Mizoram is one of India’s smallest populated states which has defied the national government in refusing to collect biometrics from refugees from the neighbouring country, Myanmar.
Despite having a small population, Mizoram has housed approximately 35,000 refugees and began routinely collecting biometrics to identify individuals, disseminate resources and track their migration into another society.
Equally, biometric capture presents some reasonable arguments about the cybersecurity and privacy risks of information belonging to vulnerable and sometimes displaced people.
A foundation for identity and authentication, biometric modalities across fingerprint, iris and face capture have become adopted for common database matching practices finding common features between evidence and refugees, asylum seekers but also potential criminals and illegal migrants that frequently cross through borders.
To input data from these individuals into a competition database, places a higher risk on their privacy which they should be entitled to as anyone else.
In 2021, a report into the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’s handling of biometrics from Myanmar refugees found that data had indeed been “improperly” collected and disseminated to Bangladesh which then exercised the potential deportation of some refugees. Even without consent obtained from those refugees, the disclosure of their data which could jeopardise their status in a country whilst being in a desparate situation was deemed to be inhumane.
Ultimately, biometrics are being used either in the best or against the interests of refugees by practitioners of “security” – aid agencies, governments, and technology providers – to turn away vulnerable people from host nations or provide resources.