the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday praised Pakistan for completing its nationwide campaign to issue an estimated 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees with smart ID cards after their data has been verified and updated.
UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch praised Pakistan during a virtual press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The national campaign, which began in April 2021, is officially known as the Documentation Renewal and Information Verification (DRIVE) exercise. Since 2019, DRIVE has sought to “assist and protect Afghan refugees, notably through the Afghan Refugee Solutions Strategy (SSAR) support platform”.
Thanks to DRIVE, Pakistan has issued more than 700,000 smart cards to date, and the remaining cards will be issued early this year. Identity cards allow Pakistani authorities to authenticate the identity of nationals using biometric data. They also facilitate access to health, educational establishments and banking services. Cards will expire in mid-2023.
DRIVE is the first large-scale refugee verification in Pakistan in the past decade. To meet the campaign’s goals, Pakistan opened more than 40 verification sites and provided mobile vans for the registration of Afghan refugees. According to the UNHCR, these registration sites complied with COVID-19 security measures. Going forward, Pakistan will collect socio-economic data on refugees to identify the specific needs or vulnerabilities of Afghan refugees.
Mauritius also attempted to issue smart identity cards to its citizens last year by amending the 1985 National Identity Card Act. This attempt failed, however, when the UN Human Rights Committee invalidated the identity cards, ruling that the cards containing the holders’ biometric information violated the privacy rights of Mauritian citizens. In this case, the Committee considered that the guarantees against the risks of abuse and arbitrariness linked to the potential access to the data of the identity card were insufficient.