UN Pocketbook on Human Rights and Screening in Border Security

Pocketbook on Human Rights and Screening in Border Security
The United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force has released a pocket book in order to strengthen the awareness and protection of human rights in border security management. The pocketbook is a useful primer on human rights for asylum seekers and refugees crossing borders.

This Pocketbook seeks to assist officials at border and reception areas to be human rights conscious while screening individuals for security purposes to better comply with their obligations under international human rights law.

Primacy of Human Rights

Primacy of Human Rights

Human rights are guaranteed by international law. The law places obligations on States to respect, protect and fulfil human rights for all persons when managing and securing their borders. Human rights obligations are not optional. Human rights apply to every person. States’ human rights obligations are often reflected in national laws and constitutions. Border officials are responsible for putting human rights obligations into practice. Human rights should be at the heart of all their actions.

Some human rights are particularly relevant at borders:

  • Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity.
  • Everyone has the right to enter their own country and to leave any country including their own.
  • Everyone has the right not to be returned to a place where there is a risk of persecution or other serious harm.
  • Everyone has the right to be treated as an individual in a transparent process based on law.

Privacy and Data Collection

Privacy and Data collection
International law protects the right to privacy. Asking for personal information from individuals going through the border and collecting, processing, and storing that ata interferes with their right to privacy.

Personal information should only be collected if it is:

  • Required by law
  • Justified for a legitimate aim
  • Necessary and proportionate to needs
  • Non-discriminatory

Any information that reveals racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade-union membership or concerning a person’s health or sex life is particularly sensitive.

The following questions help to decide what kind of personal data should be asked to individuals at the border:

  • What does the law allow?
  • What do you need the information for?
  • Which information do you really need given the purpose?
  • Is the data particularly sensitive?
  • How will you use the information?
  • Who will you share the information with?

Screening in Person

Screening in Person

Border authorities may decide who to interview, what questions to ask and how to conduct those interviews.

Interviews should be carried out with respect for the dignity of the individual. Interviews should be conducted in a language the person understands and in a safe environment. Gender considerations should be taken into account in the choice of interviewing officials, especially if there are cultural and social sensitivities for women and men.

Photographs and other biometric data, such as fingerprints or iris scans, are particularly sensitive. Some individuals may refuse to provide such data. Individuals should be able to understand how the data will be used and who will have access to it.

If a person does not want to provide fingerprints or photographs, it should be made clear to them in a language they can understand why the data is requested and what will happen if they do not provide it.

Download the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force Pocketbook on Human Rights and Screening in Border Security


Pocketbook on Human Rights and Screening in Border Security
Cover of the United Nations Pocketbook on Human Rights and Screening in Border Security


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