Zaki waited outside the Manchester UKVCAS offices. He had arrived 30 minutes early to his visa appointment and they would not let him wait inside. He took out his phone and shielded it from the rain to double check that he has all the documents the home office said he should bring. He also made sure that he had deleted all the Whatsapp conversations he has had with his friends. He had never had to worry what is on his phone before applying for his resettlement visas but ever since the new contact tracing app was introduced he has felt that the government can see all his conversations (online and offline).
His friend told him he should download the contact tracing app saying, “What if they ask you if you have downloaded it? They might think that you do not listen to the government if you have not downloaded it! They will think you do not care for the health of the British people”. So last night he deleted apps that took up space on his phone, like the English dictionary app, to make space for the app. He really hopes that they can’t figure out that he only downloaded it yesterday. He did consider downloading it earlier but he has flat mates with different refugee and asylum seeking issues and he did not know how much data it would be gathering about him and everyone. Sure they say that only the NHS would see the data but every GP appointment they ask him how long he has been living in the UK so surely the government is connecting the dots.
It is time to go in now. He takes a deep breath and walks in. He sits in the waiting room waiting for his number to come up. He keeps reminding himself to stay calm and repeating in his head “Zaki, you have followed all the rules, you have all the paperwork, you downloaded the app, you are a good citizen”.
His number appears on the screen and he is asked to go to booth number 6, he sits down and the UKVCAS officer smiles at him and asks him to hand over his paperwork. She goes through the papers and confirms that he has all the paperwork. Just when Zaki thought it was all done she says to him, “As you know, we are not the home office we just process the paperwork and so we do not do any interviews. But we have been asked by the home office to ask you if you have been abiding by the social distancing measures.”
Zaki responded saying: “Yes, Yes I have. I have not been going out except to buy food and I do not meet with friends outside my household”
She nodded her head and said: “OK that is it from our end. You can go now”. Just as he was getting up she said: “Oh just quickly, have you downloaded and used the contact tracing app?”
This fiction was written by a HCI researcher but is published anonymously due to the author’s concerns that it might adversely impact their own immigration status.