Conference proposes biometrics-based documentation for Central African Republic refugees
Six countries hosting forcibly displaced persons from the Central African Republic (CAR) have agreed to takes steps aimed at issuing biometric cards and other identity documents for the hundreds of thousands of CAR refugees they are hosting on their territories. They believe introducing biometrics-based documentation systems will make sure the refugees are easily and conveniently identified when the need arises.
This is one of the resolutions taken at an international conference which Cameroon hosted recently with the major goal being to adopt a comprehensive regional mechanism intended to proffer more sustainable solutions to the refugee crisis.
According to figures from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are about 700,000 CAR refugees spread across Cameroon, Chad, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and South Sudan. Cameroon is host to almost half of this number.
In what was dubbed ‘The Yaounde Declaration,’ participants at the conference resolved to “integrate refugee registration and documentation in national registration systems, including biometric systems in accordance with applicable data protection regulations, to facilitate the issuance of civil documentation as well as identity and travel documents by government agencies, and to ensure their recognition by private and public services including financial institutions.”
The host countries also agreed to “establish primary or secondary civil registry services (including mobile services) in areas where refugees, asylum-seekers, returnees and internally displaced persons are hosted and ensure their effective access to these services as well as the recognition of their refugee identity cards by all public and private services, including financial institutions.”
Stéphane Dogbala-de-Callot, a CAR refugee resident in Yaounde, who spoke to Biometric Update at the close of conference, lauded this resolution. He said seeing biometric refugee cards issued them has always been their desire since the current ones they hold are of low quality and are not well recognized.
“One of the biggest problems we have is that of documentation. Our refugee cards are not sufficiently recognized by some Cameroonian authorities. The cards are not even biometric. So, we are pleading with the government of Cameroon to see how it can begin issuing us biometric refugee cards that will be fully recognized across the national territory,” said Dogbala-de-Callot.
Apart from ID issues, the Yaounde confab, which was jointly organized by the government of Cameroon and the UNHCR, also made recommendations on a wide range of areas which if implemented, will go a long way in leveraging the livelihoods of the CAR refugees and even internally displaced persons within the country.
The conference was attended, among others, by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi; representatives from the host nations of forcibly displaced persons from CAR; heads of African regional economic communities; senior officials of international organizations; all United Nations System Regional Officers for West and Central Africa; donors; humanitarian and development partners; heads of diplomatic missions and consular posts accredited to Cameroon, as well as leaders of civil society groups.