Why Are Migrants Becoming AI Test Subjects? With Petra Molnar

June 20, 2024

Climate change, political instability, hunger. These are just some of the forces behind an unprecedented refugee crisis that’s expected to include over a billion people by 2050. In response to this growing crisis, wealthy governments like the US and the EU are employing novel AI and surveillance technologies to slow the influx of migrants at their borders. But will this rollout stop at the border?

In this episode, Tristan and Aza sit down with Petra Molnar to discuss how borders have become a proving ground for the sharpest edges of technology, and especially AI. Petra is an immigration lawyer and co-creator of the Migration and Technology Monitor. Her new book is “The Walls Have Eyes: Surviving Migration in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.”


Petra Molnar is a lawyer and anthropologist specializing in migration and human rights. She has been working in migrant justice since 2008, first as a settlement worker and community organizer, and now as a researcher and lawyer. She writes about digital border technologies, immigration detention, health and human rights, gender-based violence, as well as the politics of refugee, immigration, and international law.

Petra has worked all over the world including Jordan, Turkey, Philippines, Kenya, Colombia, Canada, Palestine, and various parts of Europe. She is the co-creator of the Migration and Technology Monitor, a collective of civil society, journalists, academics, and filmmakers interrogating technological experiments on people crossing borders. She is the Associate Director of the Refugee Law Lab at York University and a Faculty Associate (and former Fellow) at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.

Her work has been widely featured in The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Time Magazine, and the New York Times, among others, and she is frequently quoted in international and local media as well as various policy briefings at the national and international level. Petra’s first book, The Walls Have Eyes: Surviving Migration in The Age of Artificial Intelligence, is published with The New Press in 2024.

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