The privacy rights charity, Privacy International, has filed two complaints to data protection regulators and called for an inquiry over the Home Office’s use of global positioning system (GPS) ankle tags to monitor people on immigration bail.
The new policy enables the Home Office to use an electronic ankle-bracelet tag to monitor and record a person’s precise whereabouts, 24 hours a day. All this data will be collected and stored on file for years by the Electronic Monitoring Services (EMS) run by Capita.
The complaints, filed with the Information Commissioner (ICO) and the Forensic Science Regulator (FSR), centre on breaches of data protection laws, and could violate a person’s Article 8 right to privacy.
Can you imagine what it feels like to know that every minute of every day, awake or sleeping, your every move is being monitored and recorded by the government? Can you imagine how it feels to arrive in Britain seeking sanctuary from war or persecution, and the British government treats you like this? At These Walls Must Fall we are in touch with people forced to wear these tags, some of whom have only just arrived here.
Intrusive monitoring and surveillance of migrants is not new, but this new scheme is a frightening new development.
“This form of monitoring is a seismic change in the surveillance and data-intensive systems used against those subject to immigration control in the UK, causing tagged individuals feelings of anxiety, social exclusion, and sometimes causing re-traumatisation”Privacy International
What will happen with all this data is also a worry. The Home Office has said that it intends to use the location data as evidence in asylum and immigration applications, which is deeply concerning, given the horrendous state of decision making. There is also no transparency over which other agencies this data could be shared with. And to top it all, the scheme will be run by Capita, a corporation with a terrible track record of manging these schemes.
This briefing from Bail for Immigration Detainees breaks down all the problems with the scheme, and they’ve also made a video explainer:
The scheme appears to be another massive public expense on a scheme that will serve a purely political purpose of looking tough. Its operation will impact greatly on the mental health of people in our communities. Its existence as a policy, as a political argument, contributes to more than that though. At a recent gathering of These Walls Must Fall campaigners, William from West Yorkshire summed it up:
“Every new hostile environment policy doesn’t just affect us. Politicians talking about these things, the media, it increases the levels of racism in society”William, Campaigner with These Walls Must Fall
If you or someone you know is affected by this policy, you should seek legal advice. You may be able to challenge the Home Office decision to impose this bail condition.