The Digital Transformation of Refugee Governance

Book Chapter

Sandvik, Kristin Bergtora (2021) The Digital Transformation of Refugee Governance, in Costello, Cathryn; Michelle Foster; & Jane McAdam, eds, The Oxford Handbook of International Refugee Law. Oxford: OUP.

Read the chapter here

This chapter evaluates four selected issues arising from the digital transformation of refugee protection, in order to explore how this transformation shapes and challenges refugee law. It focuses on the following domains: UNHCR’s 2015 Data Protection Policy, a concept (legal identity), a platform (databases), and legal-bureaucratic processes (refugee status determination and resettlement procedures). Digital transformation generates new risks, in part because it is premised on a duty of refugee visibility. The chapter argues that international refugee law, conceptually and in practice, appears to be moving towards an idea of ‘algorithmic protection’. First, digitization and the integration of new technology create risks and harms that can compromise existing legal rights and procedural guarantees but also threaten the integrity of refugee protection in new ways. Secondly, algorithmic protection is a useful concept because the digital transformation of refugee protection means that the duty of visibility and acquiescence to become a data subject has become a requirement for being registered as a refugee, receiving aid (eg biometric banking), and having one’s claim for a durable solution processed.

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