Government and UNHCR complete huge biometric refugee registration program in Uganda

A countrywide biometric identity verification program for more than a million asylum-seekers and refugees in Uganda has been completed by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and UN Refugee Agency UNHCR.

Six teams verified and biometrically enrolled 1.1 million people out of an initial target group of 1.4 million over an eight-month period, concluding when operations wrapped up at the two final locations, Bidibidi refugee settlement and Kamapala, on October 24. UNHCR and the World Food Programme (WFP) set up 68 verification sites, where more than 400 staff were involved in the operation.

The program was launched in March by Ugandan Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filipo Grandi. At the time, it was perceived to be facing scale and funding challenges. The program registered 75 percent of the target population which had sought asylum in Uganda prior to the launch of the program, while some cases were closed by the spontaneous return of people to their countries of origin or death, according to the announcement.

The agencies say that as in any refugee verification program, the registration resulted in a reduction in numbers, with factors including no-shows and movement within the country and to other countries. They also report there were cases of duplicate registrations during the height of the emergency influx of people fleeing violence in South Sudan, which were identified and removed from the database.

The groups laud the efforts of the settlement administration, government, and NGO partners, as well as the refugees themselves, who reportedly helped with communication to ensure a good turn-out.

As it was completed in each settlement, the biometric data was used to verify the identity of those receiving assistance to mitigate the risk of fraud. The new registration systems will be used to register new arrivals and update refugee population changes in Uganda by the end of the year, to strengthen the management of refugee programs and improve the planning and implementation of protection and assistance activities.

Veridos recently announced a partnership with Uganda’s government to build an identity document factory in the country, making the country’s national ID scheme more cost-efficient and supplying more than 100 high-skill jobs.

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