Biometric registration of 1,118,578 Rohingyas now may prove unhelpful in repatriation
The Bangladesh government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from June 21 have jointly started a new initiative to collect family-based data of the sheltered Rohingyas who fled Myanmar last year and previously.
The Department of Immigration and Passport (DIP), on June 5, completed the biometric registration of 1,118,578 Rohingya individuals.
The collected data, however, would not help the repatriation process, said several DIP officials, declining to be named.
Cox’s Bazar Deputy Commissioner Md Kamal Hossain said the process of new registration had started as per the joint decision of the UNHCR and the government after the previous registration conducted by DIP had concluded recently.
The UNHCR said it is expected to take approximately five to six months to complete the verification exercise for the identity management and documentation of Rohingya refugees, which will help to consolidate a unified database for the purposes of identity management, documentation, protection, provision of assistance, population statistics and solutions.
“Using biometric data – including iris scans and fingerprints, as well as photographs to confirm individual identities – all refugees over the age of 12 will be provided with identity cards,” UNHCR said in a press release on Tuesday.
The credit card-sized plastic ID, containing a number of anti-fraud features, is issued jointly by the Government of Bangladesh and UNHCR, and will provide protection and access to assistance in Bangladesh.
“This exercise is a major step forward to establish the legal identity of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar,” said Kevin J Allen, UNHCR Head of Operations in Cox’s Bazar.
“It makes clear that the Rohingya exist, that their rights must be respected and that we are committed to laying the foundations for solutions.”
The exercise will involve around 150 UNHCR and partner staff, as well as government officials and community mobilizers. It will cover all of the refugees previously registered by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“This exercise will help the government and agencies to better plan our assistance, avoid duplication of services, and ensure that all registered families receive help,” said Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam.
The verification is an important milestone in contributing to securing the identity of people who have fled from Myanmar and are now being hosted in Bangladesh.
The verification will also play a key role in verifying the identity of refugees, establishing that they have been displaced from Myanmar, and enabling them to exercise their right to voluntary return to their country when it is safe for them to do so, added the press release of UNHCR.
Several officials of Cox’s Bazar district administration and DIP said the DIP completed their registration in Cox’s Bazar by June 5 and now were crosschecking the data that were collected for last several months.
According to DIP sources, Tk105 crore was spent in the previous data collection operation.
In the newly introduced data collection process, 3,000 Rohingyas will be registered every day, said UNHCR officials.
DIP has collected individual information of each Rohingya, and now the Foreign Ministry and the UNHCR have started the process of collecting their family-based data.
No DIP high official has made any on-the-record comment in this regard.
Last September, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, and DIP Chief Maj Gen Masud Rezwan, in October, had claimed the UNHCR and International Organization for Migration were assisting the registration process.
With the assistance of Bangladesh Army and Border Guard Bangladesh, the DIP started registering Rohingyas from September 11 in 2017, following the latest Rohingya crisis.
After a military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine State on August 25 last year, more than 700,000 Rohingyas, mostly children and women, crossed over into Bangladesh, joining more than 400,000 others who were already living in squalid, cramped camps in Cox’s Bazar.