Migrant Digital Justice Toolkit

How-to-fight data discrimination – launching a new toolkit for the migrants’ rights sector

The Migrant Digital Justice Programme (MDJP) at ORG is proud to launch our Migrant Digital Justice Toolkit. The toolkit has been developed for the migrants’ rights sector in response to the increasing use of data and technology for immigration enforcement and the migrants’ rights sector telling us the types of support they need to be able to challenge this. 

Several migrants’ rights groups and organisations have already challenged the discriminatory impact of data and technology on migrants and refugees and continue to do so. The goal of this toolkit is to deepen the support available to them and mobilise others in the sector to fight data-driven discrimination by building and sharing knowledge of digital rights and the tools that can be used to defend and protect migrants.

The toolkit is linked here – it contains an introduction to digital rights and the digital ecosystem as well as interviews with the3million and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) about their respective legal challenges with regard to the immigration exemption and the racist visa algorithm.

The toolkit was launched as part of Solidarity Knows No Borders Week of Action to End the Hostile Environment with a workshop organised by ORG and attended by a range of groups and organisations from the migrants’ rights sector. Reflecting on the success of the day before when activists, campaigners, lawyers and policy experts came together to stop the Government’s cruel plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, I reflected that “it is my hope and intention that the Migrant Digital Justice Toolkit brings those in the digital rights space and those in the migrants’ rights space and other space together to collectively fight for migrants’ digital rights.”

Not a different lens but a wider lens

Building a strong coalition on digital rights is what ORG is deeply invested in and working to achieve through the MDJP. Through conversations with groups and organisations fighting for migrants’ rights, we’ve learnt about the data and digital rights issues arising in their work and how they have sought to respond. 

It is crucial that the digital rights sector views human rights in the digital age not through a different lens but a wider lens so that we all understand the intersectional impact particularly on communities that have been systemically excluded. This depth and nuanced analysis of the issues facing us all is vital if we’re to effectively collaborate to confront them. We therefore invited Gracie Bradley who has worked extensively on issues surrounding civil liberties, state racism and surveillance to speak about digital rights from a wider perspective. Gracie emphasised that:

To succeed at fighting the harms of certain technologies we really need to understand our history. We need to understand how state racism works … we also need to respect the expertise of people at the sharpest ends of state power and that’s something that hasn’t traditionally been the strongest suit of the digital rights sector.”

Routes to challenge the Government

A number of migrants’ rights groups and organisations have expressed to us the importance of them understanding how data and digital technologies are being used to undermine migrants’ rights. Through the toolkit we want to make sure that everyone who’s keen to better understand data and digital rights issues can do so in a way that is easily accessible so that they can go on to confidently challenge the Government.

Our second speaker, Fizza Qureshi, CEO of Migrants’ Rights Network, spoke about the legal challenges launched by MRN . In 2018, MRN successfully challenged a datasharing agreement between NHS Digital and the Home Office which was later scrapped. The organisation has also been supporting the Highly Skilled Migrant Group’s campaign to challenge data sharing between HMRC and the Home Office. At the launch of the MDJP Toolkit, Fizza said that “It feels like strategic litigation is one of the key routes to challenge the Government.”

MRN has been keen to build the organisation’s knowledge and understanding of data and digital rights issues in order to better serve their clients and has published a wealth of fantastic resources, including MRN’s Know Your Rights Guide. 

The personal impact of data sharing

We were fortunate to be joined by Inam Raziq, a member of the Highly Skilled Migrant Group who shared his story of how unlawful data sharing between HMRC and the Home Office-of migrants’ tax data for immigration enforcement-impacted him and nearly 500,000 other. 

Inam spoke of the pain experienced by another member of the group and his family who live in constant fear that the Home Office will deport them back to Pakistan at any minute. 

Developing the Migrant Digital Justice Toolkit: Seeking your feedback

ORG has been thrilled by the response to the toolkit so far. Garoups and organisations are pleased to see that such a toolkit now exists to support them in their understanding of data and digital rights issues. This toolkit has been designed as an iterative process so that it can be refined and improved. We therefore welcome and encourage you to share feedback or any other information that will improve the toolkit and increase its usefulness to the sector. 

Part 2 of the toolkit will focus on the tools at our disposal to defend and protect migrants’ digital rights from data-sharing and oppressive and discriminatory technologies. We look forward to sharing this with you later in 2022.