By Keren Weitzberg
A government program for citizens and refugees highlights the pitfalls of humanitarian biometrics
Amina Ali Adan was born in the Kenyan town of Garissa, 65 miles away from Dadaab, one of the world’s largest refugee camps, situated near the Somali border. She is just one of tens of thousands of Kenyan citizens who have been registered as refugees — many while children. Now in her 30s and a mother of three, her life is defined by her lack of a Kenyan national ID.
Adan is a victim of what is known as double registration. Fleeing drought within the country’s borders in the 1990s, many ethnic Somali Kenyans falsely claimed to be escaping Somalia’s civil war, in order to access vital food aid. Now, because their details appear on biometric refugee databases, the very system responsible for protecting asylum seekers has effectively rendered them stateless.
“There are many challenges if you don’t have an ID,” Adan said. “If you want to open up a bank account, you need an ID. If you want to see someone in court, you will be asked for an ID. In Kenya, you cannot go anywhere without an ID.”