Enhancing identity verification for refugees in Uganda

Enhancing identity verification for refugees in Uganda

21 October, 2022    

In Uganda, refugees and asylum seekers struggle to cash out their remittances due to challenging and time-consuming identity verification processes. This is one observation from IFAD’s Financing Facility for Remittances Remittance Access Initiative (RAI), which is financed by the European Union and implemented by Cenfri. Our work focused on the challenge of verifying refugee identity in Uganda. This note outlines the current challenge, the rationale for solving this challenge and potential solutions for doing so.

Refugee and asylum seeker ID in Uganda

Uganda is home to the largest number of refugees and asylum seekers in Africa, with over 1.5 million refugees and asylum seekers living in Uganda as of August 2022. Uganda has established a strong regulatory foundation to enable refugees and asylum seekers to move freely, work, establish businesses, own property, and access national services. This foundation is underpinned by the Refugee Act of 2006 and the Refugee Regulation of 2010.

Upon registering, the Office of the Prime Minister issues refugees and asylum seekers with a photo-bearing, biometric refugee ID card and a family attestation form. These two documents should enable refugees and asylum seekers to exercise their individual and economic agency. These identity documents are also essential to ensure refugees and asylum seekers can access basic services, including collecting remittances from remittance service providers.

Accessing formal remittances is difficult

Compared to other countries, these regulations and processes are not overly conservative. However, during stakeholder interviews with remittance service providers and key development partners, Cenfri’s project team found that the way remittance service providers verify the refugee ID is a significant barrier to accessing remittances.

The challenging verification process, and the perception that refugees and asylum seekers are higher-risk customers, create a mutually reinforcing system in which financial service providers are hesitant to serve refugees and asylum seekers, and refugees and asylum seekers do not want to use formal remittance services because of poor efficiency.

Improving remittances access a priority

Improving remittance access should ideally make use of existing infrastructure and systems to create a secure and accessible platform from which remittance services providers can easily and efficiently verify refugees and asylum seekers refugee ID cards, for example, a governmentowned database. To this end, the Office of the Prime Minister, development partners and RSPs are increasingly taking action to improve the identity verification process for refugees.  

 The office of the Prime Minister, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is exploring the potential of a biometric verification system. Together, they began working at the end of 2019 to develop a biometric solution to mitigate fraud. The Bank of Uganda, Uganda’s Bankers Association, the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) and Laboremus have also launched an E-Gateway project. This will support financial services providers in easier and quicker verification and authentication of customer IDs and could potentially be leveraged to enhance identity verification for refugees to access remittances in Uganda.

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If you would like to know more about this programme, please contact Masiiwa Rusare 

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