Last night Privacy International, Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) and Migrants Organise collaborated to project a vast message on Lunar House in South London to bring attention to the enduring plight of migrants in the UK under ever more hardline Home Office migration policies, a decade on from Theresa May's seminal 'hostile environment' statement.
The most recent emanation of which is the rollout of GPS ankle tags, a highly punitive surveillance measure. The intention of these measures is to make life in this country inhospitable for migrants.
As a part of 'Solidarity Knows No Borders', week of action calling for an end to hostile environment policies, we're working to raise awareness about GPS tagging and so have outlined the main points people need to know below.
- The Home Office uses ankle tags fitted with GPS technology to 24/7 track the precise location of people facing deportation. Anybody who is on immigration bail can be tagged – without warning & there is no time limit on how long you can be tagged for. On top of that Safeguards have been removed. The decision to tag somebody is entirely at the discretion of the Home Office, & the imposition of tagging cannot be challenged before a judge of the First-tier Tribunal.
- GPS tagging is tremendously harmful & affects people’s mental health, family relationships, & many parts of the minute details of how an individual chooses to live their life. People report that ankle tags affect how they dress, where they go & what they do, their prayers & how they care for their children. Many report feeling stigmatised & being constantly aware of the judgmental looks of others & despite medical evidence, vulnerable people, including torture survivors, are being tagged.
- GPS monitoring is big business: Capita, & other private companies, including Airbus, G4S & Telefonica are given lucrative contracts to tag people, collect & process the data, & pass it on to the Government. A recent report by the National Audit Office found the government had wasted £98 million of taxpayers’ money on a failed upgrade to the tagging system.
- The Home Office will use the data against people in their immigration cases. When somebody makes a claim to remain in the UK on the basis of their family life or private life here (under Article 8 ECHR), the Home Office can snoop around in that individual’s location data – which is a precise record of every single location the person went to, when they went there & how long they spent there, for the duration that they were wearing the tag.
- It could be expanded to ensnare all asylum-seekers. Last year there were rumours in the press about the Home Office tagging all initial asylum seekers arriving to the UK in small boats. The Home Office has since clarified to BID that it would not need to change the law to do, such is their existing power to impose this intrusive form of monitoring.
- It is used alongside other restrictive bail conditions. Even when they are tagged with a GPS ankle tag that monitors their precise location 24/7, people are needlessly made to go through the onerous & traumatic experience process of reporting to the Home Office – in many cases on a weekly basis. There has been no noticeable reduction in the imposition of other bail conditions on people subject to electronic monitoring.