LGBTQ2S+ people face violence, discrimination and encarceration because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and for many, Canada is a highly sought-after safe haven. But for those seeking refuge from a country with anti-LGBTQ2S+ legislation or powers, coming to Canada isn’t so simple…”

Full article available here.

The Guardian: Fortress Europe: the millions spent on military-grade tech to deter refugees

Kaamil Ahmed and Lorenzo Tondo (December 6, 2021)

“From military-grade drones to sensor systems and experimental technology, the EU and its members have spent hundreds of millions of euros over the past decade on technologies to track down and keep at bay the refugees on its borders…”

Full article available here.

Toronto Star: Canada is refusing more study permits. Is new AI technology to blame?

Nicholas Keung (November 15, 2021)

“Soheil Moghadam applied twice for a study permit for a postgraduate program in Canada, only to be refused with an explanation that read like a templated answer…”

Full article available here.

Euractiv: Surveillance is at the heart of the EU’s migration control agenda

Petra Molnar (September 28, 2021)

“‘If we go there, we will go crazy.’ On the Aegean paradise that is the Greek island of Samos, Aina, a young mother from Afghanistan seeing refugee protection with her baby and husband, is scared. On the eve of a forcible relocation to a brand new ‘closed controlled access centre’ located 10 kilometres outside the capital city of Vathi, hundreds of refugees are waiting to be transferred to a camp surrounded by barbed wire, a ‘two-factor access control system,’ turnstiles, magnetic gates with kilometres of ‘double NATO-type security fence,’ and ‘smart software’ to notify the Local Event Centre and the Control Centre in Athens…”

Full article available here.

EU Bulletin: ‘Inviolable’ Fortress Europe: Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey Move to Fortify Borders in Wake of Afghan Crisis

EU Bulletin (September 2, 2021)

“A contingent of 400 Bulgarian soldiers equipped with specialized equipment for the protection of land and sea borders has set off for the frontiers with Turkey and Greece, according to the country’s Defence Minister Georgi Panayotov. In total, 700 soldiers are expected to support over 1,000 border police officers after some 14,000 migrants have been stopped at the Bulgarian border since the beginning of the year. This news came as also neighbouring Greece has warned against a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis, employing surveillance tech, and fortifying borders as chaos grips Kabul. Athens has decided to erect a metal wall with barbed wire and deploy drones and cameras — all of these could be the first sights that welcome some Afghan refugees fleeing to Europe, as they reach the Greek land border with Turkey…”

Full article available here.

Euractiv: Afghan crisis accelerates automated controls at EU borders

Molly Killeen (August 27, 2021)

“Greece last week announced the completion of a 40-kilometre fence and new automated surveillance system along the border it shares with Turkey, installed with the expressed aim of preventing people fleeing the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan from seeking asylum in Europe…”

Full article available here.

Al Jazeera: Anticipating Afghan migration, Greece moves to fortify borders

Kate Fallon (August 26, 2021)

“A metal wall, barbed wire, drones and cameras could be the first sights that welcome some Afghan refugees fleeing to Europe, as they reach the Greek land border with Turkey…”

Full article available here.

Toronto Star: For years, she lived undocumented and in the shadows. Now this U of T student has a chance to study at Oxford — if she can find the tuition money

Nicholas Keung (July 31, 2021)

“Almeera Khalid was in sixth grade when she accompanied her parents to meet a refugee lawyer and to help translate why the family needed to seek asylum in the United States…”

Full article available here.

The Hill Times: Facial recognition technology ‘fundamentally undemocratic,’ says Angus as critics wary of political use

Alice Chen (July 28, 2021)

“Following backlash after the revelation facial recognition technology was quietly being used in Toronto’s Pearson Airport, calls are being reiterated from Parliamentarians and privacy watchdogs to assess the Wild West landscape in which the same kind of technology is used in politics…”

Full article available here.

CBC News: Clear safeguards needed around technology planned for border checkpoints

Jamie Liew and Petra Molnar (May 7, 2021)

“As the European Union lays out its long-awaited proposal for regulating the use of artificial intelligence (AI), Canada is signalling a very different approach when it comes to potentially high-risk uses of AI-driven technologies. As part of the newly released 2021 budget, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) is receiving $656 million to be spent in part on technology such as facial recognition systems at the border…”

Full article available here.

The Province: Petra Molnar and Kenya-Jade Pinto: Dispatch from a refugee camp during the COVID-19 pandemic

Petra Molnar and Kenya-Jade Pinto (October 18, 2020)

“When COVID-19 first appeared, and we were preoccupied with bread-baking and Tiger King, the pandemic was talked about as the great equalizer, a moment to bring us all together…”

Full article available here.

Vice News: Adjudicator Who Didn’t Believe a Refugee’s Rape Also Doubted LGBTQ Claimants

Anya Zoledziowski (July 27, 2020)

“A Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) adjudicator who rejected a refugee claim after the claimant said she chose to keep her baby after experiencing rape is no longer with the board, VICE News has learned…”

Full article available here.

The Conversation: Canadian court correctly finds the U.S. is unsafe for refugees

Sean Rehaag (July 24, 2020)

“This week, Canada’s Federal Court ruled that the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) is unconstitutional…”

Full article available here.

The Conversation: Whose travel is ‘essential’ during coronavirus: Hockey players or asylum-seekers?

Sean Rehaag (June 17, 2020)

“There has been lots of talk about reviving professional sports from the COVID-19 shutdown. The NHLNBA and Major League Baseball have all announced tentative plans. Canadian cities are competing to become hubs for a COVID-19 version of the NHL playoffs…”

Full article available here.