UNHCR, Accenture deliver biometric system for refugees
19 May 2015 15:10 GMT

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has revealed that it is working with Accenture to deliver a biometric technology system for registering and verifying the identities of displaced persons around the world, enabling UNHCR to provide refugees with the assistance they require where and when needed.

Under the terms of the three-year contract, which was secured after a competitive tendering process, UNHCR will deploy Accenture’s Biometric Identity Management System (BIMS) across UNHCR global operations.

The system captures and stores fingerprints, iris data and facial images of individuals, providing those who are often undocumented with their only personal identity record.

UNHCR’s deployment of BIMS has already commenced with refugee camp locations in Thailand and Chad. The expansion of BIMS into Chad will enable the enrollment and formal identification of 450,000 people resident in more than 19 refugee camps.

To date in 2015, more than 100,000 residents in Chad, and more than 120,000 people within nine camps in Thailand, have had their identities verified, with the system handling approximately 2,500 enrollments per day.

BIMS leverages the Unique Identity Service Platform (UISP), a software offering developed by Accenture, which works in conjunction with UNHCR’s existing case management system. BIMS links verification stations in UNHCR offices and camps around the world back to a central biometric database in Geneva. Accenture will also provide UNHCR with on-going system maintenance and user training for BIMS.

“Fleeing across borders, refugees often leave documentation behind, lose it along the way or have it confiscated by authorities,” said Steven Corliss, UNHCR’s director of Program and Management Support.

“With Accenture’s Biometric Identity Management System, we are using advanced technology to secure and preserve the identity of refugees from the time they register with UNHCR until they find a solution by returning home, integrating in the country where they have found protection, or resettling in a new country.”

Ger Daly, managing director of Accenture’s global Public Safety business, said, “This is a great example of how we use digital innovation to improve peoples’ lives and make a real difference in the world. By applying emerging technologies in biometrics capture and large-scale identity matching, BIMS will help UNHCR register and identify refugees and channel the delivery of aid to those people most in need.”

An early version of BIMS was piloted successfully at the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi in late 2013, despite significant logistical and technical challenges in maintaining power, equipment and online connectivity in remote areas. During the pilot program, which lasted four weeks, more than 17,000 people enrolled their biometric data and had their identities verified. The results of the pilot demonstrated the feasibility of biometric management in field conditions that were highly challenging for biometric capture.

“After reviewing the results of the trial in Malawi and making recommendations for improvements, we are moving forward and deploying a single global biometrics system for the agency that is fast, intuitive, secure, mobile and durable in varied and challenging environments,” said Doug Greene, UNHCR’s chief information officer. “We have now initiated a global roll-out of the system commencing in Thailand and Chad.”

Accenture is working with other vendors on the projects, including WCC Smart Search & Match, Green Bit, GenKey, Warwick Warp, IriTech, SmartSensors and Cognitec.