Charities protest Capita AGM over controversial government GPS tracking contract

  • Campaigners appearing today outside Capita PLC’s Annual General Meeting ask shareholders of the outsourcing company to confront the grave human rights implications of Capita’s relationship with the Home Office.
  • Capita PLC holds a £114m contract to help the Home Office track the location of non-British citizens 24/7 using GPS ankle tags and portable fingerprint scanners – a practice shown to cause physical and mental harm.
  • Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), Migrants Organise and Privacy International (PI) have launched a campaign challenging Capita’s Managing Director for Electronic Monitoring to watch and respond to testimonies of people fitted with GPS trackers by Capita. 

Campaigners assembled outside Capita PLC’s Annual General Meeting in the City of London today are contesting the outsourcing company’s £114m contract to deliver 24/7 GPS monitoring services, used by the Home Office to surveil people without British citizenship. 

Capita shareholders were greeted by a circling mobile billboard van and leaflets informing AGM attendees of the grave human rights and health risks associated with Capita’s GPS tracking contract. Charities Bail for Immigration Detainees, Migrants Organise and Privacy International called for Capita’s Managing Director for Electronic Monitoring to watch and respond to recorded testimonies from people fitted by Capita employees with 24/7 surveillance devices.

Capita’s delivery of GPS tracking services allows the Home Office to monitor the location of non-British citizens as part of its hostile environment immigration policy. The Home Office’s own equality impact assessment of the Hostile Environment policy admits that measures may “disproportionately impact people of colour”.

People who are tracked are unlikely to be aware of what data is collected, how long it’s stored for, what it’s used for and who it’s shared with. Research has found that the use of GPS tracking causes a number of debilitating and harmful outcomes for individuals including, but not limited, to increasing social isolation and stigma; a detrimental impact upon people’s mental health, in particular leading to anxiety, stress, depression and PTSD; disruptive and undermining impact upon interpersonal and familial relationships, such as the ability to care for children; and physical pain or discomfort with varying levels of severity. The Home Office is currently under investigation by the Information Commissioner (ICO) following a complaint by Privacy International regarding the scheme’s data protection and human rights implications.

While Capita’s public statements present the company as a staunch supporter of human rights and anti-racism, campaigners are keen to set the record straight for shareholders and the public.

Nasrin Warsame, Policy & Research Co-ordinator at Bail for Immigration Detainees said “Just a few years ago, like many companies, Capita was jumping to espouse values of anti-racism and justice, yet they facilitate racialised surveillance by tracking non-British people – including asylum seekers and people born & raised in the UK. GPS tracking is a punitive and inhumane practice that causes mental and physical harm for the wearer & damages social relationships with family and the community. We urge Capita to take a principled stance and make these harmful policies obsolete.”

Mallika Balakrishnan, Digital Organiser at Migrants Organise said “The digital GPS tracking Capita provides to the Home Office is a direct extension of the ‘physical’ hostile environment our members face every day: disproportionate and cruel by design. Instead of lining the pockets of private companies like Capita, the government should be putting resources towards supporting everyone in this country to lead lives in conditions of dignity— not surveillance.”

Harmit Kambo, Campaigns Director at Privacy International said “Capita PLC claims to be a purpose-driven business, but what kind of a purpose is subjecting non-British citizens to 24-hour surveillance? It’s punitive, controlling, unnecessary, and has severe human rights implications – the government is already under investigation and facing various legal claims. Companies should not be blindly profiting from such hostile policies. Last year we saw charter airlines refusing to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda – we call on Capita and its shareholders to follow suit and prioritise the dignity of vulnerable people over profit.”

Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) is an independent charity that exists to end immigration detention in the UK. BID aims to end immigration detention in the UK through the provision of legal advice, information and representation alongside research, policy advocacy and strategic litigation.

Migrants Organise is an award-winning, grassroots platform where migrants connect, build common ground, and organise for dignity and justice for all. Migrants Organise is part of the Abolish Reporting campaign, which demands an end to immigration surveillance. 

Privacy International (PI) is a London-based non-profit, non-governmental organisation that researches and advocates globally against government and corporate abuses of data and technology. It exposes harm and abuses, mobilises allies globally, campaigns with the public for solutions, and pressures companies and governments to change.