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Refugees in Germany sue for unlawful searching of phones during asylum applications

Refugees have sued Germany over the unlawful searching of their cell phones during asylum applications. Regional court judges issued the rule that the act of searching an asylum seeker’s phone was unlawful.

An administrative court ruled Tuesday that Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) had no right to demand any refugees’ phone nor have access to data in the beginning of the application. process.

This is inclusive of also storing information mined from a refugees.

The case of Farahnaz s.

As a refugees in Germany, when applying for asylum in 2019 she brought her marriage certificate and other documents to prove she was from Afghanistan but she lacked a passport. This prompted migration authorities to ask for her phone.

Farahnaz told DW, “I don’t remember if I unlocked it for them or gave them my pin but they had access to everything.”

After 44 minutes she got her phone back but authorities had used software to scan metadata on the device for indications of where she was from.

A caseworkers requested access to the results and a month later her request was rejected.

Read more information on German Laws and legislation here: 

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Germany authorities have been able to analyse cellphone metadata of refugees if they have no valid passport or ID card to verify identity, since 2017.

But it occured that in three separate lawsuits across the country, asylum seekers , with the support of civil liberties activists, have sued the state for the practice. The phone searches, they argue, are ineffective, excessive and intrusive.

In February, the Berlin-based NGO Society for Civil Rights (GFF), together with others, asked Ulrich Kelber, the federal commissioner for data protection and freedom of information, to look into such phone searches.

Unlike the Berlin court, Kelber’s office would have the power to order the BAMF to cease the practice. A decision could come in the next few weeks.

The BAMF office has previously defended phone searches as a necessary tool to prevent asylum fraud and help caseworkers make decisions over applications but for most it spells less data protection for refugees. We wrote about it: Germany, Federal government undermines Data Protection laws for African refugees.

It was argued that the BAMF would be unthinkable to subject Germans to such measures without sufficient reasons, then why do it to asylum seekers.

Source: DW