Over half a million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have now received biometric identity documents, the United Nations’ refugee agency has announced. Speaking at a press conference at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic called the biometric identity cards “fraud-proof”, and explained that they have been jointly issued by UNHCR and Bangladeshi authorities to displaced individuals over the age of 12.
The refugees have fled in large numbers to Bangladesh from neighboring Myanmar over the last two years due to genocidal attacks against the ethnic minority group. The crisis proved to be a major test case for the UNHCR’s growing interest in biometric identification technologies, which the agency has seen as a means of establishing more reliable ID for vulnerable populations that often lack official government-issued documentation.
Now, reaching the half-million mark suggests rapid progress on the UNHCR’s part, with the agency having just announced that it had registered a quarter million Rohingya refugees in May of this year. What’s more, the agency says that last week saw the launch of a ‘Global Distribution Tool (GDT)’ that uses fingerprint- and iris-based biometric identity verification to speed up the distribution of aid and to ensure that there isn’t overlap in the provision of such assistance.
“This comprehensive registration being simultaneously carried out in all refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar – is meant to ensure the accuracy of data on refugees in Bangladesh, giving national authorities and humanitarian partners a better understanding of the population and their needs,” explained Mahecic. “Accurate data will help agencies in their programme planning and be able to target assistance where it is needed most, particularly for people with specific needs, such as women and children taking care of their families and people with disabilities.”
August 14, 2019 – by Alex Perala