The digital hostile environment

Remember Theresa May’s racist migration policy that put “Go Home” vans on our streets and gave us the Windrush scandal — if you thought it was history, think again. The hostile environment continues. And it is now going digital. 

We’ve discovered a secret technology that basically works as a digital hostile environment.  We need your help to expose it—and to take the Home Office to court.

The Home Office is using a secretive algorithm, which it describes as a digital “streaming tool,” to sift visa applications. The algorithm scans applications and directs them into a fast lane (Green), a slow lane (Yellow), or a full digital pat-down (Red). 

They’ve given a shadowy, computer-driven process the power to affect someone’s chances of getting a visa. And as best as we can tell, the machine is using problematic and biased criteria, like nationality, to choose which “stream” you get in. People from rich white countries get Speedy Boarding; poorer people of colour get pushed to the back of the queue.

People’s right to come here to work, study, or see loved ones, is being affected by this computer program. And it may be discriminating on the basis of crude characteristics like nationality or age - rather than assessing applicants fairly, on the merits.

We’ve asked the government to explain how the software works. So far they’ve refused; they are hiding behind an immigration exemption in the Freedom of Information Act.

Treating people differently because of where they come from or the colour of their skin violates Britain’s spirit of fair play and equality before the law. We’re determined to make this right—and with your help, we can.

What we’ll do

We are seeking a judicial review to fix this shadowy and discriminatory use of technology. We want to find out exactly what the algorithm is and what it does. We want to force the government to respond as quickly as possible, because every day this situation continues there’s a risk people could be suffering unfair visa decisions. People will be missing conferences, jobs, weddings, funerals. Unfair processes hurt them—and they hurt Britain.

To bring this legal challenge we need funding. So if you’re outraged at discrimination within the immigration system, or want transparency into the government’s use of AI and machine processes, please donate to this campaign.

Who is bringing this challenge:

Foxglove and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants are working together to bring this challenge.

Foxglove  is a team of lawyers, technology experts, and communications specialists. We think governments and big tech companies are misusing digital technology, and that this is harming the rest of us. Foxglove exists to fix this. 

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants  (JCWI) is a charity which stands up for migrants. We want to live in a country in which immigration law and policy are based on sound evidence, promote the rule of law and are underpinned by respect for human rights and human dignity.

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Martha Dark 
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