More than half a million Rohingya refugees registered for biometric ID cards with UNHCR

UN refugee agency UNHCR has completed the biometric registration of more than 500,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in collaboration with Bangladesh authorities, providing many with an ID card for the first time, according to an agency announcement. The effort surpassed 270,000 registrations in May.

The biometric cards, which the agency says are fraud-proof, are being issued to all verified refugees over 12 years old, at all refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar. The registration is meant to provide accurate data on the refugees to help national authorities and humanitarian partners better understand the population’s needs and assist with program planning and aid targeting. The UNHCR’s Biometric Identity Management System (BIMS) records family relations as well as fingerprint and iris biometrics.

Biometric data collected during the exercise has allowed UNHCR to launch its Global Distribution Tool (GDT) in the first of the Cox’s Bazar refugee settlements, to speed up distribution, reduce fraud and overlap, and make sure people are not left out with biometric fingerprint and iris verification.

The registration cards also note that Myanmar is the refugees’ country of origin, to establish their legal right to a theoretical future return.

There are an estimated 900,000 Rohingya refugees living in crowded Cox’s Bazar settlements, 5,000 of whom are registered on average each day at seven different sites. More than 550 local staff are carrying out the registrations, and outreach teams made up of refugee volunteers explain the process and encourage people to register, with the goal of completing the process before the end of 2019.

The UNHCR is also appealing to the international community to continue supporting Rohingya refugees and Bangladesh, having raised just over a third of the $920 million needed for refugee response programs in 2019.

The UNHCR reached 7.2 million biometric registrations worldwide by the end of 2018, as it seeks to improve the documentation of refugees and the efficiency of aid delivery, but advocates have expressed concerns that the practice is not as transparent or minimal as it should be.

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