On the Move with Begüm Başdaş (30): Sharp borders & border tech experiments with guest Petra Molnar

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Begüm Başdaş talked with lawyer and researcher Petra Molnar who specializes in technology, migration, and human rights about the impacts of migration control technologies on the lives of people on the move. Molnar looking at how European model of refugee camps as “prison model” are being translated across the world, said “This is a global phenomenon and slips through borders easily” and added “smart borders, drones, thermal cameras, concretization of border spaces do not mean people are going to stop coming. They are just going to take more dangerous routes, and this will unfortunately lead to loss of life.”

Molnar emphasized the human rights impact of border technologies and militarization of migration through the involvement of private companies and said “We are using AI technologies against refugees, but not using AI to root out racist border guards. That to me is a clear priority that the private sector is able to set. Because growing industrial border complex is very lucrative. There is a lot of money to be made in the border enforcement regime.”

Molnar also added that “it is important to see these issues from a historical perspective. We are talking about surveillance, new tech, a shiny new lens to analyze migration and human rights issues, but really it is not new. It is a different perspective to look at some of these issues, but at the end of the day we are talking about racial oppression that has been with us for decades or centuries, certain communities marginalized, made vulnerable explicitly, excluded from conversations, over-surveilled. None of this is new. Now the state has new tools to use like AI, drones, thermal cameras. But the underpinning logic is, logic of exclusion and logic of violent borders. It all maps onto lines of privilege and power. It is not about tech; it is about power. Why are we even introducing this tech in the first place? It seems like the inevitable thing now and we are talking about regulation or safeguarding. But why are we even ok with violent border regime in the first place? Because it keeps the status qua in check in the global North. It is this border imperialism that we need to talk about. It is a lucrative business to keep the things the way they are.”

Petra Molnar is a lawyer and researcher specializing in technology, migration, and human rights and the Associate Director of the Refugee Law Lab at York University. She is currently working on a project looking at the impacts of migration control technologies on the lives of people on the move. Her work has appeared in numerous academic publications and the popular press, including the New York Times. Petra is also working on a book called Artificial Borders: AI, Surveillance, and Border Tech Experiments.

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