Syrian refugeesMost refugees around the world do not have access to monetary resources. This problem has affected their economy, by preventing them from getting cash for their basic needs and essential supplies like food and good quality shelter materials. Syrian refugees face this difficulty in Jordan, where more than 650,000 people have arrived since 2011.

However, the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), along with private companies, created a new technological system that enables Syrian refugees to obtain cash assistance through intelligent ATMs around Jordan that identifies the user via iris detector.

UNHCR’s cash assistance program process is direct. First, the refugees’ irises are captured and registered. Then, families on the UNHCR cash waiting list are selected for assistance based on the Vulnerability Assessment Framework ranking. Finally, beneficiaries receive a text message which informs them when the cash is available for withdrawal.

This system, called EyeCloud, has helped over 39,000 households in Jordan, giving several advantages to Syrian refugees. For instance, the biometric recognition installed in the ATMs reduces fraud and increases refugee data protection. Another important feature of this process is that it can be made by the users without the mediation of a bank, increasing the number of beneficiaries. In addition, the UNHCR expects that the system will increase cash coordination with other humanitarian agencies around the world.

A small sample of Somali and Sudanese refugees tasted the EyeCloud system in 2015, and it was extended in Jordan the next year where $21 million was distributed among Syrians refugees. It is expected that this kind of project can help other refugees in areas where there are struggles to obtain basic needs.

The iris identification system is part of the UNHCR Biometric Identity Management System, a project that collects fingerprints, iris scans and photographs of refugees. This information is not only used to provide monetary aid but also to gather important information like citizenship records and dates of birth of the refugees. This makes future identification easier for various international institutions.

Due to the violence and civil war in Syria, more than 5 million people have been forced to flee. Countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have received thousands of Syrian refugees. The EyeCloud technology and ATMs will help refugees preserve their dignity, providing them with access to basic resources that are essential for their future.

Dario Ledesma

Photo: Flickr