IGF 2023 WS #272 Shaping alternative futures for migration and human mobility


Human Rights & Freedoms
Non-discrimination in the Digital Space
Technology in International Human Rights Law

Organizer 1: Lucie Audibert, 🔒
Organizer 2: Astha Kapoor, 🔒
Organizer 3: Amrita Nanda , 🔒Aapti Institute
Organizer 4: Suha Maqsood Mohamed, Aapti Institute

Speaker 1: Lucie Audibert, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Suha Maqsood Mohamed, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Jessica Bither, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Astha Kapoor, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Online Moderator

Amrita Nanda , Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Suha Maqsood Mohamed, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Panel - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

A. What are the human and digital rights implications of technological experimentation and “innovation” in managing migration?
B. How can “alternative data infrastructures for migration” support (through design functions, governance mechanisms etc) building greater agency and options – and how can we start to imagine this future? 

C. What do forms of community mobilization or collectivisation entail in migration networks (for e.g civil society advocacy, e-diaspora groups)? Are there existing avenues for collective governance that can emanate from this?

What will participants gain from attending this session? This workshop aims to first reframe the way data is considered in the context of refugee and migrant settings and explore possibilities for its use, control and governance in ways that actually can benefit people on the move.Second, it aims to develop principles that can define alternative infrastructures that may remedy the lack of agency and accountability status quo that current migration management systems provide. In doing so, it also seeks to isolate existing community data-oriented infrastructures and intermediary organizations, to better understand their role in possibly strengthening collective negotiation, choice and agency in digital human mobility systems.


The proliferation of digital technologies in migration, refugee protection and to manage human mobility has significant human rights implications – both intended and unintended. It is often accompanied by the increased use of surveillance or tracking technologies at and beyond borders, mass data collection, and automated decision-making processes – which affect migrants in vulnerable situations. Acknowledging that technological experimentation continues in this ecosystem, there is a need both to advocate for policy and practice change, as well as re-imagine alternative data infrastructures for migration that are grounded in principles of privacy, justice and agency.

This session aims to build momentum around emerging migrant and human-centered solutions – both technical and non-technical. Specifically, it aims to explore both challenges and opportunities in developing data infrastructures that can support more agency and control for migrants and people on the move in their journeys.

The session will unpack the current and concrete threats to migrants’ rights and agency, enabled by surveillance technology deployments and mass data collection – such as the development of large interoperable databases, the GPS tracking of migrants, the use of social media intelligence (SOCMINT) and other surveillance techniques in the assessment of people’s claims to refugee or immigration status, or the use of AI-augmented drones to facilitate push-backs at borders. We will hear from speakers on their respective organizations’ work uncovering these practices, and challenging them through advocacy, litigation or campaigning. This initial discussion will then inform an exploration of relevant policy safeguards and protections that are being or can be envisaged to prevent harms to the rights of people on the move, and instead be leveraged to increase agency. We hope to hear from the audience on their own lived experiences of the challenges this session aims to tackle, and to explore avenues for just and sustainable alternatives.

Expected Outcomes

This session aims to be a starting point for building a broader community of concern and practice that can devise, develop and implement approaches to human mobility that better align with the SDGs. Led by Aapti Institute, this will involve engaging practitioners, policymakers, and representatives from the public sector and civil society (across migration, data rights and technology ecosystems) to continue to build more equitable and alternative data infrastructures for migration. Privacy International also intends to build on this session and the community it seeks to create, in order to develop a legal and policy briefing on the use of technology in immigration and border control. This briefing can hopefully form the basis of more consistent and consensus-based governance mechanisms in line with international human rights law.

Hybrid Format: For a hybrid experience, the moderator/s of this session will seek to consciously include both onsite and online participants. Prior to the session, resources (concept note, reading materials and an agenda) will be made available to speakers and participants. In the discussion, moderators will engage participants on site and online through a miro board and mentimeter prompts. Share back of insights from audience members can then be projected seamlessly and reflected on by all present.

Through a round robin format, adequate time will be allotted to each speaker, and this will be combined with breaks for more free-flowing discussion and intermittent rounds of questions. Lastly, organisers will also curate a pre-event virtual meet up and briefing, allowing panel speakers to get acquainted with each other and the session format.