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Biometrics secure UNHCR direct cash payments to Ukrainian refugees

Biometrics secure UNHCR direct cash payments to Ukrainian refugees

With biometrics playing a pivotal role in the processing of Ukrainian refugees fleeing war, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) showcased how the technology can enroll them for direct cash payments to meet their necessities in an example of how biometrics can aid asylum seekers.

A video from the UN agency shows recipients in Warsaw, Poland lining up at a cash assistance enrollment center. From there, they receive a text message that is verified by staff, and then further processed at an interview for personal information where they are registered with biometric data. A fingerprint scan is shown in the video. From there, proof of enrollment is created, which produces a PIN to collect cash at an ATM after the process.

The agency also began experimenting with using only iris biometrics for cash assistance in 2020 in some countries to make the process contactless.

Andrew Hopkins, the chief of digital identity and registration at the UNHCR, says, “The program is designed to target the most vulnerable families coming in the country. It’s really a much appreciated and efficient way of providing assistance at scale to populations in need.”

The video says each household will receive $590 a month, with interviewed refugees in the video saying the money would go toward purchasing essentials like food and medicines. Hopkins says the data shows most refugees are spending on food.

UNHCR estimates that $76 million a month in direct monthly cash payments will be given to refugees fleeing Ukraine, with the program operating in parts of Ukraine as well as Poland, Slovakia and Moldova.

The UNHCR and Pakistan’s government completed a biometric registration drive for Afghan refugees earlier this year.

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