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Pakistan gives 1M Afghan refugees biometric IDs for government services

Pakistan gives 1M Afghan refugees biometric IDs for government services

More than a million Afghan refugees who reside in Pakistan are expected to find it easier and more convenient accessing certain public services now that the government in Islamabad has issued them ID cards with embedded biometrics.

According to a report by The News, the cards were issued after a month of verifying the identity of applicants. It will help the bearers access education, health and financial services and other services.

The ID is embedded with a microchip containing the biometric data of its holder, and will be valid until June 2023. The program is part of the Documentation Renewal and Information Verification Exercise (DRIVE) – a framework that debuted last year with the support of the United Nations Refugee Agency and the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA).

Biometric registration for the ID was completed last year and about 100,000 cards had been issued as of September. Authorities expect up to 1.4 million ID cards to be issued to Afghan refugees.

The cards issued to refugees is integrated with all systems in Pakistan, allowing refugees the opportunity, just like Pakistani citizens, to have their identity authenticated when they seek access to services, the report explains.

Muhammad Saleem Khan, Pakistan’s chief commissioner for Afghan refugees, says the program is necessary to verify the refugees’ identities. Islamabad needed to update information about their needs and help them gain easier and safer access to important services. The official says that ID verification had not taken place for 10 years.

“Close to 1 million smart identity cards have been issued to date with validity until June 30, 2023, with children under the age of five included in their parents’ cards… Detailed information about the refugees’ socioeconomic circumstances will allow us to help them for self-reliance in Pakistan and offer more tailored support to those willing to return as conditions in Afghanistan allow,” Saleem Khan told The News.

The official also disclosed that the verification process was possible thanks to the efforts of the Pakistani government and UN Human Rights Commission staff, who moved around refugee sites registering them as part of mobile caravans.

About 40 verification points, he added, were used in the program which also included a “sensitization campaign” which informed the refugees how important the card is and the modalities for getting verified in order to be issued the biometric card.

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