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Technology is never neutral. As every aspect of our lives is transformed by apps, AI and other tech, who (or what) is shaping the role of technology in the refugee protection system? This panel will explore the opportunities and new challenges arising: Can artificial intelligence make refugee status determination more efficient and less biased? Can blockchain provide ‘digital identities’ and promote financial inclusion of displaced people? Who’s collecting what data, who’s accountable and how?

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About the speakers

Tey El-Rjula is an author, speaker and tech entrepreneur who is pioneering the use of blockchain to break financial and identity barriers. Born to Syrian parents in Kuwait, he became ‘invisible’ at the age of five when his birth certificate was lost due to the war in Kuwait. His book, The Invisible Son (2020), tells the story of his journey through Lebanon, Dubai, Amsterdam, and five refugee camps, forging his life’s mission: ‘turning invisible people into invincible ones’. He founded a tech-for-good company leveraging blockchain technology to build electronic legal identity, authentication and trust service tools for governments, financial institutions and NGOs. A passionate advocate for the potential of technology to transform billions of lives, he holds an MSc in Digital Currencies and Blockchain Technology from the University of Nicosia.

Fleur Johns is Professor in the Faculty of Law at UNSW Sydney working in international law and legal theory. Commencing in 2021, she is also an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and, in 2020-2021, a Visiting Professor at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Her current research focuses on changing modes of lawful relation and practice emerging in the context of technological change. She is presently leading an Australian Research Council-funded project, 'Data Science in Humanitarianism: Confronting Novel Law and Policy Challenges' (with Wayne Wobcke, UNSW Computer Science). In 2019-20, she pursued this research as a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. She has previously held visiting appointments in Europe, the UK and Canada and currently serves on editorial boards in the US, the UK and Australia, including that of the American Journal of International Law. Her publications include: The Mekong: A Socio-legal Approach to River Basin Development (Routledge, 2016, with Boer, Hirsch, Saul and Scurrah); Non-Legality in International Law: Unruly Law (Cambridge, 2013); Events: The Force of International Law (Routledge, 2011, with Joyce and Pahuja); and International Legal Personality (Ashgate, 2010). She is a graduate of Melbourne University (BA, LLB (Hons)) and Harvard University (LLM, SJD; Menzies Scholar; Laylin Prize).

Petra Molnar is a lawyer and researcher specialising in technology, migration, and human rights, and the Associate Director of the Refugee Law Laboratory. She is currently working on a project with EDRi (European Digital Rights) looking at the impacts of migration control technologies on the lives of people on the move in Greece and the Mediterranean corridor, as well as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the surveillance of marginalised groups. She also works on issues around immigration detention, health and human rights, gender-based violence, and the politics of refugees, immigration, and international law. Her work has appeared in numerous academic publications and the popular press, including the New York Times. Petra is also the co-author of ‘Bots at the Gate,’ an internationally recognized report on the human rights impacts of automated decision-making in immigration and refugee systems.

Roya Pakzad is the Founder and Director of Taraaz, a research and advocacy organisation working at the intersection of technology and human rights. She is also an affiliated scholar at UC Berkeley’s CITRIS Policy Lab. Previously, she served as a Research Associate and Project Leader in Technology and Human Rights at Stanford University’s Global Digital Policy Incubator (GDPi). She also worked with Stanford’s program in Iranian Studies on the role of information and communication technologies and human rights in Iran. In 2019, she was a resident fellow on Artificial Intelligence at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center. Prior to entering the human rights field, she was an electrical engineer at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). She holds degrees from Shahid Beheshti University in Iran (BSc in Electrical Engineering), the University of Southern California (MSc in Electrical Engineering) and Columbia University (MA in Human Rights Studies). She was born and raised in Tehran, Iran and currently lives in Santa Cruz, California.

Panel Chair, Daniel Howden, is the Managing Director of Lighthouse Reports, an award-winning non-profit media house focused on corruption, conflict and migration. He has been a foreign correspondent for the Economist, the Guardian and the Independent. He is a migration expert, Visiting Fellow at Oxford's Refugee Studies Centre and was Senior Editor at Refugees Deeply. He has twice been winner of the Migration Media Award, nominee at the True Stories Award, and a finalist at the Online Journalism Awards.


The Kaldor Centre plays a vital role in developing legal, sustainable and humane solutions for displaced people around the world.