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Iris scanning simplifies cash aid for Syrian refugees

The United Nations is using an iris-scanning biometric ID system to streamline the delivery of money to Syrian refugees in Jordan.

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The United Nations is using an iris-scanning biometric ID system to streamline the delivery of money to Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Under the system, refugees are scanned as part of the aid application process when they visit a UNHCR center in Amman. The system is similar to that used at borders with electronic passport controls.

The agency conducts its conventional tests to see if the applicant is eligible for aid. The difference comes in how the money is handed out.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Nizar Al Karim, Refugee:
“The iris scan is good and I just use my eyes, and I withdraw the money.”

For the recipient, it means no worry about opening a bank account, losing a bank card or forgetting a PIN.

And for the UNHCR, it’s less of a headache and less expensive.

SOUNDBITE (English) Suib Niba Azaizeh, UNHCR Assistant Field Officer:
“They don’t have to go to the bank for enrollment, all they have to do is go there to get the cash. That is a big change.”

It also means aid only goes to those who it’s intended for. Under the previous system, which used ATM cards, the UNHCR had to check to make sure cards hadn’t been traded or given to others.

The system is possible thanks to the widespread deployment of iris scanners on ATMs of Cairo Amman Bank.

The UNHCR says it’s looking to expand it to other regions where it operates and has another innovation planned for Jordan: a mobile ATM that can be driven to refugee camps.