Migrants who have been convicted of a criminal offence will be required to scan their faces up to five times a day using smartwatches installed with facial recognition technology under plans from the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice.
In May, the government awarded a contract to the British technology company Buddi Limited to deliver “non-fitted devices” to monitor “specific cohorts” as part of the Home Office Satellite Tracking Service. The scheme is due to be introduced from the autumn across the UK, at an initial cost of £6m.
Yes, Gentle Readers, that is exactly what it sounds like. The United Kingdom will be forcing migrants to wear surveillance computers, and scan their faces on demand, wherever they are. This means that these people will have no right to privacy, and likely no right to even know what kinds of data their mandatory surveillance equipment will be collecting.
The Home Office says the smartwatch scheme will be for foreign-national offenders who have been convicted of a criminal offence, rather than other groups, such as asylum seekers.
However, it is expected that those obliged to wear the smartwatches will be subject to similar conditions to those fitted with GPS ankle tags, with references in the DPIA to curfews and inclusion and exclusion zones.
In a National Audit Office report in June, the government said it “regards electronic monitoring as a cost-effective alternative to custody, which contributes to its goals to protect the public and reduce reoffending”.
Campaigners say 24-hour surveillance of asylum seekers breaches human rights, and may have a detrimental impact on migrants’ health and wellbeing.
When I was in Cuba, there were a couple points where it was made clear to our small group of U.S.ians that the government was keeping an eye on us. They seemed to know our itinerary before we did some days, and would be expecting us at checkpoints. That was not a comfortable experience, but it didn’t feel like I was always being watched. When I was in Tanzania, I was taken completely by surprise when I found myself exhausted by just constantly being seen. I stood out, which meant there was always someone paying attention to what I was doing. Even on a mountainside, far away from anyone else, I could hear a kid on the adjacent mountain spot me and yell, “Mzungu!”. It was strangely draining, and I expect is something that people who aren’t white men have to deal with a whole lot more.
So I can only imagine the strain that would come from wearing a modern surveillance device, with a camera, everywhere you go. Not only that, but in addition to the government, a private, for-profit corporation will also be watching, and if you ever take off that device, you will be punished.
Lucie Audibert, a lawyer and legal officer for Privacy International, said: “Facial recognition is known to be an imperfect and dangerous technology that tends to discriminate against people of colour and marginalised communities. These ‘innovations’ in policing and surveillance are often driven by private companies, who profit from governments’ race towards total surveillance and control of populations.
“Through their opaque technologies and algorithms, they facilitate government discrimination and human rights abuses without any accountability. No other country in Europe has deployed this dehumanising and invasive technology against migrants.”
Dr Monish Bhatia, a lecturer in criminology at Birkbeck, University of London, said: “Electronic monitoring is an intrusive technology of control. Some individuals develop symptoms of anxiety, depression, suicide ideation and overall deterioration of mental health.
“The Home Office is still not clear how long individuals will remain on monitoring. They have not provided any evidence to show why electronic monitoring is necessary or demonstrated that tags make individuals comply with immigration rules better. What we need is humane, non-degrading, community-based solutions.”
That would be nice.
Instead, we get invasive surveillance, and the threat that, regardless of where you might be from, if the U.K. government decides to be rid of you, they’ll just ship you to Rwanda:
The two final candidates in the race to become the UK’s new prime minister, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, have both vowed to expand the government’s controversial Rwanda immigration policy.
Former finance minister Rishi Sunak announced his plans to tackle illegal immigration in a nearly 5-minute video posted on Twitter Sunday, during which he said that the UK had lost control of its borders.
“Every year thousands and thousands of people come into the UK illegally. Often, we don’t know who they are, where they’re from, and why they’re here. These are not bad people. But it makes a mockery of our system and in the current chaotic free world there is simply no way for a serious country to run itself,” Sunak said in the video.
The measures he proposes include a cap set annually by the UK parliament on “number of refugees we accept each year via safe and legal routes, amendable in the face of emergencies,” according to the plan published on Sunak’s campaign website.
He also put forward a measure making “aid, trade, and visas conditional on a country’s willingness to cooperate on returns” of migrants who have illegally entered the UK.
Make no mistake – closed borders are the same as a wall. They are used to keep some people in, and other people out, and the United States is far from the only country planning to respond to climate change with escalating authoritarianism, and decreasing regard for human life, let alone the right to anything like dignity, privacy, or freedom of movement. As in the U.S., it seems like there is no real limit to how far they will go to keep people “in their place”.
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