Journal Article

The Protection Paradox: Why Hasn’t the Arrival of New Media Transformed Refugee Status Determination?

Rosemary Byrne

in International Journal of Refugee Law

Volume 27, issue 4, pages 625-648
Published in print December 2015 | ISSN: 0953-8186
Published online October 2015 | e-ISSN: 1464-3715 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ijrl/eev048
The Protection Paradox: Why Hasn’t the Arrival of New Media Transformed Refugee Status Determination?

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The arrival of new media and communications technology has given rise to a protection paradox for refugees. In principle, it should enhance protection for asylum seekers by developing a more informed RSD process. Instead, it can be argued to have decreased protection for some, as the omnipresence of electronic information is accompanied by a demand in domestic asylum systems for increasingly detailed corroborative evidence to support the particulars of individual claims which many asylum seekers are ill equipped to provide, and that decision makers are disinclined, or insufficiently trained, to assess. In exploring the underlying dynamics of this paradox, this article examines the intersection between new media and the evidentiary regime for refugee protection that is gradually developing in lieu of a dramatic transformation of RSD. It argues that the democratization of human rights documentation and the arrival of new technologies and actors gives rise to novel forms of evidence and a different type of asylum seeker, introducing electronic evidence (e evidence) and the electronic dissident (e dissident) into RSD. The implications of e evidence and e dissidence for RSD include: an emerging duty to corroborate e documentation in protection cases; a need to consider the effect of the cyberactivity by decision makers (the ‘googling judge’) and asylum claimants outside of the RSD process, on disclosure and the admission of evidence within the assessment process; and, the knowledge to evaluate the risk of e dissidence and the changing features of sur place claims in the era of instant on-line dissent. The protection paradox could be diminished when the potential of new media to transform RSD is realized by realigning the approach to e evidence in the asylum process with the advanced practices developed across human rights sectors in the creation, filtering, assessment, and preservation of e evidence.

Journal Article.  13201 words. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration ; Refugee Studies

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