Technology, Displaced? The Risks and Potential of Artificial Intelligence for Fair, Effective, and Efficient Refugee Status Determination

Niamh Kinchin  
Senior Lecturer, University of Wollongong, Australia


Human vulnerability is at the core of refugee status determination and human rights provides its regulatory frame, so to speak of artificial intelligence within the refugee context may seem troubling at least, dystopian at worst. But the rapid development of artificial intelligence in government decision-making will unlikely be slowed by such ethical quandaries. The potential integration of automation, machine learning and algorithmic decision-making into global migration regulation and policy has far-reaching implications for refugee law. The consequences for efficiency, legality, accountability, transparency and human rights warrant a timely and critical conversation about the possible impact of existing and future technologies on refugee status determination. Predictive analytics, biometrics, automated credibility assessments and algorithmic decision-making are technologies that could have utility for refugee status determination processing, credibility assessments and decision-making. Each technology is considered through a lens of ‘risk and potential’, which is measured in terms of ‘fair, efficient and effective’ refugee status determination. The opportunities that artificial intelligence offers for efficiency and effectiveness in refugee status determination are compelling. Artificial intelligence allows for faster data processing and the ability to undertake high-volume, repetitive tasks. Increased consistency and up-to-date information, a capacity to plan for workloads and predict movements and the potential to ‘design out’ existing biases, promise to deliver positive outcomes for asylum seekers. But the risks of integrating artificial intelligence in a decision-making process that is defined by human vulnerability loom large. The lack of transparency in algorithms may result in a denial of procedural fairness, and algorithmic bias continues to be a vexing issue. If refugee and human rights are denied, international protection may be compromised. Technical and contextual issues may increase the potential for error, and unanswered questions remain around legality.


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Kinchin N. Technology, Displaced? The Risks and Potential of Artificial Intelligence for Fair, Effective, and Efficient Refugee Status Determination. LiC [Internet]. 2021Sep.3 [cited 2021Sep.26];37(3). Available from:

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