UK plans GPS monitoring of potential deportees utilizing fingerprint scanners | immigration and asylum
People facing deportation will have to have their fingerprints scanned several times a day using devices equipped with GPS technology, according to plans by the Home Office and Justice Department.
Those who are required to wear one of the handheld devices are subject to 24/7 location tracking, with information such as a person’s name, date of birth and nationality being stored on the device and shared with government, police and other agencies. Users receive notifications throughout the day to submit their biometrics and are required to carry the device with them at all times.
The fingerprint scanners – known as “non-adapted devices” – will replace GPS-enabled ankle tags for people released from custody who have been found to have certain vulnerabilities that prevent them from wearing a tag. Some people may be moved between unit types as part of their deposit terms.
In the latest version of the Immigration Bail Policy, the Home Office said the Home Secretary would decide what type of device was used and “it will not be open to the person or an agent acting on their behalf to indicate the type of device”.
The plans emerged after a Home Office letter was mistakenly sent to Bail for Immigration Detainees (Bid), a charity representing a man who was subject to a deportation order shortly after his release from custody a year ago.
The letter, seen by the Guardian, informed the man that “a decision has been made that you meet the criteria for a move to a non-matched device”.
The letter said an upcoming appointment would see the ankle tag removed and replaced with a fingerprint scanner, adding that the device would be “easy to use” and would allow the wearer to verify their identity and location “within seconds.” ” to check. It also said: “The device is light and small enough to carry with you at all times during daily activities.”
The man was also told that he had to charge the scanner for an hour a day and that the data received through the electronic monitor would be shared.
The Home Office states that the collection of location data is “necessary to monitor compliance with your terms of electronic surveillance and thereby administer the lawful enforcement of your immigration terms”.
In November, the government awarded Buddi Limited an order to manufacture the fingerprint scanners. The Hertfordshire-based company has been criticized over a £6million contract to manufacture smartwatches with facial recognition and produce GPS-enabled ankle tags.
In the contract with the government, Buddi Limited says non-adapted devices are a “more proportionate” solution for ankle tags intended to monitor people for extended periods.
But activists say the fingerprint tags are just as intrusive as knuckle tags.
Privacy International’s Lucie Audibert said: “We have seen no safeguards in the latest immigration deposit policy to protect individuals… We also have no information or guarantees on the technology’s accuracy rates and therefore no guarantees against misidentification.
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“Overall, the introduction of non-adapted devices should not be seen as a more humane or proportionate measure; it’s smoke and mirrors that tries to divert attention from the core obtrusiveness of these devices. It is just another step in building total surveillance of migrants.”
Annie Viswanathan, the director of the tender, said: “We have spoken to many people about the impact of 24/7 surveillance by the Home Office using GPS technology. Unsurprisingly, this has had disastrous effects, particularly for those who have mental health issues or who have experienced torture or human trafficking.
“Our research has shown that this leads to further social isolation and stigmatization of an already marginalized group and represents an extension of immigrant detention outside the physical walls of a detention center.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “It is wrong to claim that these devices are targeting vulnerable individuals. The public rightly expects us to comply with our legal obligation to electronically monitor foreign criminals who are released on bail while they await deportation. Labeling will be decided on a case-by-case basis.”
Buddi Limited has been contacted for comment.