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Blockchain Must Make Impact on Digital Identity Crisis of Refugees

Blockchain Must Make Impact on Digital Identity Crisis of Refugees

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World Refugee Day on 20 June cast focus again on how blockchain technology could play a part in presenting a major solution to the problem of displaced people around the world, writes Bitcoin Magazine.

There are currently 25.4 million refugees in the world and some 3.1 million asylum seekers around the world, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.

Blockchain solutions are in place in many poorer countries working to improve the lives of individuals at community and national levels, but it is noticeable that the worldwide refugee crisis hasn’t as yet been significantly impacted by new technology. The biggest problem in this area is one of identity as Joseph Thompson, co-founder of AID:tech, illustrates:

“Not only do refugees need to reformulate their personal identity to secure a sense of belonging, but also it’s imperative from a legal, social, and political perspective. Needless to say, the issue is more complex than simply assigning each individual an identity card, as global crises happening throughout the world are different and varied with refugees and their situations.”

AID:Tech works with NGOs, governments and cooperates to tackle the most topical and entrenched issues in their particular areas of operation. Thompson suggests that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals with the World Bank program is beginning to take notice of the identity issue, but he claims there is still much further to go in order to tackle this problem. Its suggested that in particular children born without a homeland due to displacement could be legitimized on the blockchain giving them verifiable identities, which would entitle them to essential services such as healthcare and education.

“An effective identity solution needs to be flexible, reliable and sustainable while also accommodating the transitional circumstances often faced by refugees. This is particularly crucial and alarming when we consider that refugee children are being born with the risk of missing out on legal identity —including healthcare and education.”

The Social Alpha Foundation is a nonprofit, grant-making platform that funds blockchain humanitarian-based startups. Co-founder Nydia Zhang believes that this access to services through verifiable identity is an essential role that blockchain can, and should, be playing in order to at least give a sense of identity to the stateless; Zhang’s “invisible population”.

Bruce Silcoff, CEO of the Shyft Network, whose team is working on a blockchain platform to ensure those fleeing from conflict have their basic necessities delivered, suggests that ID is more of a “right” than a “privilege” and thus should be prioritized using the very latest in technology in order to overcome bureaucratic barriers:

“We are witnessing millions of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers crossing borders to escape violence and build better lives for themselves and their families, only to run into institutional barriers, unable to access basic services and participate in the global economy.”

These questions of how technology should be offering solutions, come into stark focus given the importance of a day which is designed to draw the world’s attention to the plight of those displaced by war and conflict. On this important day, homeless children are still being created by careless legislation and bureaucratic obstacles, clearly illustrated by US President Trump’s announcement yesterday that he will separate children from their “illegal” parents at border crossings.


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