Monday, June 19, 2006

Sousveillance for the Immigration and Nationality Directorate

William Heath has been wondering about the possibilities of sousveillance for throwing a light on the lives of folks seeking legal migrant status in the UK and the work of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate.

"Met two interesting charities last week at a session organised by The Funding Network (cheers Tim).

The first was PhotoVoice which trains and equips some of the world's the most disadvantaged in photography. When street children or HIV/Aids sufferers are themselves the photojournalists they acquire a voice, convey personality and advocacy becomes stronger. It seems to work, just as Koo Stark once turned the tables by turning her camera on the paparazzi.

The other that struck me was Bail for Immigration Detainees which goes into one of the darkest recesses of UK taxpayer-funded public services and tries to get immigration or asylum detainees out on bail. Their descriptions of some of what is done in our name are pretty horrifying.

The obvious thought is to plug them in to each other so UK immigration detainees can photograph their condition so we're more aware of their suffering, and question whether its necessary. But no - not only are no cameras allowed in, but even diaries kept by detainees are confiscated. So the IND is switched on to the power of sousveillance, but only to the extent it tries to stamp it out. But, as Menwith Hill protester Lyndis Percy put it "you can't suppress the human spirit."

Wouldn't it be better if...we delivered public services in such as way that honest and transparent reporting of what it's really like at the receiving end was just a normal and constructive feature of life. Pictures, reports, diaries and accounts of life on the receiving end would reinfirce our pride in what is done in our name and on our behalves with our tax monies, and occasionally pointing to where things could be a bit better. Public servants, especially those entrusted with looking after the vulnerable or people rightly or wrongly deprived of their liberty, would be aware at all times that how they treat the public is a legitimate matter for public interest; mindful of this they would always act accordingly. "

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