Decentralizing Identity: How Blockchain Can Help With the Migrant Crisis

2020.03.20 10:18

Function X is an ecosystem built entirely on and for the blockchain. The f(x) Ecosystem consists of five elements: f(x) operating system, f(x) public blockchain, f(x) FXTP, f(x) docker and f(x) IPFS.

Decentralizing Identity: How Blockchain Can Help With the Migrant Crisis

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are approximately 65.6 million refugees across the world as of 2018: one in every 200 children in the world is a refugee. There are more refugees now than there has ever been in the history of humanity.

The European migrant crisis was only declared at an end by the European Union in 2019. For almost five years, millions of refugees and asylum-seekers escaped war and persecution from the Middle East and Africa and made the dangerous journey to Europe in the hope of safe harbor.

According to UNHCR, almost 5.2 million refugees and migrants reached Europe from countries including Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Thousands would die or go missing along the way. In 2019 alone there were over 27,000 sea arrivals on the coasts of Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain and Cyprus. Most would continue to travel to Northern Europe.

Thousands of families would be moved to settlement camps set up by EU governments in cooperation with the UN and non-government organizations. The sheer volume of people living in these settlements who mostly escaped hostile environments in haste has created a logistical problem for the UN and the EU in identifying and processing these refugees as well as providing them with basic necessities such as food and medical attention.

One of the most basic and prevalent challenges for administrators is acquiring legal identification of the refugees: birth certificates, passports, marriage certificates, diplomas, driver’s licenses, and the like. Often migrants, particularly those who have been forcefully displaced, would have lost these documents along the way or worse, had them confiscated or destroyed.

Often unnoticed by traditional law enforcement, these “invisible people” live and work with no assurance of their rights and freedoms, even potentially becoming victims of human trafficking.

To combat this, Target 16.9 of the Sustainable Development Goals ratified by the United Nations aims to provide legal identity for all including birth registration by 2030 as more than 230 million births are still undocumented, often in poor nations.

Blockchain-enabled ID system

To address the challenges in documenting refugees, several tech companies and organizations have proposed blockchain as a viable solution. Through its distributed ledger architecture, blockchain promises a secure, decentralized system for registration that cannot be forged, nearly impossible to hack, and can be verified.

Governments and organizations could issue individual refugees digital documents that could contain their birth details, identification numbers, medical records, and so on. Not only does it provide a more secure platform to distribute sensitive information, but it is also cost-effective because it requires less administrative oversight and verification is all done digitally.

A cross-border platform powered by blockchain technology could provide immutable identification for refugees, proving their existence while containing all their asylum proceeding prerequisites.

By registering onto a network system, information can easily be shared among border checkpoints and humanitarian aid organizations. This solution, by collecting essential data (eg., academic, credit history, and medical records) would also give refugees better access to educational institutions, medical services and renting accommodations by giving providers reliable requisite information.

The built-in crypto wallet gives refugees a cashless way to make purchases and store their income. The wallet is linked to their official documents, which prevents identity theft thus gives donors a better way of monitoring and controlling funding to individuals.

Blockchain tackling hunger

Currently, the World Food Programme (WFP) has initiated a food credit system based on the Ethereum blockchain which gives refugees vouchers that they can redeem in participating markets and establishments. This system does not even need the use of a phone or a card because participating stores have eye-scanning equipment which allows them to verify the user’s identity and track their purchases directly.

What began as a technology associated with cryptography, blockchain has become a versatile medium for many potential real-world solutions. Current efforts in the global refugee crisis show what blockchain is capable of in the aid of humanitarian efforts. In the future, blockchain could even augment the process of citizen documentation and government information-keeping altogether.

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