The Expanding Use of Technology to Manage Migration

Report by ​Marti Flacks , Erol Yayboke , Lauren Burke and Anastasia Strouboulis: “Seeking to manage growing flows of migrants, the United States and European Union have dramatically expanded their engagement with migration origin and transit countries. This increasingly includes supporting the deployment of sophisticated technology to understand, monitor, and influence the movement of people across borders, expanding the spheres of interest to include the movement of people long before they reach U.S. and European borders.

This report from the CSIS Human Rights Initiative and CSIS Project on Fragility and Mobility examines two case studies of migration—one from Central America toward the United States and one from West and North Africa toward Europe—to map the use and export of migration management technologies and the associated human rights risks. Authors Marti Flacks, Erol Yayboke, Lauren Burke, and Anastasia Strouboulis provide recommendations for origin, transit, and destination governments on how to incorporate human rights considerations into their decisionmaking on the use of technology to manage migration…(More)”.

Automating Immigration and Asylum: The Uses of New Technologies in Migration and Asylum Governance in Europe

Report by Derya Ozkul: “The EU’s Artificial Intelligence Act proposal categorises AI uses for immigration, asylum and border as high risk, but new technologies are already used in many aspects of migration and asylum ‘management’ beyond imagination. To be able to reflect on the AI Act proposal, we first need to understand what current uses are, but this information is not always publicly available.

The new report by the Algorithmic Fairness for Asylum Seekers and Refugees (AFAR) project shows the multitude of uses of new technologies across Europe at the national and the EU levels. In particular, the report explores in detail the use of forecasting tools, risk assessment and triaging systems, processing of short- and long-term residency and citizenship applications, document verification, speech and dialect recognition, distribution of welfare benefits, matching tools, mobile phone data extraction and electronic monitoring, across Europe. It highlights the need for transparency and thorough training of decision-makers, as well as the inclusion of migrants’ interests in the design, decision, and implementation stages…(More)”.

Use of new data sources for measuring international migration

UNICE Report: “Migration and other forms of cross-border mobility are issues of high policy importance. Demands for statistics in these areas have further increased in light of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 2018 Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The statistical community continues to be challenged to capture international migration and cross-border mobility in a way that would meet the growing needs of users.

Measurement of migration and cross-border mobility relies on a variety of sources, such as population and housing censuses, household surveys and administrative records, with each of them having their own strengths and limitations. Integration of data from different sources is often seen as a way to enhance the richness of data and reduce coverage or accuracy problems. Yet, even this would often not capture all dimensions of migration and cross-border mobility.

New non-conventional data sources, such as data gathered from the use of mobile telephones, credit cards and social networks — generally known as big and social media data — could be useful for producing migration statistics when used in combination with conventional sources. Notwithstanding the challenges of accessibility, accuracy and access to these new sources, examples are emerging that highlight their potential.

In 2020 the Bureau of the Conference of European Statisticians (CES) set up a task force to review existing experience and plans for using new data sources for measuring international migration in national statistical offices and outside official statistics; analyse the material collected; and compile the examples into a reference tool.

This publication presents the results of the work of the task force, including various national experiences with big data and new data sources collected through two surveys among countries participating in the CES…(More)”.

The potential of Facebook advertising data for understanding flows of people from Ukraine to the European Union

Paper by Umberto Minora et al: “This work contributes to the discussion on how innovative data can support a fast crisis response. We use operational data from Facebook to gain useful insights on where people fleeing Ukraine following the Russian invasion are likely to be displaced, focusing on the European Union. In this context, it is extremely important to anticipate where these people are moving so that local and national authorities can better manage challenges related to their reception and integration. By means of the audience estimates provided by Facebook advertising platform, we analyse the flows of people fleeing Ukraine towards the European Union. At the fifth week since the beginning of the war, our results indicate an increase in the number of Ukrainian stocks derived from Ukrainian-speaking Facebook user estimates in all the European Union (EU) countries, with Poland registering the highest percentage share (33%) of the overall increase, followed by Germany (17%), and Czechia (15%). We assess the reliability of prewar Facebook estimates by comparison with official statistics on the Ukrainian diaspora, finding a strong correlation between the two data sources (Pearson’s 𝑟=0.9r=0.9, 𝑝<0.0001p<0.0001). We then compare our results with data on refugees in EU countries bordering Ukraine reported by the UNHCR, and we observe a similarity in their trend. In conclusion, we show how Facebook advertising data could offer timely insights on international mobility during crises, supporting initiatives aimed at providing humanitarian assistance to the displaced people, as well as local and national authorities to better manage their reception and integration…(More)”.

Ethical Considerations in Re-Using Private Sector Data for Migration-Related Policy

IOM practitioner’s paper: “This paper assesses the ethical risks of using non-traditional data sources to inform migration related policymaking and suggests practical safeguards for various stages during the data cycle. The past decade has witnessed the rapid growth of non-traditional data (social media, mobile phones, satellite data, bank records, etc.) and their use in migration research and policy. While these data sources may be tempting and shed light on main migration trends, ensuring the ethical and responsible use of big data at every stage of migration research and policymaking is complex.

The recognition of the potential of new data sources for migration policy has grown exponentially in recent years. Data innovation is one of the crosscutting priorities of IOM’s Migration Data Strategy.
Further, the UN General Assembly recognises rapid technological developments and their potential in
achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration highlights the importance of harnessing data innovation to improve data and evidence for informed policies on migration. However, with big data comes big risks. New technological developments have opened new challenges, particularly, concerning data protection, individual privacy, human security,
and fundamental rights. These risks can be greater for certain migrant and displaced groups.
The identified risks are:…(More)” (see also Big Data for Migration Alliance)

Nowcasting daily population displacement in Ukraine through social media advertising data

Pre-Publication Paper by Douglas R. Leasure et al: “In times of crisis, real-time data mapping population displacements are invaluable for targeted humanitarian response. The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 forcibly displaced millions of people from their homes including nearly 6m refugees flowing across the border in just a few weeks, but information was scarce regarding displaced and vulnerable populations who remained inside Ukraine. We leveraged near real-time social media marketing data to estimate sub-national population sizes every day disaggregated by age and sex. Our metric of internal displacement estimated that 5.3m people had been internally displaced away from their baseline administrative region by March 14. Results revealed four distinct displacement patterns: large scale evacuations, refugee staging areas, internal areas of refuge, and irregular dynamics. While this innovative approach provided one of the only quantitative estimates of internal displacement in virtual real-time, we conclude by acknowledging risks and challenges for the future…(More)”.

Digital Wallets and Migration Policy: A Critical Intersection

Report by the German Marshall Fund: “A range of international bodies have recently begun experimenting with digital wallets. Digital wallets take many forms but are typically mobile phone-based systems that enable people to make electronic transactions and/or share identity credentials. In cross-border and migration contexts, digital wallets promise to have wide ranging implications for global governance, especially in identity management and finance. Aid organizations, governments, technology companies, and other interested parties are testing digital wallet projects that either target, or incidentally affect, migrants and refugees along with mainstream citizens.

A pertinent example is Ukraine’s Diia wallet. Precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the reliance on digital systems for governance, the Ukrainian government launched the Diia wallet in 2020. Diia provides Ukrainians with a centralized, digital platform for storing, managing, and sharing official credentials such as vaccination records, insurance documents, passports, ID cards, and licenses.  Through the Diia mobile application, Ukrainian people can engage with the government to update residence or driving license information, pay taxes, or access benefits, among other uses.

In early 2022, Russia’s war on Ukraine prompted the mass displacement of Ukrainian refugees. Key government infrastructures have been and continue to be targeted, compromised, and/or destroyed by Russian forces. Some Ukrainians have lost access to their devices, network connections, and digital ID documents in the Diia wallet (see Figure 1). However, others are using the wallet to access vital assistance. Internally displaced people are receiving monthly aid to cover living expenses; refugees are using Diia to donate to the army, report on enemy troops, and access TV and radio. The Diia wallet is a key example of a mainstream digital wallet system being stress tested in circumstances of political conflict and displacement. It illustrates the urgent need to investigate the implications of national digital wallet systems for governments and people in crisis:

  • Does the digital wallet infrastructure support the secure continuation of government services and assistance?
  • Do digital wallets boost the resilience of internally displaced people and refugees rebuilding their lives across borders, including marginalized groups?
  • What are the risks of a digital wallet system, and how are they playing out in conditions of mass displacement?…(More)”.

Democracy: by design and on the move

Essay by Erica Dorn and Federico Vaz: “We live in an era of hyper-mobility, marked by the mass movement of people virtually, trans-locally, and globally. More people are on the move than ever before in human history. Today, dispersed across the globe, there are between 272 million and one billion migrants. More than 15 million people worldwide live without nationality, and an even larger number of people live undocumented.

Much like James C. Scott, it can be tempting to think that the state has always seemed to be the enemy of ‘people who move around‘. For the kinetic elite, borders are thresholds of access. Meanwhile, for a growing number of displaced people, borders represent inhumane exclusion.

More than 15 million people worldwide live without nationality, and an even larger number of people live undocumented

Current democratic structures designed to be representative of the people cannot adapt to the increasing number of people on the move. As a result, an overwhelming gap exists between the rapidly changing reality of democracies made up of ineligible voters, and the need for inclusive participation in the democratic process.

In the US, several cities, including New York, have taken measures to pass non-citizen voting policies. These promote the inclusion of more residents in local elections. However, given generally low voter turnout, it will take more than voting rights to create more inclusive democracies…(More)”.

Digital Self-Determination as a Tool for Migrant Empowerment

Blog by Uma Kalkar, Marine Ragnet, and Stefaan Verhulst: “In 2020, there were an estimated 281 million migrants, accounting for 3.6% of the global population. Migrants move for a variety of reasons: some are forced to flee from unsafe situations caused by conflict or climate change, others voluntarily move in search of new opportunities. People on the move bring along a wealth of new data. This information creates new opportunities for data collection, use, and reuse across the migration process and by a variety of public, private, and humanitarian sectors. Increased access and use of data for migration need to be accompanied by increased agency and the empowerment of the data subjects — a concept called “digital self-determination” (DSD).

The Big Data for Migration Alliance (BD4M) is a multisectoral initiative driven by the IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (IOM-GMDAC), the European Commission’s Knowledge Centre on Migration and Demography (KCMD), and The GovLab at New York University. Realizing the need for a paradigm change for data in migration policy, the BD4M and International Network on Digital Self-Determination (IDSD) hosted the first studio as part of its Digital Self-Determination Studio Series

Although DSD is a relatively new concept, its roots stem from philosophy, psychology and human rights jurisprudence. Broadly speaking, DSD affirms that a person’s data is an extension of themselves in cyberspace, and we therefore need to consider how to provide a certain level of autonomy and agency to individuals or communities over their digital self. The first studio sought to deconstruct this concept within the context of migration and migrants. Below we list some of the main takeaways from the studio discussions.

Takeaway #1: DSD is in essence about the power asymmetries between migrants, states, and relevant organizations. Specifically, conversations around DSD centered around “power” and “control” — there is an asymmetry between the migrant and the state or organization they interact with to move within and across borders. These imbalances center around agency (a lack of autonomy over data collection, data consciousness, and data use); choice (in who, how, and where data are used, a lack of transparency over these decisions, and power and control issues faced when seeking to access national or social rights); and participation (who gets to formulate questions and access the data?).

  • Studio participants brought up how structural requirements force migrants to be open about their data; noted the opacity around how data is sourced from migrants; and raised concerns about agency, data literacy, and advocacy across the migrant process.
  • The various hierarchies of power, and how it relates to DSD for migrants, highlighted the discrepancies in power between migrants, the state, private companies, and even NGOs.
  • Information architecture and information asymmetries are some of the central aspects to consider to achieve DSD, suggesting that DSD may relate directly to who is telling the story during a crisis and who has the power to add insights to the narratives being developed. A responsible DSD framework will hinge on the voices of migrants.
  • The right to “data consciousness” was also raised to ensure that vulnerable individuals and groups are aware of when, where, and how data are collected, processed, and stored. Nurturing this awareness helps breed agency around personal data.
Representation of power asymmetries faced by migrants in achieving their DSD.

Takeaway #2: There is a need to understand the dual meaning of DSD.

Takeaway #3: There is a need to engage migrants in needs and expectations.

Takeaway #4: A taxonomy of DSD for the various migration-related steps can support creating effective tools to protect migrants along their journey...

Takeaway #5: DSD can be achieved through policy, technology, and process innovations.

Takeaway #6: DSD opportunities need to be determined across the data life cycle….(More)”.

Mobile phone data reveal the effects of violence on internal displacement in Afghanistan

Paper by Nearly 50 million people globally have been internally displaced due to conflict, persecution and human rights violations. However, the study of internally displaced persons—and the design of policies to assist them—is complicated by the fact that these people are often underrepresented in surveys and official statistics. We develop an approach to measure the impact of violence on internal displacement using anonymized high-frequency mobile phone data. We use this approach to quantify the short- and long-term impacts of violence on internal displacement in Afghanistan, a country that has experienced decades of conflict. Our results highlight how displacement depends on the nature of violence. High-casualty events, and violence involving the Islamic State, cause the most displacement. Provincial capitals act as magnets for people fleeing violence in outlying areas. Our work illustrates the potential for non-traditional data sources to facilitate research and policymaking in conflict settings….(More)”.