In a world’s first, UNHCR Jordan, Cairo Amman Bank (CAB) and IrisGuard showcase today the latest innovation in delivery of financial assistance to refugees. The EyeCloud© project relies exclusively on UNHCR biometric registration data for enrolment in financial assistance programme. The system sets a new standard in cash supported interventions that help refugee’s access financial assistance with speed and dignity, while reducing overhead costs and increasing accountability.
The EyeCloud© project, built on the fundamental innovation of financial assistance through banking and biometric technology, has set a higher standard for next-generation assistance. Listening to the concerns of the refugees, the need was clear for a cash programme that reinforced their dignity by providing a means to access assistance without the traditional approach of having to queue for items outside an aid agency. This is particularly important for the most vulnerable refugees, widows with children, the elderly, ill and persons living with disabilities.
The additional benefits unveiled by today’s project means that refugees no longer need to go to the bank to register, which eliminates waiting periods for enrolment in the banking system. This new system will also eliminate the need for ATM cards.
By making full use of biodata gathered during the registration with UNHCR, this innovation will allow cash machines to “talk” directly to UNHCR’s biometric registration database verifying the refugee’s credentials in the blink of an eye, without the bank needing to re-verify those identities.
“Everyone wants to make sure that the money entrusted to us is used in the most effective manner possible, and more importantly addresses the needs of the refugees. Often we believe we know best, but in fact, financial support allows refugees to choose what is best for themselves and their families, in a dignified manner,” Andrew Harper, UNHCR Representative for Jordan.
UNHCR will expand the EyeCloud© service, to allow other humanitarian agencies to use the biometric system to provide refugee assistance. The new platform protects all biometric and personal information through the UNHCR secure encrypted database and network.
“We are privileged and excited to assist the UNHCR in providing our comprehensive EyeCloud® iris recognition cash assistance service to Syrian refugees throughout CAB’s ATM network in Jordan. The effective EyeCloud® financial inclusion platform permits the UNHCR to securely and efficiently authorize unbanked refugee populations to withdraw financial subsidies with ease, dignity, safety and respect, directly from ATM’s on the street, without a pin or a card. The EyeCloud® platform is designed to extend financial inclusion for large populations of unbanked around the world.”, Remarked Imad Malhas, Founder and CEO IrisGuard Inc.
UNHCR is committed to being more effective and efficient in supporting refugees, and we are leveraging the latest in technology to achieve this. The EyeCloud© technology is already considered the most advanced refugee cash programme, with Jordan leading in the field worldwide for refugees outside of camps.
On his part, the General Manager of Cairo Amman Bank stressed that the difficult living conditions experienced by refugees as not being the cause of such conditions but rather imposed on them as a result of wars and civil conflicts which require everyone to work to improve their chances of living each according to his specialization and abilities.”
He added that the Syrian refugees are a category of the Jordanian society and financial services have to be delivered to them in a fair and transparent form and at reasonable costs in the intension of improving their social and economic conditions so as to achieve financial and social stability for this category, and this is consistent with the objectives of the Financial Inclusion of which to raise the level and quality of life for the members of the society.
Al Bakri clarified that Cairo Amman Bank is one of the National Institutions that are keen to promote their role towards the local society and its components and to make use of its banking services and products to serve it which contributes to the promotion of the social and economic security.”
And he stressed that the new banking innovation of EyeCloud System reflects the efforts of the bank that created for refugees their own way to have their assistance received away from the traditional procedures that makes their tragedy to be from bad to worse.”
And refugees receive their assistance from UNHCR through iris- enabled service at more than CAB 50 ATM in the various governorates of the Kingdom including areas where Syrian refugees exist.
Al Bakri added that this system enjoys strong security capabilities where any attempt of fraud is excluded or having the refugee as being the beneficiary of the service exposed to danger.
Refugees access their assistance using the world’s first iris-enabled cash delivery mechanism at more than 50 iris-enabled CAB ATMs throughout the Kingdom. The system enjoys high donor confidence with negligible overhead costs and strong security capabilities for ruling out fraud.
In 2015, UNHCR was able to provide support to over 1/3 of the refugees, who are amongst the most vulnerable outside of camps, preventing many from resorting to dangerous coping mechanisms. Studies consistently show that cash remains the preferred model by refugees to receive assistance. The cash programme not only covers shelter needs, but also is a protection tool, especially considering that forty percent of families registered with UNHCR are families where women are the sole provider, with difficulty in accessing the labour market. In addition, the high number of refugees with disabilities, injured and/or with chronic diseases, and the growing concern for early marriage and child labour among the refugee population marks cash as a critical form of support.
“I miss everything about Syria. Everything. My family, the life we once had. I can’t believe we have ended like this. UNHCR cash assistance is the only thing that keeps a roof over our heads,” Amani, Syrian refugee in Jordan and recipient of monthly financial assistance.
A recent comprehensive survey carried out shows that 9 out of 10 refugees living outside camps are living below the Jordanian poverty line of JOD68 per capita per month. Studies also indicate that the majority of refugees are using crisis or emergency coping strategies, including not eating, sending family members, including children to beg or resorting to illegal work.
Since 2012, UNHCR has distributed millions of dollars through the iris-Enabled CAB ATMs to help the most vulnerable refugees in Jordan, which are then spent on the local economy.