Managing the Unreliability of Migration Control

– a Study of Biometrics and EU Information Technology Systems in Sweden. A research project within the research program migration and integration.

Project leader: Anna Bredström, PhD, Associate Professor External link.

Period: 2020–2024

Seat of learning: Linköping University

Project title: Managing the Unreliability of Migration Control: A Study of Biometrics and EU Information Technology Systems in Sweden


What is the project about?

The project is based on an extensive fieldwork conducted by the project members in 2016 on behalf of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA 2018). The fieldwork examined the utilization of biometrics and EU information technology systems in migration management, in the areas of asylum (EURODAC); borders (SIS II) and visas (VIS). The fieldwork revealed that authorities place great trust in biometric data, yet paradoxically, it also showed that the systems suffers from numerous insecurities and a lack of transparency. Accordingly, in certain situations, the systems risk jeopardizing the fundamental rights of migrants.

Based on our past experiences, the purpose of this project is to deepen the field study and develop theoretically informed analyses of the biopolitical consequences of biometrics. The project contributes a unique material on how biometrics and the EU IT system are used in a Swedish context. It also contributes with an in-depth interrogation to the usefulness of the notion of biological citizenship (Rose and Rabinow 2014). The concept of biological citizenship points to the impact that biotechnology and biocapital has had on advanced liberal societies in producing new subjectivities and biosocial collectives. The increasing use of biometric technologies in migration management fits well into this idea. However, most research on biological citizenship primarily focuses on rights advocacy for people with certain medical conditions and risk assessments of the healthy. Thus, our focus on constitute a novel approach to a growing research field.

Research questions

Key research questions for the project are:

  1. How do biometric technologies and the concerned EU based IT systems enact identities along the lines of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age and ability?
  2. What patterns emerge around how Swedish migration and police authorities meet insecurities?
  3. What are the experiences among different groups of migrants? How do they, for instance, navigate insecurities, and to what extent is the system transparent to them?

Qualitative observations and interviews are employed to examine how migration and police authorities use and interpret the technologies; and interviews with migrants aim to grasp how the technologies impact on their lives.

Project participants

The project is hosted by the Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society (REMESO) at Linköping University. The institute provides interdisciplinary research, education and knowledge exchange on trans-national migration, ethnic diversity and citizenship in light of economic transformations and labour market changes.

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