SAINT VINCENT, GRENADINE ISLANDS — The controversy erupted on Twitter even as the 32,000-foot-high plume of smoke from Saint Vincent’s La Soufrière volcano was still rising in the sky. The firestorm on American social media platforms over reports that only those vaccinated against COVID-19 would be allowed to evacuate the eastern Caribbean island sheds light on the architects of the biosecurity state who have descended on Saint Vincent & the Grenadines (SVG) to explore the limits of mandatory public health protocols in the midst of a natural disaster now projected to “last months.”
Global organizations, NGOs, and members of the scientific community are coordinating emergency response efforts in Saint Vincent. Power outages, no clean water, and continued volcanic eruptions have rendered parts of the island virtually uninhabitable, plunging Vincentians who have managed to escape into a condition of quasi-statelessness where notions of human rights and civil liberties become malleable.
“Refugees are in a position of complete vulnerability,” says Dr. Diego Garcia Ricci, from the Ibero-American University in Mexico City, speaking to MintPress. The constitutional law professor and data privacy expert addressed some of the issues surrounding the plight of refugees as biometric data like retinal scans, fingerprinting and even gender, become a pillar of identity documentation and incipient travel requirements in the wake of the pandemic. “While biometrics can be useful for identification purposes, mistakes do happen,” Garcia Ricci warns.
Most at risk from these mistakes, abuse and racial profiling arising out of biometric digital identity systems are those whose need for the ‘state’ is made indispensable by virtue of being rendered stateless. Free agents with no agency are prime targets for global entities like the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which claims to speak for close to 80 million forcibly displaced people.
Vincentians who are unable or refuse to leave the island are likely to be reclassified as “internally displaced persons” or IDPs, another kind of refugee as defined by the UNHCR. Such classifications are part of a vast structure of laws and guidelines enshrined in the archives of supranational state entities like the European Commission and the United Nations, based on the Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees,