Over half a million Rohingyas get identity documents: UNHCR


More than 500,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar were jointly registered by the Bangladesh authorities and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as of Wednesday, reports news agency UNB.

For most of these Rohingyas, it is the first time they have a proof of their identity, a secure identity card.

The biometric, fraud-proof cards are being issued jointly by Bangladeshi authorities and UNHCR to all verified refugees above 12 years old.

This comprehensive registration - being simultaneously carried out in all refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar - is meant to ensure the accuracy of data on refugees in Bangladesh, giving national authorities and humanitarian partners a better understanding of the population and their needs, UNHCR said on Thursday.

Accurate data will help agencies in their programme planning and be able to target assistance where it is needed most, particularly for people with specific needs, such as women and children taking care of their families and people with disabilities, it said.

Last week, using the biometric data collected during this registration exercise, UNHCR launched the Global Distribution Tool (GDT) in the first of the refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar.

Through verification of fingerprints or iris scans, this tool speeds up distributions and can be used by partners to ensure that there is no overlap in assistance, and to ensure that nobody is left out.

It continues to be rolled out in more settlements in the coming weeks.

The new registration cards indicate that Myanmar is the country of origin, a critical element in establishing and safeguarding the rights of Rohingya refugees to return to their homes in Myanmar, if and when they decide the time is right for them to do so.

An estimated 900,000 Rohingya refugees live in crowded settlements in Cox’s Bazar, with over 740,000 thought to have fled from Myanmar since August 2017.

The registration exercise, currently under way, began in June 2018.

On average, some 5,000 refugees are being registered daily at seven different sites within the settlements.

More than 550 local staff have been recruited to work on the exercise with the goal of completing the registration process during the last quarter of 2019.

UNHCR’s Biometric Identity Management System (BIMS) captures biometric data, including fingerprints and iris scans, which secure each refugee’s unique identity as well as other important information such as family links.

Both UNHCR and the Bangladeshi authorities meet regularly with the refugee community, including leaders such as elected community representatives, imams, elders and teachers, to explain the benefits of registration and respond to questions and concerns.

Outreach teams composed of refugee volunteers also go into the community to explain the registration process and encourage people to register.