WHEN: 11 October, 5-6.30pm


Register via EventBrite: here

SPEAKERS: Giorgia Donà, Laura Loyola-Hernández, Petra Molnar, Gina Netto


This webinar will examine the double-edged nature of digital technologies: how such technologies can be used to maintain and reproduce hostile environments as well as be used by migrants and those who work with them to support resilience strategies

Digital technologies include surveillance techniques, data sharing, smart borders, fingerprinting, AI and iris recognition. Digital border governance heavily relies on and accelerates the speed and scale with which surveillance, regulation and monitoring of mobilities operates. Digital systems produce bio-data: they are deployed in processes of identification, collection and categorization of the human body to produce large-scale digital databases. “Smart border” requires the labour of software developers, designers, engineers, infrastructure builders, border guards, systems experts, and many others. They are also reliant on the labour of “data-ready” travellers who produce themselves at the border, as well as the underground labour of those who traffic in informal and illegalized economies across such borders. Border-guarding takes place both at the external borders through prevention and deterrence of movement and inside borders through everyday monitoring and discrimination practices, locally, transnationally and globally. These systems operate in relation to one another in techno-borderscapes. The term describes digital everyday bordering as sites of online and offline encounters, contestations and disruptions among forced migrants and other social actors who also use mobile technologies. 

At the same time, non-governmental organisations, activists and migrants themselves creatively use digital technologies as a form of resilience and resistance to bordering practices as well as to support migrants’ movements, provide peer-to-peer protection and connect with each other transnationally and locally. These forms of technology can play a particularly useful role in countries in the Global South which have not signed up to the obligations of the 1951 Geneva Convention, and where the majority of refugees are displaced. For instance, digital technologies have been used to enable refugees to acquire new languages in displaced contexts, gain literacy and support education. During the pandemic, such technologies have also been deployed to raise awareness of symptoms, where to go to access medical treatment, gain financial assistance and obtain food. Such systems are particularly helpful where support from government agencies and mainstream services is lacking. However, it is important to recognize that such strategies are enacted in power-laden structural contexts, where choices to access support and exercise rights are heavily constrained. Consequently, digital technologies appear to operate as a double- edge sword: they can be used as instruments of control and surveillance and as tools of resilience and resistance.

This seminar will address the following questions:

  • How are digital technologies used as a double-edge sword? 
  • How is digital governance impacting migration? 
  • What forms of digital resistance to borders are emerging?
  • How do migrants use technologies to bypass borders, provide peer-to-peer protection and support?
  • How can a post-coloniality lens be used to understand the relationship between technology and migration?  


Giorgia Donà : Techno-borderscapes and coloniality

Giorgia is co-director of the Centre for Migration, Refugees and Belonging at the University of East London. She is one of the founding members of Social Scientists Against the Hostile Environment. Her research focuses on global refugee movements, displaced children and youth, psycho-social well-being, refugee voices and representation, and digital forced migration. Recent publications include: The Marginalised in Genocide Narratives (2019); Forced Migration: Current Issues and Debates (2019, edited with Alice Bloch); and Child and Youth Migration: Mobility-in-Migration in an Era of Globalisation (2014, edited with Angela Veale).

Laura Loyola-Hernández (she/her) : Police, immigration enforcement and migrant communities-led responses in the UK

Laura is a long-standing member of the Racial Justice Network (RJN) a UK organisation aimed at addressing colonial legacies and challenging racial injustice. She is a Mexican feminist geographer based at the University of Leeds. She is a trade union, anti-racist migrant activist who co-led the UCU (British trade union in further and higher education) campaign to establish UCU Migrant Members Committee to address hostile environment policies in education. Laura has been involved in RJN and is a trustee of Yorkshire Resist since 2019.

Petra Molnar :  Technological Testing Grounds: Surveillance of People on The Move

Petra is a lawyer and researcher specializing in migration, technology, and human rights. She is the Associate Director of the Refugee Law Lab hosted at York University’s Centre for Refugee Studies, in collaboration with Osgoode Hall Law School.  The Refugee Law Lab undertakes research and advocacy related to new legal technologies and their impact on refugees, other displaced communities, and people on the move. Petra is currently based in Athens, interrogating surveillance technologies used in migration. 

Gina Netto: Resilience, digital technology and linguistic capital among refugees in the Global South

Gina is a Reader in International and Forced Migration at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh. Gina has led a number of publicly funded research projects and written extensively on access and use of public services (housing, health and social care); differential participation in the labour market and the acquisition of dominant languages in destination countries. Her latest GCRF funded research projects have involved partnership-working with the UNHCR, a refugee organisation based in Malaysia, computer scientists and linguists. The research investigated the use of mobile technology by Rohingya refugees to navigate often hostile urban landscapes and used knowledge of the ways in which this was shaped by language and literacy to help increase their resilience during Covid-19.

Chair and Coordinators:

  • Rachel Humphris is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Politics at Queen Mary University College of London. She is a political ethnographer whose research and teaching focuses on immigration and citizenship, urban governance, gender and race. Prior to joining the School of Politics and International Relations in September 2019, Rachel was a Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Birmingham (2017 – 2019) and Research Fellow at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society, University of Oxford (2014-2017). Rachel has been a visiting fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, University of California – Berkeley, York University Toronto and the University of Sheffield.
  • Marie Godin is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford. Her research project looks at the nexus between forced migration, social protection and digital technologies. Her broader research interests lie in the area of migration and development, with a focus on diaspora engagement and gender and political activism. She is also a research associate at the Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) at the University of Birmingham where on the EU families and Eurochildren project, an empirically-rich and in-depth account of how EU families in the UK experienced and responded to the Brexit referendum.
  • Ben Gidley is a Senior Lecturer in Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck and research associate of the Birkbeck Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, member of the International Centre for the Study of Racism at Edge Hill, and Editorial Board member of MONITOR Global intelligence on Racism. His most recent article is “‘At Least the Nazis Kept the Lights On’: Brexit Amnesia Airbrushes Out Genocide in the Channel Islands”.