The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is looking to outfit Afghan refugees in Pakistan with new smart identity cards through a six-month Documentation Renewal and Information Verification Exercise (DRIVE). During the DRIVE, the UNHCR will be either renewing or updating the identity information of the country’s 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees.
The new cards will be valid for two years, and will serve as proof of identity when refugees try to gain access to essential goods and services. In that regard, the cards will be compatible with Pakistan’s existing authentication infrastructure, and will be able to store biometric data.
The UNHCR is planning to issue cards to those already holding Proof of Registration (PoR) cards. The last registration and identity verification initiative took place a full 10 years ago, so the new DRIVE campaign will be necessary to bring the UNHCR’s records into the modern era.
“Pakistan is a global leader in refugee protection and continues to pioneer efforts to find solutions and support inclusion for people forced out of their homes by a prolonged conflict,” said UNHCR APAC Regional Director Indrika Ratwatte. “This step will allow refugees to have better, faster and safer access to services, including schools, hospitals and banks.”
The UNHCR will limit the number of daily appointments and implement strict sanitary and social distancing measures to make sure that the DRIVE does not lead to the spread of COVID-19. The DRIVE will be carried out with a staff of 600 government and UNHCR employees, who will be working at 35 sites across the country. Male and female staff will be present at all locations.
The UNHCR has repeatedly argued that biometric identification is integral to relief efforts because it enables reliable identity verification in the absence of other forms of documentation. The organization has already handed out more than 500,000 biometric documents to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and is currently using iris biometrics to register refugees fleeing Syria, and to distribute financial aid to refugees living in Egypt.
April 23, 2021 – by Eric Weiss