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New ID Cards Fairer For Bangladesh Refugees - UN

New individual ID cards fairer for refugees in Bangladesh - UN agency

23 July 2008 - New individual identification cards will improve conditions for 22,500 refugees in Bangladesh, the United Nations refugee agency said today.

"With these cards, refugees will be able to identify themselves as people legally permitted to reside in Bangladesh if they meet law enforcement officials," Pia Prytz Phiri, country representative for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said, stressing that the cards are recognized as valid identity documents by the Government of Bangladesh.

The refugee agency also said that the cards, which will replace the previous "family book" system for refugees, will ensure a fairer distribution of aid for people in the Kutupalong and Nayapara refugee camps in the south-east of the country, which are home to Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar in 1991.

Under the "family book" system all members of one family were registered under the identity and authority of the patriarch, with as many as 45 people being listed under a single name.

This system was both unwieldy and open to abuse, according to UNHCR, with books sometimes confiscated by refugee leaders or sold to outsiders who could use them to access valuable services in camps. In addition, it was not always guaranteed that each family member received the food rations they were allocated.

The new cards are being given to every refugee over the age of five, and, in a society in which polygamy is common, second and third wives will be able to get rations for themselves and their children separately from the rest of the family.

"For us, the ID cards are really a milestone in recognizing each and every refugee and their individual rights," Ms. Phiri said. "They finally exist as individual refugees and are no longer lumped together as a group."


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