Bridging sectors – new grassroots alliances for migrant digital justice

The story so far

Since establishing the Migrant Digital Justice Programme (previously known as the Immigration, Data and Technology Programme) in 2020, ORG has been working at the intersection of the migrants’ rights sector and the digital rights ecosystem. We’ve been building relationships, providing briefings, engaging in strategic litigation and hosting events, all of which has been crucial to achieving our goal of digital rights justice.

A new event: bringing civil society groups across sectors together

On the 22nd February, we (the Migrant Digital Justice Programme (MJDP)) hosted a new kind of event, bringing together local migrants’ rights organisations from around the country as well as ORG local groups (ORG supporters who run local organising groups in 10 towns and cities around the UK) to meet each other and discuss potential actions and collaborations for the future. We also introduced our Stop Data Discrimination Campaign, which is part of ORG’s work around the impact of the government’s new proposals to reform the UK’s data protection regime and how they’ll affect minoritised communities.

A significant part of what we do as the Migrant Digital Justice Programme is relationship and coalition building, particularly between different kinds of organisations and groups. We know that we’re not the first to work in this space, and we hope we won’t be the last – so we want to make sure that everyone who’s interested in better understanding how migrants are affected by issues like data protection has the opportunity to learn more. During our event, Sahdya, our programme manager, and Meg, our Policy and Litigation lead, re-introduced our work at ORG as well as what we hope to achieve. We know that issues around technology and data can often seem inaccessible, and that people might feel as though they need to understand loads of technical detail in order to understand why migrants might be affected by a new kind of technology. We therefore invited Rudy from Bail for Immigration Detainees to introduce their work.

BID has been carrying out a campaign, along with Liberty, to oppose the use of electronic tagging for immigration detainees on bail – which is effectively a form of 24/7, nonstop surveillance by the state. As Rudy detailed, seemingly innocuous policy around how data from these tagging procedures can be accessed by the Home Office can have a significant impact on the lives of those individuals.

For the latter half of the event, we broke out into regionally organised breakout rooms and introduced ourselves to each other, and discussed our familiarities with the topics already introduced. Many of our participants shared stories from their own campaigning and organising work which led them to develop an interest in this area. We also discussed potential ways to continue working in this area collectively, including to share resources and further facilitate collaborations. We hope that they’ll meet easily in heir local area and build relationships, share knowledge, learning and experiences. 

Bridging sector events: a new model

The feedback from our event and the conversations between participants have led us to believe that there is so much more work to be done in this area, and that there are many people who are keen to be part of a coalition working around these issues. We know that progress can be slow and incremental but we’re excited about the opportunity to help forge new alliances and keep working with so many passionate individuals and organisations around the UK to continue opposing all kinds of discrimination against people on the move.