Thursday, August 27, 2015

UNHCR launches biometrics system for Myanmar refugees

UNHCR biometrics identify 110,000 Myanmar refugees in Thailand The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has revealed details of a biometric system it has deployed in Thailand to register Myanmar refugees. The system has created biometric records for nearly 110,000 refugees since January, says the UN body, enabling it to also issue smart ID cards. UNHCR's new biometrics identity management system (BIMS), developed in cooperation with Accenture, is designed for registering and verifying the identities of displaced persons around the world. 

The system captures and stores fingerprints, iris data and facial images of individuals, providing those who are often undocumented with their only personal identity record. BIMS leverages the Unique Identity Service Platform (UISP), a software offering developed by Accenture, which works in conjunction with UNHCR’s existing case management system. "Biometrics will help refugees in the future as it ensures that once they've been through the system and enrolled with their fingerprints and irises, we'll always know who they are," said Sam Jefferies, UNHCR's Associate Biometrics Deployment Officer in Geneva. "If they lose their documentation, they can always come back to us." Bringing staff and technology to some of Thailand's most remote areas proved to be a logistical challenge. It involved transporting satellite equipment to camps with no phone or internet access, and moving delicate gear and over 75 UNHCR staff across rivers and over hundreds of kilometres of winding mountain roads along the Thai-Myanmar border in the span of 13 weeks. 

At the end of the verification exercise in Thailand, the refugees each received a smart card with their family's bio-data and photographs – securely encrypted and retrievable with UNHCR card readers even in remote places with no internet access. "With these cards we don't need to travel around with heavy equipment like a server," said UNHCR Representative Girard. "In the event of voluntary return, our teams in Myanmar will have a card reader in their backpack when they visit the field to document what has happened to returnees, and if they have received reintegration assistance. We will also pass on that information to other humanitarian actors and the authorities on the ground so that they can plan and deliver services in places where they are needed." John Smith, a refugee who works for the Karen Refugee Committee in Tham Hin camp in Ratchaburi province, said, "This verification is very important for me and for others who are refugees. 

The card can be decisive for our life in the future. If we have a chance to go back [to Myanmar], it will be good evidence for us to show to UNHCR or the Thai government. I tell the others to keep their smart card in a safe place, with their most precious things." - See more at: