The documents will count as proof of the refugees' right to return to their country of origin Myanmar
The UN refugee agency UNHCR and Bangladesh authorities have jointly registered 500,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, as of Wednesday.
For many of them, this is the first time they have been provided with an identification card and proof of their right to return to Myanmar in the future.
All verified refugees over the age of 12 are being issued these biometric, fraud-proof ID cards.
This comprehensive registration, which is simultaneously being carried out in all refugee settlements in Coz's Bazar, is meant to ensure the accuracy of data on refugees in Bangladesh
Accurate data will give national authorities and humanitarian partners a better understanding of the population and their needs, UNHCR said on Thursday.
It will also help agencies in planning their programs and providing assistance where it is needed most, particularly for people with specific needs – such as women and children and people with disabilities.
Last week, UNHCR launched the Global Distribution Tool (GDT) in the first refugee settlement in Cox's Bazar, using biometric data collected from their registration drive.
GDT speeds up distribution through verification of fingerprints or iris scans; is fraud proof; and can be used by partners to ensure there is no overlap in receiving assistance, and also to ensure no one is left out.
It will be introduced in other settlements in the coming weeks.
The new registration cards indicate that for Rohingyas residing in Bangladesh, Myanmar is the country of origin – a critical element in establishing and safeguarding the right of the 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 registered daily at seven different sites within the settlements.
More than 550 local staff has 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 communities to explain the registration process and encourage people to register.