EDPS Civil Society Summit 2022: Your digital rights have expired: Migrants at the margins of Europe

In the past years, the European Union (EU) and the Member States have shifted asylum and migration policies even further to prioritise the prevention of new arrivals, the detention and criminalisation of people who enter, return of people with no right to stay, and the externalisation of responsibilities to third countries. In that context, authorities have increased the collection, retention and sharing of data of people on the move as a core aspect of the implementation of EU migration and border management policies.

As a result, the EU has multiplied and rapidly expanded databases and networked information systems for use by immigration authorities. These databases have a key role in increased deportations, notably by ensuring the biometric registration and monitoring of almost all non-EU nationals. The data held in these systems is also interconnected as part of the “interoperability framework”, that allows access by a growing range of law enforcement authorities, further cementing the trend of ”criminalising” people on the move. Crucially, this interoperability framework blurs the distinction between the different policy areas of asylum, migration, police cooperation, internal security and criminal justice. Furthermore, the EU’s focus on returns justifies the systematic exchange of information among national authorities, EU agencies and third countries. Changes currently under discussion, as part of the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum, mainly seek to deepen these “securitisation” trends.

Lastly, the EU and the Member States are increasingly turning to novel techniques to ‘manage’ migration, by funding and carrying out technological experiments, including through AI and other data-driven technologies, for mass surveillance at the border, predictive analytics of migration trends, and assess the ‘risk’ posed by people on the move in ways that deeply affect experiences in the migration system. In addition, those new tools are deployed despite serious doubts about the efficiency of -at least- some of them, such as the use of lie detectors in the iBorderCtrl project”.

The fundamental rights implications are far-reaching for asylum seekers and migrants: their data is used to prevent their arrival, to track their movements, to detain them in closed centres, to deny them entry or visa applications, and much more. Considering the vast power imbalances they face up against the EU migration system and the multiplicity of the involved authorities and the complexity of interconnected IT systems, it is harder for them to exercise their fundamental rights, notably their rights to privacy and data protection.

How are data-driven technologies used in the field of migration and border control? How does this impact people on the move – their safety and fundamental rights? What impact do these policies have on the right to seek asylum, the principle of non-refoulment, and other duties of Member States under international human rights conventions? How can the EU data protection framework protect the rights of people on the move, what are the challenges to realising their rights as data subjects and how can we overcome them? What impact may the forthcoming legislation on AI have on their rights to privacy and data protection?

The EDPS Civil Society Summit provides a forum for exchange between the EDPS and CSOs, to exchange insights on trends and challenges in the field of data protection and engage in a forward-looking reflection on how to safeguard individuals’ rights.

  • Moderator: Laurence Meyer, Racial and Social Justice Lead, Digital Freedom Fund


  • Dr Teresa Quintel, Lecturer, the Maastricht European Centre on Privacy and Cybersecurity
  • Alyna Smith, Deputy Director, Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM)
  • Wojciech Wiewiórowski, European Data Protection Supervisor
  • Sarah Chander, Senior Policy Advisor, EDRi

Check out the full programme here.

Registrations are open until 24 January, 2022 here.

*Update: Charaf Zerzar (BVMN) is no longer participating as a speaker on the panel.