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Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence in Migration and Mobility: Transnational Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic (2021)

Posted on:
November 29, 2021

Abstract

"This paper argues that recent changes brought about by COVID-19 highlight that computational advances need to incorporate human rights throughout design and development stages, extending well beyond technical feasibility. This also extends beyond tech company references to inclusivity and transparency and requires analysis of systemic risks to migration and mobility regimes arising from advances in AI and related technologies.

Digitalization and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in migration and mobility have incrementally expanded over recent years. Iterative approaches to AI deployment experienced a surge during 2020 and into 2021, largely due to COVID-19 forcing greater reliance on advanced digital technology to monitor, inform and respond to the pandemic.

This paper critically examines the implications of intensifying digitalization and AI for migration and mobility systems for a post-COVID transnational context:

  1. First, it situates digitalization and AI in migration by analyzing its uptake throughout the Migration Cycle.
  2. Second, the article evaluates the current challenges and, opportunities to migrants and migration systems brought about by deepening digitalization due to COVID-19, finding that while these expanding technologies can bolster human rights and support international development, potential gains can and are being eroded because of design, development and implementation aspects.
  3. The authors conduct a critical review of available literature on the subject.”

Conclusions

"Digitalization and AI technologies have been progressively utilized in migration and mobility. As analysed in this paper, the advancement of AI and digital technologies through the Migration Cycle has extended beyond its initial focus on pre-departure and entry. AI and digital technologies are also a feature of stay and return programs and initiatives. Examples include the digitalization of visa and asylum applications and processing, automated security checks at borders and AI-powered immigration information chatbots. Digital technologies and AI in migration and mobility are likely to continue expanding in the upcoming years...

The protection of migrants’ human rights can be particularly affected by the advances in digital technologies and AI, notably due to the inherent power imbalance between migrants and public authorities. For example, algorithmic bias may exacerbate existing inequalities and lead to unlawful discrimination, which can significantly affect migrants. Similarly, the intensification of migrant surveillance practices has considerable effects on the protection of migrants’ right to privacy.

In addition, digital technologies and AI are likely to impact international migration patterns over time, affecting long-term migration trends and migration corridors. In particular, the potential for increased automation and AI in certain areas of work and occupations, also motivated by the COVID-19 pandemic, may disrupt migration and mobility and even render the recourse to many migrant workers obsolete in key destination economies.

Accordingly, human rights should be incorporated in the design and development of digital technologies to mitigate potential risks to migrants’ human rights. Similarly, decision-makers deploying these technologies should consider the systemic risks to migration and mobility regimes arising from advances in AI and related technologies. That is even more crucial in light of the transnational implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for migration and mobility."

Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence in Migration and Mobility - Transnational Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic (2021)

Summary

This paper argues that recent changes brought about by COVID-19 highlight that computational advances need to incorporate human rights throughout design and development stages, extending well beyond technical feasibility. This also extends beyond tech company references to inclusivity and transparency and requires analysis of systemic risks to migration and mobility regimes arising from advances in AI and related technologies.
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