Biometrics secures UNHCR direct cash payments to Ukrainian refugees


With biometrics playing a central role in the processing of Ukrainian refugees fleeing war, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has shown how technology can enroll them for direct cash payments to meet their needs in an example of how biometrics can help asylum seekers.

A UN agency video shows beneficiaries in Warsaw, Poland, queuing outside a cash assistance registration centre. From there they receive an SMS which is verified by staff and then processed during an interview for personal information where they are registered with biometric data. A fingerprint scan is shown in the video. From there, a proof of registration is created which produces a PIN to withdraw money from an ATM after the process.

The agency also began experimenting with using only iris biometrics for cash assistance in 2020 in select countries to make the process contactless.

Andrew Hopkins, Head of Digital Identity and Registration at UNHCR, says: “The program is designed to target the most vulnerable families arriving in the country. It really is a very popular and effective way to provide large-scale aid to populations in need.

The video says each household will receive $590 per month, with refugees interviewed in the video saying the money would be used to buy essentials like food and medicine. Hopkins says data shows most refugees are spending on food.

UNHCR estimates that $76 million per month in monthly direct cash payments will be made to refugees fleeing Ukraine, with the program operating in parts of Ukraine as well as Poland, Slovakia and Moldova.

UNHCR and the Pakistani government completed a biometric registration campaign for Afghan refugees earlier this year.

Article topics

biometric enrollment | biometrics | digital identity | identity verification | payments | registration of refugees | Ukraine | UNHCR


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