UNHCR update shows progress toward biometric refugee registration commitment

UNHCR-BIMS-Thailand

The UNHCR has expanded its use of biometrics for food distribution to over 100 sites across eight countries, and registered an additional 2.4 million refugees with biometrics in 2018, according to a newly published a report on “Progress toward implementing the ‘grand bargain’ commitments.”

One of the commitments is to extend biometric refugee registration to 75 countries by 2020, as part of an effort to reduce duplication and management costs. The refugee agency says it is on track, having increased its operational deployments by 10 to 62 countries in 2018. The UNHCR says 8 out of 10 registered refugees over the age of five now has a biometrics-backed identity. The agency also cites its collaboration with the WFP to improve data flows and efficiencies under a data sharing addendum to the memorandum of understanding between the agencies.

The UNHCR has also committed to apply technology and innovation to reduce the costs associated with delivering assistance.

The use of biometrics for food distribution is intended to improve the integrity of distribution data and controls to ensure the access of rightful beneficiaries. Critics have questions the extent to which consent for biometric data use is even possible in such a setting, however.

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