It is illegal to confiscate mobile phones from asylum seekers

The smartphone is an important accessory for many asylum seekers. For example, it acts as a translation aid and communication tool – sometimes it is the only link with relatives. Authorities confiscate cell phones from asylum seekers once they arrive in the country. This has happened to thousands of immigrants in the UK. At the end of March he The British High Court ruledIt is illegal to study the months since the final devices were confiscated and the data obtained from them.

The court’s ruling goes to the case of three asylum seekers. All three plaintiffs came to Dover between April and September 2020. They, along with other asylum seekers, began in France and crossed the English Channel in small boats. Upon arrival, authorities searched the immigrants and confiscated their equipment. Newcomers could not write down phone numbers or make last calls – for example to inform relatives.

In addition, officers sometimes asked for access codes for the devices. Asylum seekers were threatened with legal consequences if the codes were not released. According to the practice of the Ministry of the Interior, data on the final equipment confiscated by asylum seekers must be collected by at least July 2020.

“Most Important Combinations”

The trial of the three plaintiffs took place in London at the end of January this year. One of the plaintiffs’ allegations is that it is illegal for officials to publish PIN numbers and threaten sanctions. Cell phone confiscation and data storage violate the right to family and private life, thus violating Article 8. of the European Convention on Human Rights, in addition, the reading of data Data Protection Act 2018, According to the plaintiffs. The UK implemented the Public Data Protection Regulation with the Data Protection Act 2018.

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According to the court, the Interior Ministry initially denied that the policy was criticized. But when the allegations were investigated, it was “most importantly admitted”. The Home Office, for example, acknowledged that its confiscation policies violated data security and that “there is no legal basis for processing data under the Data Protection Act 2018”. The Home Office also acknowledged that the extraction of data was illegal – their “PIN policy”.

Eventually, it returned to the UK Data Protection Authority for breach of data protection law. Despite this acknowledgment, the department says the confiscation of telephones and the public search for asylum seekers are legal under the UK Immigration Act.

That Judgment of Judges March 25 will be different. They point out that the Home Office dependent unit cannot be used to conduct searches. So it is not legal to search for lawyers and confiscate their phones.

Attack on human rights and privacy

Judges argue that the need for authorities to disclose access codes and threaten barriers is illegal. Claire Jennings, one of the lawyers involved, also considers the Home Office’s actions to be in violation of the law. She says According to the NGO Privacy International:

The systematic collection of personal data from unsuspecting, vulnerable asylum seekers is a shocking and unprecedented attack on fundamental rights to privacy.

The verdict of the judges makes it clear that the actions of the officers are also illegal as this procedure has not been officially announced. Nearly 2,000 phones have been taken from immigrants under the blind sweeping policy. Says Daniel CareyAnother plaintiff is a lawyer.

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At another hearing, the judges will clarify whether the home minister violated his duty by not explicitly explaining his policy from the outset. The judges did not comment further on data security issues: the British Data Protection Commission is now investigating data security allegations.

Procedure for mobile phone evaluation in Germany

Cellphone readings for asylum seekers are also being discussed in court in Germany. In May 2020, with the support of the Association for Freedom of Rights (GFF), three refugees complained to various administrative courts that their smartphones had been read and evaluated by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).

A good year later, came the Berlin Executive Court In one of the cases In a judgment: BAMF illegally read the plaintiff’s mobile phone. Following the verdict, BAMF appealed and the case is now in federal executive court.

For GFF’s lawyer Leah Beckman, who coordinates the proceedings, the decision of the executive court was a resounding success. “With this decision, the Executive Court confirms what we have been saying for many years: BAMF infringes fundamental rights through its mobile phone data evaluation”, According to Beckman. In Germany, BAMF 2017 has been the legal basis for asylum seekers to study their final equipment if they are unable to present valid identification documents. The law has been controversial since its introduction.

In Great Britain, too, the Supreme Court’s ruling set a precedent for dealing with asylum seekers’ equipment. Claire Jennings says: “If it were not for this case, the Home Office’s policy would have been obscured.”

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