Tuesday, June 21, 2016

UNHCR’s new refugee card has holograms, bar codes

A sample of the new UNHCR card.

KUALA LUMPUR: A new identity card issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) can be verified with a smartphone.

The verification can be done with any Android or iPhone via the Secure Quick Response (SQR) code.

The new card includes a number of enhanced security features, including 3D holograms and bar codes.

It is supported by enhanced biometric data collection at the UNHCR office.

“The card we started using today probably has highest level of inte­grity of any card we use globally,” said UNHCR Malaysia representative Richard Towle during the card’s launching yesterday.

He hoped the card would see a new level of cooperation between UNHCR and the Government.

All newly-registered refugees will receive the new card. Old cardhol­ders will migrate to it when their card renewal date comes up. A card is valid for one to three years.

The first card was issued yesterday in front of officials from go­vernment agencies and media outlets.

Towle stressed that the card was issued on the basis of need.

“They have to be able to show us that they have a real need for protection against persecution if they go home,” he said.

As of last month, there were 151,560 refugees and asylum seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia.

More than 90% of them are from Myanmar while the rest are from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine and Iran.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has begun issuing new identification cards with enhanced security features for refugees in Malaysia in a bid to combat identity fraud and the use of counterfeit documentation.

UNHCR’s representative to Malaysia, Richard Towle, told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday that the new cards come with a card verification application and advanced features such as 3D holograms and barcodes and a large Secure Quick Response (SQR) code.

"The card [is] also supported by an enhanced biometric data collection at the UNHCR office," he said.

"UNHCR has launched an application named UNHCR VERIFY-MY, to enable law enforcement authorities or others engaged in UNHCR's protection and assistance work to scan the SQR and verify a card's authenticity," he added.

The introduction of the cards comes at a time when several media reports have exposed syndicates offering fake UNHCR cards to illegal immigrants in Malaysia, especially those from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia.

The syndicates were reportedly operating in capital Kuala Lumpur and other major cities across the country, selling fake cards for up to 170 ringgit ($42) each.

Malaysia currently hosts one of the largest urban refugee populations in the world.

As of 2014, some 146,020 refugees and asylum seekers had been registered with the UNHCR in Malaysia, of which the vast majority -- 135,000 -- are from Myanmar.

The vast majority of them are ethnic Chin, Rohingya and other Myanmar Muslims.

Malaysia had stressed its unwillingness to become party to the UN’s 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.

The country has remained steadfast against inking the convention, while expressing its commitment to continue extending assistance to refugees from the Middle East and the Rohingya Muslim minority who fled Myanmar.