Claire Walkey from the Oxford Refugee Studies Centre writes about why we should rethink refugee registration. Registration is the first moment when asylum-seekers become known by the state, so we might assume that states will always want to implement registration procedures to monitor people. But her fieldwork in Kenya shows that this is not always the case as here the government actually stopped the registration procedures. According to her we therefore need to “look for answers in the meaning and politics of registration itself”, as registration can be a form of empowerment for refugees:
Acknowledging the legal recognition that registration can offer refugees sheds light on why states, resistant to hosting refugees, might choose not to register them. It is too easy to assume, given security practices especially in the West, that states will always pursue bureaucratic surveillance and monitoring of refugees. In Kenya, it is politically prudent to resist legal recognition, even at the expense of bureaucratic surveillance. The promotion of registration by the international community may therefore find little traction by focusing purely on the security gain for states, particularly in contexts with weak administrative infrastructures. It is prudent instead to rethink registration and recognize that at times it offers more to refugees than to states.
According to this article by The Intercept some prisons in the U.S. are capturing the voices of incarcerated people’s voice to create new biometric databases with their “voice prints”. It seems like another example of the deployment of new technology with the involvement of private companies on more vulnerable groups of people, with all the usual problems of biometrics (eg. reliability) and automated decisions (eg. transparency, explainability).
The enrollment of incarcerated people’s voice prints allows corrections authorities to biometrically identify all prisoners’ voices on prison calls, and find past prison calls in which the same voice prints are detected. Such systems can also automatically flag “suspicious” calls, enabling investigators to review discrepancies between the incarcerated person’s ID for the call and the voice print detected. Securus did not respond to a request for comment on how it defined “suspicious.” The company’s Investigator Pro also provides a voice probability score, rating the likelihood that an incarcerated person’s voice was heard on a call.
AT Oxford University today at the Refugees Studies Center. Picture from the closing panel discussion of this fascinating workshop on “Deconstructing Biometric Refugee Registration” @refugeestudies @ProcessCitizens.