© UNHCR/Will Swanson

Today, more than 7 million refugees who have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict and human rights abuses are currently registered with UNHCR.

For the UN Refugee Agency and all humanitarian actors, the integrity, efficiency and effectiveness of protection, assistance and solutions programmes is highly dependent on the accuracy with which persons of concern are identified and their identity data managed. The main way to achieve these goals is through the registration process.

For decades, UNHCR has been a reference in this practice. But the global displacement situation has become more aggravated than ever and the world in which UNHCR works – and in which today’s refugees and asylum seekers live – is changing rapidly, presenting new challenges and opportunities to improve the lives of people uprooted.

The UN Refugee Agency is rethinking its approaches to registration and identity management and taking advantage of new advances in information technology to modernize its systems. The overarching objective will be to develop and implement a new concept of digital identity that will empower the individual asylum seeker, refugee, and IDP.

The road to a more performing and empowering system will lead, via a revamped refugee registration and case management system (proGres version 4), the biometric enrolment system (BIMS), to a dedicated platform on which UNHCR, its partners, and the beneficiaries interact.

This new and innovative ecosystem of interoperable tools and applications is called PRIMES (Population Registration and Identity Management EcoSystem) and will provide better access to opportunities and services for refugees and other forcibly displaced persons.  

Through PRIMES, we will encourage the decentralized development of applications and the usage of new technologies in the field. The first PRIMES application (other than proGres v4 and BIMS) is currently being developed and will be field tested in January 2018. It is a handheld rapid registration app that can be used both off and on-line, as well as on GSM networks.

The roll-out of proGres v4 is a key event in establishing PRIMES as it creates a single global population registry, replacing almost 500 databases world-wide on which refugee data is currently hosted. The deployment plan is ambitious: all operations should be on the new platform by the end 2019. To accompany the roll out of this innovative eco- system, PRIMES Support, a team of specialized functional and technical experts, will provide support to all users regardless of whether they work for UNHCR or our partners.

With that extended reach, PRIMES will build on the Agency and its partners’ strengths and comparative advantages. It will both embrace and lead change in registration, identity and case management, for the benefits of all the people we care for: asylum seekers, refugees, IDPs, stateless and all other forcibly displaced men, women and children.