Over 500 million Rohingya refugees receive identity documents: UNHCR

GENEVA, More than half a million Rohingya refugees have received identity documents, most for the first time, a spokesperson for the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, has revealed.

During a press briefing held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic, said, “As of Wednesday, more than 500,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have been registered in a joint registration exercise by the Bangladesh authorities and UNHCR.”

For many of these refugees, it is the first time they have an identity card. According to Mahecic, the biometric, fraud-proof cards are being issued jointly by Bangladeshi authorities and UNHCR to all verified refugees over the age of 12.

“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,” the spokesperson explained.

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 Bangladesh authorities meet regularly with the refugee community, including with 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.

“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,” he added.

The UNHCR launched the Global Distribution Tool, GDT, in one of the refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar last week. Biometric data, such as fingerprints and iris scans, will help the tool speed up distributions, and is fraud proof, Mahecic explained, adding that it can be used by partners “to ensure that there is no overlap in assistance, and to ensure that nobody is left out.”

The GDT exercise will continue to be rolled out across more settlements in the coming weeks, he continued.

The UNHCR spokesperson noted that the new registration cards indicate that Myanmar is the country of origin, “a critical element in establishing and safeguarding the right 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.

At the end of July, UNHCR and partners working on the joint refugee response in Bangladesh have received US$318 million, just over a third of the total US$920 million needed in 2019.

Source: Emirates News Agency