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HomeWorldGermany’s Violation Of Asylum Seekers’ Right To Privacy Is Strongly Condemnable

Germany’s Violation Of Asylum Seekers’ Right To Privacy Is Strongly Condemnable


For 5 years now, German migration authorities have
routinely violated the right to privacy of tens of thousands
of asylum seekers and refugees by inspecting their mobile
phones and subjecting them to second-class data protection,
often without any concrete suspicion of false claims,
without consent and without producing meaningful results,
Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said in a statement
today.

Since 2017, the Federal Office for Migration
and Refugees (BAMF) have carried out about 20,000 mobile
phone searches of asylum seekers, but hardly any have
uncovered false information, proving to be a €11 million
ineffective and disproportionately invasive measure. Between
2018 and 2019, about a quarter of the evaluations
reportedly failed
due to technical problems and when
they succeeded, the 98-99% of the searches confirmed the
asylum seekers’ statements.

The lack of transparency
raises serious concerns as well, since BAMF has refused to
disclose the software employed, consent is rarely sought,
and migrants often do not know how their data is
used.

Under a national law passed in 2017, the
evaluation of smartphones’ data is permissible to
determine the identity and nationality of asylum seekers,
also for children, if they are unable to produce a passport.
Yet, some asylum seekers who exhibit valid documents, such
as civil status certificates or valid passports from certain
states, also
had to hand over their devices
.

Lea Beckmann, a
lawyer from the German NGO GFF that reported on this issue,
argued that “data protection law applies to everyone,
including asylum seekers” and that evaluating mobile
phones is “simply not compatible” with the law.

Three
refugees so far have filed a lawsuit against the German
state for accessing their personal data. One of them,
Mohammed A., who was already recognized as a refugee,
recalled that BAMF employees reviewed his case without
giving a specific reason and required his phone without
explaining anything. “I was scared of being deported so I
gave him the cell phone. It was like handing him my whole
life” Mohammed stated.

“For
people on the move, mobiles phones are being turned from an
indispensable tool connecting them with family and home into
a disproportionate means of surveillance and invasion of
privacy” said Michela Pugliese, Legal Researcher at
Euro-Med Monitor, “The lack of refusal mechanisms,
transparency and meaningful access to legal remedies
together with the generalized mistrust towards asylum
seekers and the unnecessary intrusion on their most
sensitive data are incredibly counterproductive to assess
fairly an asylum application”.

Euro-Med Monitor
calls on Germany to halt the screening of asylum seekers’
mobile phones without a voluntarily and informed consent, as
prescribed for by Articles 6 and 7 of the EU General Data
Protection Regulation; to employ “milder means to achieve
the purpose”, as stated under German asylum law; to
provide asylum seekers with the possibility to refuse and
have access to legal remedies; and to fully abide by
national and international law concerning the right to
privacy, informational self-determination, confidentiality
and information integrity.

Euro-Med Monitor calls on
the EU to ensure that any processing of asylum seekers’
personal data fully respect their human dignity, integrity
and fundamental rights, particularly the right to respect
for one’s private life (Art. 7 of the Charter) and the right
to the protection of personal data (Art. 8 of the
Charter).

© Scoop Media

 



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