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Protection at the cost of privacy? A study of the biometric registration of refugees

Bohlin, Anna (2008)
Department of Law
Abstract
Since 2002, UNHCR has been updating its registration practices by e.g. implementing a unified data system, the Project Profile, and the use of biometrics. Large groups of refugees now have to leave their fingerprints as well as other personal data with the organisation, to be stored and subsequently used to e.g. verify their identity. This modernisation campaign has been encouraged and financially supported by the EU. According to both UNHCR and the EU, the main motive for enhancing the registration practices is to strengthen the protection of refugees. Is registration fortifying the human rights awarded to refugees? This paper addresses the question, by examining UNHCR registration practices&semic evaluating standards of data protection... (More)
Since 2002, UNHCR has been updating its registration practices by e.g. implementing a unified data system, the Project Profile, and the use of biometrics. Large groups of refugees now have to leave their fingerprints as well as other personal data with the organisation, to be stored and subsequently used to e.g. verify their identity. This modernisation campaign has been encouraged and financially supported by the EU. According to both UNHCR and the EU, the main motive for enhancing the registration practices is to strengthen the protection of refugees. Is registration fortifying the human rights awarded to refugees? This paper addresses the question, by examining UNHCR registration practices&semic evaluating standards of data protection and management in light of the obligations enumerated by the right to privacy in Art 17 ICCPR. Essentially, does UNHCR share the personal information and fingerprints of refugees with e.g. financial partners like the EU? The conclusion made is that registration of refugees raises privacy issues. The right to privacy include both the protection of personal data and the protection of the integrity of the body. Data protection includes aspects like transparency, fairness, minimality and data subjects' participation and control. Presently, UNHCR fails to meet some of the protection standards set out by Art 17 ICCPR. For example the organisation does not sufficiently regulate the issue of dissemination, and the personal data therefore runs a substantial risk of being misused in the future. Primarily, external data transfers take place between UNHCR and host State authorities as well as resettlement countries. The EU is currently establishing an advanced surveillance machinery, to monitor migration. The European migration management regime implies large amounts of personal data e.g. biometrics being stored, exchanged and used to identify unwanted arrivals and transborder crimes etc. As a corollary, the EU interest in gaining access to the information held by UNHCR is high. For example, UNHCR often receives requests from State representatives to share the personal data of refugees. So far, the only information shared with EU Member States and institutions has been statistical material. Moreover, UNHCR and the EU have started to collaborate in projects concerned with the initial screening of arrivals i.e. asylum seekers and refugees, e.g. Lampedusa in Italy. The EU wants to develop the cooperation further. Consequently, UNHCR needs to implement data protection regulations, safeguarding the information it holds on refugees. In the hands of EU Member States and institutions the personal data of refugees could be used to speed up asylum determination processes and to increase the use of readmission agreements and safe third country rules&semic restrictive policies seriously undermining the international protection of refugees. (Less)
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author
Bohlin, Anna
supervisor
organization
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
Folkrätt
language
English
id
1556387
date added to LUP
2010-03-08 15:55:19
date last changed
2010-03-08 15:55:19
@misc{1556387,
  abstract     = {Since 2002, UNHCR has been updating its registration practices by e.g. implementing a unified data system, the Project Profile, and the use of biometrics. Large groups of refugees now have to leave their fingerprints as well as other personal data with the organisation, to be stored and subsequently used to e.g. verify their identity. This modernisation campaign has been encouraged and financially supported by the EU. According to both UNHCR and the EU, the main motive for enhancing the registration practices is to strengthen the protection of refugees. Is registration fortifying the human rights awarded to refugees? This paper addresses the question, by examining UNHCR registration practices&semic evaluating standards of data protection and management in light of the obligations enumerated by the right to privacy in Art 17 ICCPR. Essentially, does UNHCR share the personal information and fingerprints of refugees with e.g. financial partners like the EU? The conclusion made is that registration of refugees raises privacy issues. The right to privacy include both the protection of personal data and the protection of the integrity of the body. Data protection includes aspects like transparency, fairness, minimality and data subjects' participation and control. Presently, UNHCR fails to meet some of the protection standards set out by Art 17 ICCPR. For example the organisation does not sufficiently regulate the issue of dissemination, and the personal data therefore runs a substantial risk of being misused in the future. Primarily, external data transfers take place between UNHCR and host State authorities as well as resettlement countries. The EU is currently establishing an advanced surveillance machinery, to monitor migration. The European migration management regime implies large amounts of personal data e.g. biometrics being stored, exchanged and used to identify unwanted arrivals and transborder crimes etc. As a corollary, the EU interest in gaining access to the information held by UNHCR is high. For example, UNHCR often receives requests from State representatives to share the personal data of refugees. So far, the only information shared with EU Member States and institutions has been statistical material. Moreover, UNHCR and the EU have started to collaborate in projects concerned with the initial screening of arrivals i.e. asylum seekers and refugees, e.g. Lampedusa in Italy. The EU wants to develop the cooperation further. Consequently, UNHCR needs to implement data protection regulations, safeguarding the information it holds on refugees. In the hands of EU Member States and institutions the personal data of refugees could be used to speed up asylum determination processes and to increase the use of readmission agreements and safe third country rules&semic restrictive policies seriously undermining the international protection of refugees.},
  author       = {Bohlin, Anna},
  keyword      = {Folkrätt},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Protection at the cost of privacy? A study of the biometric registration of refugees},
  year         = {2008},
}