Recognising Urban Refugees in Jordan: Opportunities for mobile-enabled identity solutions

Report
from GSMA Mobile for Development
Published on 31 Dec 2018 View Original

This report, through an extensive literature review and stakeholder interviews, brings new focus on the complex identity-related challenges faced by urban refugees in Jordan, the tenth largest refugee-hosting nation in the world. UNHCR’s year-end 2017 data states that there are nearly 691,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, and 85 per cent are presumed to be living outside of camps.

Executive Summary

Proof of identity is a prerequisite to socio-economic development and is essential to accessing basic services such as voting, healthcare, employment, economic participation and education. However, more than one billion people globally are unable to prove their identity.1 In humanitarian crises, the absence of identity documents can create a multitude of administrative dead ends for refugees: reducing their ability to register with authorities and/or humanitarian organisations, limiting their freedom of movement, preventing them from accessing formal employment or education, and making it difficult or impossible to access a wide range of humanitarian services.
In most refugee-hosting countries, lack of identification is also a key barrier to accessing mobile services. In more than 147 countries,2 Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are now subject to mandatory SIM registration obligations which require customers to present an approved identity document before a SIM card or mobile money service can be activated. As the GSMA has previously documented,3 in situations where refugees or asylum seekers face challenges or delays obtaining these identity documents, opportunities for MNOs and humanitarian agencies to offer both basic and value-added mobile services can be restricted. For this reason, the GSMA Digital Identity and Mobile for Humanitarian Innovation programmes both support stakeholders in leveraging mobile technology as an enabler of digital identity and associated services which can provide social benefit to people affected by crises, and bring commercial value and cost savings to MNOs, humanitarian organisations and governments.

This report, through an extensive literature review and stakeholder interviews, brings new focus on the complex identity-related challenges faced by urban refugees in Jordan, the tenth largest refugee-hosting nation in the world. UNHCR’s year-end 2017 data states that there are nearly 691,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, and 85 per cent are presumed to be living outside of camps.
The findings identify four cross-cutting themes that MNOs and humanitarian organisations will want to consider when designing digital identity solutions for urban refugees in Jordan, as well as in other markets:

  1. Identity needs vary by refugee type: By looking at a refugee’s day-to-day attitudes and behaviours through an identity lens, service providers can segment refugees into distinct archetypes and better predict their identityrelated needs and priorities.

  2. Identity challenges impact crucial aspects of a refugee’s life: A lack of documentation in urban areas can produce cascading consequences for refugees and their families, as one documentation issue can quickly lead to another.

  3. The benefit of flexibility and amnesty in ID enrolment: Providing an amnesty period for undocumented refugees has protected hundreds of thousands of vulnerable individuals and will increase access to mobile services, jobs, humanitarian aid and education.

  4. There is a strong relationship between identity and trust: The relationship that refugees have with government, humanitarian agencies, service providers and their host community have a strong influence on their behaviour and attitudes towards identity.

The report illustrates how MNOs and humanitarian organisations can collaborate to provide urban refugees with greater and more inclusive access to digital identity and identity-linked mobile services. Some of these opportunities include helping refugees register life events and vulnerabilities for themselves; providing greater access to mobile financial services; and delivering targeted information. The report endeavours to support both MNOs and humanitarian organisations formulate and design messages around digital identity to refugees, and host governments, drive demand for digital identity services where appropriate, and advocate for enabling policies that ensure equal access to digital identity solutions.