Amin Parsa

Amin Parsa

Senior Lecturer

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Research

Immobile by Algorithm: International Law in the Age of Technological Control of Migration

My current research focuses on the use and development of digital technologies of mobility monitoring within the context of the European border control.

The European border security agencies, not least through the collaborative platform of Frontex – the European Border and Coast Guard – and through its European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR), develop and use integrated digital platform in order to achieve ‘situational awareness’, produce real-time traces of migrants’ passage as well as creating predictive maps for future interventions in upcoming ‘migratory events’.

Inter-operating biometric data and data mining technologies have also been used by EU member States to generate patterns of movement which predict possible routes of future migration, forecast possible future flows of migrants and calculate their possible destinations. This solution can also identify ‘high-risk travellers’ who might, among other things, intend to apply for asylum.

Use of such technologies, however, produce serious legal challenges in that they risk undermining the foundational principles of international refugee law as they pertain to the human rights of asylum seekers. One such principle is the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits states from returning asylum seekers to grave harm. Yet the current technological solutions allow European border security forces to act pre-emptively and before the state’s legal responsibility is triggered.

As the result, the growing use of such technologies can reshape international law and affect human rights of the protection seekers negatively. What use for international law in the age of digital technologies? Can international law contain possible violence that the new technology can cause? And moreover, can new norms emerge from practices of the new technology? This project will answer such questions in the context of European border control operations and will offer a new understanding of the interaction between international law and technology.

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