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UNHCR working with Ecuador to support issuance of biometrics-based ID cards to refugees


Ecuador’s government is providing its refugee population with Ecuadorian ID cards to facilitate access to jobs, banking, and other services by entering their personal data, including fingerprints, into the country’s Civil Registry.

The National Assembly unanimously passed a Human Mobility Law in 2017, which among other things granted legal status to refugees, and the UNHCR has worked with Ecuador’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility and its civil registry to support the issuance of ID cards to refugees. There are more than 61,000 refugees in Ecuador, as of the end of March, the most of any Latin American country, the UNHCR reports. Approximately 97 percent of them have come from neighbouring Columbia, displaced by violence there.

More than 1,100 refugees have received ID cards so far, after registering at service centers in the capital Quito, the port city of Guayaquil, or Andean city Cuenca. UNHCR local partner Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) is supporting travel to the registration centers for refugees living in remote areas, and has helped more than 220 refugees obtain ID cards despite living outside Ecuador’s main cities.

The UNHCR is supporting several other biometric refugee registration programs around the world, such as a massive effort in Uganda.

Ecuador has reportedly achieved a significant decrease in its crime rate by deploying facial recognition and other surveillance technology from China.

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