Challenging the use of GPS tags to monitor asylum seekers in the UK

The latest rollout of GPS tags to monitor migrants is another step in creating a 'hostile environment' for asylum seekers in the UK. 

By Privacy International (guest author) · July 6, 2022

EDRi member Privacy International is working together with migrant rights organisations to expose and challenge invasive and dehumanising migration control policies.

Last month, they joined forces with Migrants Organise and Bail For Immigration Detainees to shine a light on the plight of migrants in the UK who are subject to hardline and dehumanising Home Office policies such as being monitored via GPS tags 24/7.

Privacy International’s joint light projection marked the 10th anniversary of former Home Secretary Theresa May’s infamous ‘hostile environment’, a policy purposefully cruel that includes indefinite detention of migrants and refugees.

This drive to track, monitor, target and analyse the data of migrants and refugees is not slowing down – the UK’s hostile environment continues to expand.

This is exemplified in the most recent hostile practice: the rollout of new electronic monitoring tags for migrants, in a context of limited safeguards and oversight. 

These tags enable 24/7 monitoring of an individual’s location, as well as live tracking, meaning you can follow their movements in real-time. This is a seismic shift in the treatment of migrants. This data provides deep insight into and reveals intimate details of an individual’s life, going far beyond what is necessary to prevent absconding. In fact, a recent FOIA response found that of people granted bail between February 2020 and March 2021 – more than 7,000 people – just 43 people absconded. Less than 0.56 per cent.

Furthermore, the Home Office plans to use the historical location data collected by the tag and stored by the third-party commercial provider to decide on an individual’s immigration application, as well as share data with law enforcement.

This decade of dehumanising migration policies in the UK undermines migrant and refugee populations’ freedom to be human. The data-intensive aims of the Home Office must be held in check.

Read Privacy International’s tech primer on GPS tags.

Read Privacy International’s submission for the UK Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration inspection of the Home Office Satellite Tracking Service Programme.

The original article was first published on Privacy International’s website.

Visual credit: Privacy International

Contribution by: EDRi member Privacy International