The United Nations’ refugee agency continues to roll outs its new biometric identity cards with a new deployment in South Soudan. In collaboration with the South Soudan Commission for Refugee Affairs (CRA), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has distributed 3400 such cards to refugees in the Western Equatoria state in July alone.
The ID cards were issued following a two-week biometric registration that saw UNHCR collecting data including fingerprints and photographs from refugees at various settlements. Now, with the ID cards in place, not only do the refugees have a firm and secure ID reference, but UNHCR and other interested authorities have a reliable means by which to track the refugee population. For example, the ID cards have helped the UNHCR to realize that the refugee population in Western Equatoria has recently decreased, from 10,707 to 8,921. Quoted in a Gurtong article, UNHCR Assistant Representative on Protection in South Sudan Isabelle Misic explained, “After so many years, it is important that we have updated records on their family composition, births, deaths and marriages and we know the real needs of the sick, elderly and other vulnerable people.”
The UNHCR’s biometric ID system is thus a valuable new tool for humanitarian workers, and it’s clear why the agency is keen to see it spread as quickly as possible; it was only last month that the agency announced the first complete rollout of the system in Thailand, having previously conducted a pilot project in Malawi. While biometric data collection is in some cases viewed with suspicion when deployed across large populations, in the case of the UNHCR’s use of this technology, the benefits are clear and unarguably valuable.
August 4, 2015 – by Alex Perala