Afghanistan-Pakistan: UNHCR closes two iris verification centers
Islamabad, September 20, 2004 - As the number of Afghans repatriating to their homeland falls, the UN refugee agency has announced the closure of two of its iris scanning centers in Pakistan, which had been set up to verify the entitlement of returnees to repatriation assistance.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was operating four Iris Verification Centers at its four departure centers in Peshawar and Quetta. Iris verification is a requirement for every Afghan over the age of six wishing to receive the UNHCR repatriation assistance package.
The unique iris-recognition technology was introduced by UNHCR in September 2002 to ensure that assistance was given only to deserving Afghan refugees. The process detects anyone who has previously been through the procedure and tries to claim return assistance a second time.
The UNHCR's voluntary repatriation program is scheduled to run until March 2006 under a tripartite agreement between the UNHCR and the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Over 2.26 million Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan so far with UNHCR assistance since the repatriation program started in March 2002, the agency statement said.