Refugee Access to Financial Services in Jordan

Areas of innovation that improve access to financial services for refugees

A lack of recognized documentation can create barriers to basic communication services, such as mobile phone services and digital mobile wallets, in addition to traditional financial services such as opening of bank accounts. To overcome any such barriers, UNHCR Jordan has been piloting emerging innovation technology and financial service options. In 2013, the introduction of Iris-enabled biometric registration has been the first key-step: a quick and efficient way in which the identity of refugees could be better protected by eliminating potential fraud.

In addition to reiterating the need to ensure access to identity documents for refugees as a key tool to achieve their legal protection, and contribute to their self-reliance and resilience, this report looks into areas of innovation that improve access to financial services, such as:

  • Monthly cash assistance provided to 32,500 refugee families through ATMs that require only an iris scan - no cards or other identity documents. The iris scan authenticates identity by linking back to UNHCR’s registration data base.
  • Ad hoc distribution of non-food items in Azraq and Zaatari refugee camps based on iris authentication.
  • Food vouchers to shop in super markets in the camps - UNHCR’s biometric data validates the identity of refugees in WFP shops.
  • The introduction of ‘self-renewal’ stations in the registration process, using iris authentication to trigger a process of self-validation.
  • Biometrics anchored in biographical data has the potential to give persons of concern a portable digital identity, which when linked to other service providers, can enable digital inclusion in host country.

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