Geneva – Illegal, disproportionate, and unnecessary interference with the personal data of individuals in Europe, especially asylum seekers who are treated as liars until proven truthful, has escalated, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor and GIWEH said in a joint speech at the Human Rights Council's 49th session.
Delivered by Michela Pugliese, Euro-Med Monitor's migration and asylum researcher, the statement said the authorities in Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Switzerland extensively search asylum seekers’ phones as part of their asylum procedures, which means reviewing all their personal data, such as contact information, geodata, messages, and photos.
The statement added that these countries have routinely violated the right to privacy of tens of thousands of asylum seekers by checking their personal data and subjecting them to second-class data protection, often without any doubt of false allegations in their asylum requests or migrants or asylum seekers' approval.
At times, migrants and asylum seekers are treated as guinea pigs to test new and invasive control and surveillance techniques, which may also be used to spy on citizens in those countries, the statement said. Hungary and Poland have already used the Pegasus spyware program of the Israeli company NSO to monitor hundreds of journalists, activists, and students who criticize their government.
The statement stressed that European countries' illegal surveillance techniques pose significant risks to individuals' dignity, independence, privacy, freedom of movement, freedom of expression, and freedom of association.
In the statement, Euro-Med Monitor called on the European Union and its member states to halt all privacy-intrusive measures, both for citizens and non-citizens; and to allow asylum seekers to decide for themselves which intimate information may be disclosed and used in their asylum proceedings.
The text of the statement:
Disproportionate, unnecessary and illegitimate intrusions of individuals’ personal data are increasingly taking place all over Europe, especially for asylum seekers, who are treated as liars until proven truthful.
Swiss, Germany, Denmark and Norway have been heavily employing mobile phones’ searches in their asylum procedures, examining the applicants’ whole lives: from contact details and called numbers to geodata, messages and photos.
These countries have routinely violated the right to privacy of tens of thousands of asylum seekers, by inspecting their personal data and subjecting them to second-class data protection, often without any suspicion of false claims, and without their informed consent.
Migrants are treated as guinea pigs to test new and invasive control and surveillance technologies that then will be used, and sometimes already are, to spy on citizens as well.
Hungary and Poland have already employed the spyware Pegasus of the Israeli company NSO Group to keep under surveillance hundreds of journalists, activists and students critical of their government.
Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor and GIWEH recall that these unlawful surveillance techniques carry significant risks for human dignity, autonomy and privacy, as well as for the freedom of association, movement and expression.
We thus call upon the EU and its Member States to halt all privacy-intrusive measures, both for citizens and non-citizens; and to allow asylum seekers to decide for themselves which intimate information may be disclosed and used in their asylum proceedings.