Biometric identifiers for refugees

Refugees are one of the main political and humanitarian problems of our time. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, 65.3 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide during 2015, approximately 5.8 million more than the previous year. Millions of these people often do not have reliable identity documents (IDs) they need to prove their identity. Biometrics could play a pivotal role in the identification of refugees.

The term ‘refugee’ refers to “people who have had to abandon or flee their country of origin as a result of serious threat to their lives or freedom such as natural catastrophe, war or military occupation, fear of religions and racial or political persecution.” Refugees could be segmented into internally displaced people, who have been displaced within their country’s borders (8.6 million in 2015); asylum seekers, people who are seeking international protection but whose refugee status is yet to be determined (2.45 million in 2015); and stateless people, who (for various reasons) do not have the nationality of any country (10 million in 2015). Refugees and asylum seekers are legally defined by national legislations, in accordance with the international legal framework provided by the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. At the core of this framework, there are two principles:
the right to asylum, conceived as a fundamental human right;
the principle of non-refoulement, which means that refugees cannot be forcibly returned to places where their lives or freedoms are threatened (continue)