Co-designing a fair digital asylum procedure


Migration management is increasingly digitised and datafied. In the Netherlands, digital opportunities have been embraced for identity screening of applicants. However, the Athene pilot project – which aimed to automate digital assessment of copies of mobile devices to improve identification of asylum seekers, as well as to detect indicators of terrorism and human smuggling – has been put to a stop in November 2021. Athene was scrutinized by the Dutch Council of State and prematurely shut down when it was found to be in breach with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), generating extensive media attention, and prompting parliamentary questions by D66 and BIJ1 that have so far remained unanswered.


This timely application takes the pilot, led by the ‘Aliens, Identification and Human Trafficking Unit’ (AVIM) of the police, as a starting point to reconstruct and improve digital identification of asylum seekers in the Netherlands. To address the current void, we will evaluate the Athene pilot from the ground up. It will empirically reconstruct understandings of fairness underpinning the institutions, the affected community of asylum seekers and digital technologies involved. Additionally, we will co-design a new prototype of the digital Dutch asylum procedure, with a focus on identification. Through participatory design, we develop a prototype which is fair, accountable and transparent (FAT) to both asylum seekers and institutions involved.