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Estonia supports UNHCR’s digital identity for refugees

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) detailed on 6 December 2021 how Estonia provided it with a digital identity specialist to accelerate its digital transformation.

In 2020, UNHCR created a Digital Identity Unit to enable refugees to access online digital services (UNHCR portal, e-government and e-banking, job search…), and thus facilitate their daily lives. Its objective is to provide “access to robust, trusted and secure digital identity among forcibly displaced and stateless persons.”

During the first Global Refugee Forum in 2019, Estonia pledged to support UNHCR in its digital transformation. Over the past 30 years, Estonia has become a global leader in e-governance and digital identity, including secure access to essential public services and digital services.

This 6 December 2021, in a press release, UNHCR announces that, in accordance with this promise, Rico-Christhopher Adigazalov was seconded in February 2020 by Estonia to UNHCR’s Digital Identity Unit as a Senior Digital Identity Expert.

In Estonia, once refugees and asylum-seekers are enrolled in the national identification system, they have the option to apply for a digital ID which allows them to access different e-services. Refugees have equal access to e-services as citizens. This can really improve the quality of life,” says Rico-Christhopher Adigazalov.

This partnership has helped to optimise four critical issues for UNHCR:

  • the management of digital identifiers, so that refugees can access e-services in a secure and reliable manner;
  • the development of accessible and user-friendly e-governance services to ensure the inclusion of refugees, regardless of their situation;
  • the interoperability of UNHCR’s digital systems with those of other humanitarian actors and local administrations; and
  • guaranteeing the right to privacy and online data protection.
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