The growing importance of biometric technology to the UN’s refugee agency was increasingly prominent at last week’s 68th Executive Committee Meeting of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Commenting on Botswana’s work to implement the UNHCR’s Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, that country’s delegate noted that the Botswana government has issued almost a thousand biometric identity cards, covering a substantial proportion of its population of about 3,500 refugees and asylum seekers. “It was heartening to note how such a seemingly low key initiative could ignite smiles, and obvious self-esteem amongst those who received the biometric cards,” the delegate said.
Bangladesh’s ambassador, meanwhile, asserted that government authorities there have also begun the biometric registration of all refugees in his country, with almost half a million Rohingya Muslims having fled violent persecution in neighboring Myanmar in September alone. That effort comes after the head of the UNHCR called for Bangladeshi authorities to implement biometric registration of refugees this summer as what some are now calling a genocide intensified in Myanmar.
While the UN has been increasingly vocal in its support for the biometric registration of displaced persons, it appears that the member states that are having to deal with refugee populations most directly are also increasingly advocating for the technology. It isn’t a cure-all, certainly — both countries’ delegates called for greater political efforts in managing and mitigating their respective refugee crises — but it appears that the technology is increasingly appreciated by government authorities and refugees alike.
October 10, 2017 – by Alex Perala