More than a quarter million Rohingya refugees have legal ID after biometric registration

More than 270,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have been biometrically registered and received identity cards, the first time many of them have had legal identification, through a UNHCR and government of Bangladesh program.

UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said in a briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva that the organizations have used the Biometric Identity Management System (BIMS) to register 270,348 out of more than 900,000 refugees in crowded settlements in the Cox’s Bazar district. After registering their fingerprints and iris scans, refugees receive a photo-ID card with biographic information, indicating Myanmar as their country of origin. More than 450 staff at six locations are registering over 4,000 refugees a day, in hopes of completing the registration process this year.

The number of people registered under the program has doubled since late-March. Myanmar’s government is also planning to provide biometric national registration cards to internally displaced persons across the country.

The cards, available for all refugees over the age of 12, are intended to facilitate their eventual return to the country, where their citizenship was stripped in a 1982 legal change. Authorities are also hopeful that if people are separated in the natural-disaster prone area, the ID cards will help them reunite.

To that end, they engage with members of the refugee community, including imams, elders, and teachers, to explain the benefits of registration and respond to questions and concerns, according to the announcement.

A Joint Response Plan (JRP) launched in February is seeking $920 million to serve the humanitarian needs of the refugees and host communities in 2019, but the JRP is under 18 percent funded approaching the half-way point of the year.

The UNHCR and the Ugandan government completed a similarly daunting registration campaign for over a million refugees last year.

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