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Biometric data collection avoided in Ukraine aid delivery over human rights concerns

Indian states instructed to gather biometrics of migrants
Biometric data collection avoided in Ukraine aid delivery over human rights concerns

From Ukraine to the Indian states of Manipur and Mizoram, the collection of biometric data for those seeking asylum raises privacy red flags. Agencies in Ukraine are not collecting biometrics for aid delivery, but states in India are doing so to identify people no longer allowed in the country.

Shifting away from biometric data collection in Ukraine aid responses

Many agencies involved in the humanitarian response in Ukraine have dropped the requirement to collect biometric data, according to an editorial for The New Humanitarian by Human Rights Watch Associate Crisis and Conflict Director Belkis Wille. A coalition of NGOs came together and told UN agencies that they will not collect biometrics as part of their response.

In the past decade, major UN agencies helping refugees and migrants have said they must collect biometric data like iris scans and fingerprints to rule out fraud and increase efficiency.

There are currently 79 UNHCR global operations that use biometrics to register refugees entering their system. UNHCR Jordan, for instance, collects iris scans for all people above the age of 5 with healthy eyes.

Those seeking refuge can use their iris scan to access monthly cash assistance. The biometric information is not shared with your country of origin or your resettlement country, but resettlement countries crossmatch their data with UNHCR data to confirm identities.

Digital literacy is high among Ukrainians, and many civil society groups have expressed discomfort at this level of data collection. Ukrainian data protection law also places limits on the collection of personal data.

Using digital ID methods in a time of crisis could lead to the data being improperly shared, stored, hacked, or leaked, Wille argues, and the decision in Ukraine demonstrates that you don’t need to collect biometric data to provide aid.

Officials working to deliver humanitarian aid in Ethiopia, meanwhile, have demanded biometrics collection in an effort to prevent systemic theft from the aid delivery system.

Indian government calls for biometric registration of ‘illegal migrants’

India’s federal government has requested the state governments of Manipur and Mizoram to implement biometric registration of illegal immigrants as the repressive military rule in Myanmar causes large-scale migration into the bordering Indian cities, according to The Hindu.

A June 22 letter from the Union Home ministry to the states and seen by The Hindu reminds the states that illegal migrants’ biometrics collection is scheduled to be completed by the end of September 2023.

On May 3rd, just days after the government’s initial call, ethnic violence in Manipur broke out, killing over 140 people and displacing over 54,000 people across the state. And on June 30, Manipur’s chief minister blamed illegal migrants from Myanmar for the violence in a television interview.

Manipur MP Rajkumar Imo Singh tweeted a reminder of the approaching deadline on July 10th, stating that 2,500 “illegal migrants” had been identified so far.

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