The European Refugee Crisis: A Way Forward

 Author(s): , Posted on February 29th, 2016

In many parts of the world, migrant flows are significantly increasing and have, in part, been caused by instability in the Middle East. Governments, especially Turkey and Europe, are now confronted with thousands of refugees crossing borders looking for safety and asylum. By now it’s evident their governments do not have the IT and supporting infrastructure in place to handle the current refugee crisis.

Technology and biometrics solutions can be strategically used to help address this growing issue. However, as governments are looking for ways to simplify and speed up the biometric enrollment at border crossings, biometric enrollment is only one part of the solution. A broader and secure approach is needed as this issue expands in scale and severity across Europe and other countries. The approach should include:

  • Risk analysis — refugees fleeing danger will face risks to their health and safety, but governments too face risks from terrorism and organized crime, as well as to community cohesion.
  • Biometric identification and mobile enrollment of refugees — prior to traveling, refugees will often communicate with others to share information regarding safety and issues , often using smart devices where biometric capture can take place – for example, a facial image across mobile or social apps. Combining this data with official biometric capture of fingerprints on arrival can be used to process cases more effectively.
  • Case management — once in the ‘system’ a robust, reliable and accessible digital technology solution is required to ensure that information, benefits, entitlements and obligations are managed effectively and can seamlessly follow the refugee from country of arrival to final destination.
  • Data analytics — a sophisticated analytical and predictive capacity not only ensures that refugees and governments are in compliance with policy, but also that the EU can better forecast irregular movement in the future both for conflict environments and for response to natural disasters.

The technology industry is driving discussions to identify the best technologies to control the flow of people between borders. Ideas put forward have included implementing a smart card system or encouraging refugees to download tracking apps in return for information about sea crossings and other weather conditions to ensure their safe passage.

The current system for fingerprinting of asylum seekers once they have arrived in Europe was not designed for the large numbers of refugees and does not capture detailed data about their backgrounds. A broader solution is needed to link up different databases and identify whether a refugee has any links with terrorism or other crimes. Adopting a system which is holistic and comprehensive in tracking refugees across borders mitigates the risk associated with providing asylum to people from other countries.

Further, using predictive models refugee flows can be inside and outside the EU can be forecast based on historical data – meaning governments and the EU can prepare for the most likely scenario. By using predictive models, the EU can better foresee and determine how to scale its systems and processes to support refugee flow management.

Per a recent BBC report, the total number of asylum claims in 2015 was 1,294,000 (which include non EU countries Norway and Switzerland). Germany and Hungary received a majority of those claims. While those are official numbers, the actual number could be much higher due to illegal entries – many of the countries in Europe are unable to cope with. The refugee issue is increasing in scale and requires a broader, integrated solution going forward.

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About the Author

Roland Heesen is a subject matter expert for justice, law enforcement and border security with Unisys. He brings close to two decades of experience in the field. Read all Posts





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