The refugees are Syrian Mohammad A, 29, who was granted refugee status in Hanover, an Afghan woman, 37, who was lodged in Berlin and a woman from Cameroon, 25 in Stuttgart.
It has been legal for Germany to examine asylum seekers’ mobile phones who do not have valid identity documents such as passports since 2017.
But Berlin’s Society of Civil Rights (GFF) is arguing that this method was used too quickly and is a violation of the refugees’ human rights.
‘I didn’t know what exactly was happening, nobody had explained anything. But I was afraid to be deported, so I gave the mobile. It was as if I was handing over my whole life,’ he said in a statement released by the GFF,’ said one the claimants Mohammad A.
Mohammad’s asylum application was approved in 2015 but he still had to hand over his phone when his status was reassessed last year.
A GFF lawyer Lea Beckmann said: ‘The BAMF (Germany’s ministry for migration and refugees) is disregarding the strict constitutional rules by which the state must abide when accessing personal data.’
The BAMF said it was aware that checking mobile data was an intrusion and every case was determined by strict rules.
A spokesman said: ‘A mobile phone is often the only, or a very important, source to establish the identity and nationality of people entering Germany without a passport or identification documents.’
The World Refugee Council and other refugee rights groups have also spoken out against non-consensual data collection and phones being used for unethical surveillance.