More than 400,000 Kosovars have crossed the border into Albania over the past six weeks, in the largest refugee exodus in Europe since the Bosnia war. The majority of them have been stripped of all identification. Many have been separated from their families.
The new registration system will provide relief agencies with a critical tool for quickly registering refugees, for issuing new identification documents, and facilitating the reunification of separated families. The UNHCR said the first phase of the registration will begin on May 17th while the final phase, including issuance of identity cards, will commence in early June.
"We are very impressed with the generous and quick response by Microsoft and its partners," said High Commissioner Sadako Ogata. "Without their help the registration exercise would be substantially more difficult," she added.
Michel Lacombe, President Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa comments: "The human suffering we see every day in Albania has moved Microsoft employees and they gave us a clear message - we want to help. We felt strongly that we could have the most positive impact by seeking a way to use our technology and expertise, and by enlisting the help of our partners. After talks with UNHCR it became obvious that a partnership to address this urgent registration problem was a way we could make a tangible contribution quickly."
He continues: "The impressive response of our partners in getting this solution together has showed that they too felt a strong responsibility to get involved. We are very appreciative of their support. We all hope that the registration system will play a significant part in helping people start to rebuild their lives."
Using this system, refugees will be registered and their details entered into a database. They will immediately be issued official photo identification cards. The database will serve as a tool to help aid agencies on the ground. It will facilitate the distribution of relief supplies and will assist in searching for and reuniting separated families. It is expected that over 400,000 refugees will be registered using the system. The registration kits will include laptop computers, digital cameras, specialised ID card printers and other hardware and software applications designed especially for this project. The systems are expected to be on site and operational in early June. Data collection points for registration will be established throughout Albania.
"At Compaq, we are able to help provide an immediate solution to assist in reuniting separated families," said Andreas Barth, senior vice president and general manager, Compaq Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). "Together with Microsoft, we strongly believe that alongside the ability to make a difference, comes the obligation to do what we can to help."
"We are pleased that we can respond to this urgent UNHCR need for technology solutions as well as provide monetary contributions," said Franz Nawratil, the president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Europe, Middle East and Africa. "All of our divisions - especially in Europe - have really come forward, expressing an outpouring of goodwill in their efforts to deliver the computer hardware for this initiative."
Ed Heyden, Managing Director of Securit World comments: "My father saw the misery after World War II in Europe when displaced persons were desperate to find other family members, so we are privileged to help in this scheme. We realise the importance not only of giving ID cards to people but, thanks to modern computing, of quickly establishing lists and checks to re-unite and relieve the anxiety of families."
The UNHCR and IOM registration system will be created thanks to a charitable donation of software, hardware and expertise from the companies involved. Microsoft is providing software, technical services, training for personnel in the field, a cash donation and programme co-ordination; Compaq and Hewlett-Packard, laptop computers; Securit World Ltd., London, (specialists in ID Card Systems) in conjunction with ScreenCheck B.V., Netherlands (ID card software developers) software, printers, cameras and system integration.
Bill and Melinda Gates will also be providing funds to this effort through the William H. Gates Foundation which typically focuses its efforts on global health and education issues. This grant follows a recent $1.5 million gift to the American Red Cross, International Rescue Committee, and CARE, to provide food and shelter to Kosovo refugees.
Background information on the technology partners:
Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.
Compaq Computer Corporation
Founded in 1982, Compaq Computer Corporation is a Fortune Global 100 company. Compaq is the second largest computer company in the world and the largest global supplier of personal computers. Compaq develops and markets hardware, software, solutions, and services, including industry-leading enterprise computing solutions, fault-tolerant business-critical solutions, networking and communication products, commercial desktop and portable products and consumer PCs. The company is an industry leader in environmentally friendly programmes and business practices. Compaq products are sold and supported in more than 100 countries through a network of authorised Compaq marketing partners. Customer support and information about Compaq and its products are available at http://www.compaq.com.
Hewlett-Packard Company - a leading global provider of computing and imaging solutions and services for business and home - is focused on capitalizing on the opportunities of the Internet and the proliferation of electronic services. HP had computer-related revenue of $39.5 billion in its 1998 fiscal year.
HP plans to launch a new company ("NewCo") consisting of its industry-leading test-and-measurement, components, chemical-analysis and medical businesses. These businesses represented $7.6 billion of HP's total revenue in fiscal 1998. With leading positions in multiple market segments, this technology-based company will focus on high-growth opportunities such as communications and life sciences.
HP has 122,800 employees worldwide and had total revenue of $47.1 billion in its 1998 fiscal year. Information about HP, its products and the company's Year 2000 program can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.hp.com.
Contact on behalf of technology partners:
The Microsoft EMEA Press Office
Tel: +44 181 242 4167