IriTech’s Iris Recognition to Secure Refugee’s Identities

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) with its primary mission to protect the rights of the refugees has been rolling out a breakthrough Biometric Identity Management system (BIMS) to ensure that the right people receive assistance wherever and whenever they need it. IriTech is proud to be part of this project providing iris scanner since the beginning in 2015.

UNHCR Thailand Refugee Iris recognition

IriTech’s iris scanner was being used to register refugees in a Thailand camp

According to UNHCR, we are witnessing the highest number of displacement ever since. Around 65.6 million people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution which results in a remarkable 22.5 million refugees as of June 2017. Most of them have lost their identity documents and been unable to access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.

The BIMS is a centralized system which allows UNHCR operators in 125 countries to quickly and accurately register and verify forcibly displaced people using fingerprint, facial and iris recognition. Re-establishing and preserving identities is a key to ensure protection and solutions for refugees and biometrics make sure that their personal identities cannot be lost, duplicated or subject to fraud or identity theft.

IriTech’s binocular iris scanner BK 2121U with its durability to be able to withstand rugged field conditions such as extreme heat, dust and humidity, capability of working continuously and being user friendly has been chosen to test in Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi. The piloting with 17,000 refugees has proved that the biometric system helped strengthen the integrity of existing processes and significantly improve efficiency. After a further intensive testing in Thailand with an average of 3,000 enrollments a day, UNHCR decided to globally roll out the system.

In accordance to UNHCR Projected Global Resettlement Needs 2018, BIMS is currently deployed to 24 countries and UNHCR will continue to expand its biometric coverage to reach a target of 75 operations using biometric registration by 2020. Africa remains the region with highest projected resettlement needs with Uganda hosting almost half of the African refugees which are equivalent to more than 1 million people as of Dec 2017. Currently, the refugee management in Uganda is still manually which has led to many problems.

Recent news has reported that Ugandan authorities are investigating allegations of widespread fraud in its refugee aid programmer and human trafficking issues. Ugandan government itself is also being suspected for inflating refugee figures in order to attract more aids which are then syphoned off by corrupt officials and extorting money from newly-arrived refugees, insisting on payment before providing the free registration service that allows access to aid. There is an obvious and urgent need for the implementation of an UN-controlled biometric system of refugee identification in the country. At the same time in January 2018, UNHCR also announced a new tender that requires thousands of fingerprint and IriTech’s iris scanners. This upcoming order could possibly be for the implementation in Uganda.

Iris recognition as part of the BMIS can make big changes to the life of refugees by securing their identities and enabling them to access basic rights. We hope to see more lives to be protected and given their privileges.