The control of refugees by government institutions and agencies involves surveillance, the collection of biodata, internet censorship and online propaganda. All these interactions with cyberculture are made with the intention to control the voice and movement of refugees.

The proposals made by Frontex, EU Member States and private tech companies earlier this year displayed a pattern of developing tools to track and control the movement of refugees. It’s interesting that the ideas proposed to give refugees smartcard IDs and building on existing biometric data systems are already in practice with the UNHCR.

As stated in Control, the EU not only support the actions of the UNHCR, but also assist them financially. The UNHCR’s database, which holds the identities of millions of refugees, raises concerns over privacy and identity theft due to the interest of the EU in gaining access to the database and also due to the vulnerability any infiltration into the system would would place on the refugees registered.

Biometric data is especially sensitive, because unlike credit cards or even social security numbers, this information can’t be changed.

– S Larson, The Daily Dot, 2016

The practice of biometric systems on refugees also raises concerns over its involvement with humanitarian experimentation. As stated in Control, the UNHCR has been registering refugees through biometric systems since 2002. The use of new technologies for registration are initially piloted in humanitarian settings. The UNHCR portray their biometric data practices simultaneously as uncontroversial and experimental, but it is important to consider how the development of these new technologies “‘loops back’ upon society in ways that affect the constitution of social order and identity” (Jackobsen K,Experimentation in humanitarian locations: UNHCR and biometric registration of Afghan refugees, pp154, 2015). In the broader political context, humanitarian experimentation is practiced with the end goal of utilising biometric systems to strengthen homeland security. This undoubtedly raises the question: who is this security system designed to protect?


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Footage in order of appearance:

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Images in order of appearance:

Délmagyarország/Schmidt Andrea. 2015. Barrier in Hungarian-Serbian border,, CC BY-SA 3.0,  

Reuters. 2016. Migrants are inspected by policemen as they disembark from the Norwegian vessel Siem Pilot at Pozzallo’s harbour, Italy, March 29, 2016., available at

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[unknown]. 2016. Secure National ID Cards, Gemalto, available at

[unknown]. Phone with tracking app, available at

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By Noborder Network [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons, available at

By Noborder Network (no borders no precarity  Uploaded by PanchoS) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons, available at,_no_precarity_-_Shut_Down_FRONTEX_Warsaw_2008.jpg

Widak A. 2015. Refugees at Budapest Railway station check their phones Artur Widak/NurPhoto/REX, The Independent, available at

Wylie A. 2013. Tent homes on Nauru., The Sydney Morning Herald, available at

Garrett J. 2015. Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (centre) meets with participants of the Pacific Islands Forum foreign ministers meeting in Sydney., ABC News, available at

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Free the Children NAURU, Children holding up signs in protest, Facebook, available at

[Screenshot] notopeoplesmugging, Youtube, available at

[Screenshot] ABF TV. Youtube, available at  

[Screenshot] Journeythemovie, Youtube, available at

[Screenshot] @daringdanaerys. 2015. Warsan Shire poem extract, Twitter, available at

About intersectionalalien

Hi hello people of earth/space/cyberspace, intersectional alien here. I’m still trying to figure out my place on this earth. I like intersectional feminism, feminism in popular culture, LGBTQ+, refugee rights, veganism, mental health, nihilism, travelling, unlearning institutional conditioning, good tunes and consuming and creating stories.
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