Ethiopia Begins Issuing Digital ID for Refugees

The Government of Ethiopia has begun issuing for refugees living in Addis Ababa as part of its initiative to include refugees and asylum seekers into the Ethiopian Digital ID system.

The move comes months after the Ethiopian Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS), National ID Program (NIDP), and UNHCR signed a tripartite data-sharing agreement aiming to facilitate refugees’ access to basic services.

The initiative – currently in its pilot stage – is being rolled out in Addis Ababa with the issuance of digital refugee ID cards that feature a unique identification number called “Fayda”.

RRS Director General Teyiba Hassen said: “Issuing digital IDs to refugees is a huge step that demonstrates that the Ethiopian Government is committed to include refugees in its national systems.”

“This initiative is in line with two of our bold commitments announced during the Global Refugee Forum in 2023, including refugees into national systems and enhancing access to documentation. These IDs will grant refugees access to government-directed services.”

Using biometric technology, the “Fayda” number issued by the National ID Program of Ethiopia (NIDP), which will be printed on the refugee ID cards, is expected to help prevent double registration and duplicate ID cards issuance to the refugees.

“In a world where identity is the key to access, Fayda Digital ID for refugees is not just an ID; it is a gateway to dignity, enabling access to essential services, legal recognition, and opportunities to be integrated into host communities. Let’s build systems that recognize everyone, ensuring that no one is left behind” said Yodahe Zemichael, Executive Director at the National ID Program.

The new refugee ID (with Fayda number) will allow refugees to access key services like obtaining a SIM card, healthcare or school enrolment.

It will also enable refugees to open bank accounts and engage in financial transactions. Refugee entrepreneurs can also formally register their businesses, contributing to the local economy.

“This is an exciting development and demonstrates how Ethiopia is bringing to life the Global Compact on Refugees, which aims to support long term solutions for refugees no matter where they are,” said Andrew Mbogori, UNHCR’s Representative in Ethiopia.

“UNHCR hopes this will be emulated by other countries across the continent,” Mbogori added.

Entitled the “PING project (PRIMES Interoperability Gateway), this initiative has been in the works for close to a year.
This is the first time in East Africa, and one of the first times globally, that the PING project is being implemented, making Ethiopia a pioneer in the inclusion of refugees in its national systems.

Although the Fayda ID will be rolled out on an opt-in basis, the goal is to scale this up to the 77,000 refugees living in Addis Ababa before availing it to nearly 1 million refugees – mainly from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan – living across Ethiopia – the third largest refugee-hosting country in Africa.

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