While it’s no secret refugees and displaced people of the world have limited freedoms moving between countries, many cannot even consider the possibility of eventually going home, due to lack of ID papers and convoluted legal frameworks. Fleeing home in states of emergency has barred 70% of the 65 million refugees worldwide from collecting their identification documents. Many were never issued passports or internationally recognized IDs in the first place. This is true for people like two-year-old Ayşe Nur and one-year-old Zakariya Can.
They were born in Turkey after their parents Mahmoud and Iman were forced from their homes in Aleppo, Syria without their marriage license. The family decided to uproot after Al-Qaeda pillaged their town and murdered Mahmoud’s brother. Like most countries bordering Syria, Turkey does not automatically grant citizenship to babies born within its borders. Their father, a carpenter surnamed Ali, is too fearful to contact Syria’s embassy because he abandoned his position in law enforcement – a high crime where he’s from. Ali’s children are at risk of being stateless, a problem that may affect the 100,000 babies born to Syrian exiles in the last five years and at least 10 million other people globally (Al Jazeera). Stateless people can lose access to long-owned property rights back home.
They may temporarily qualify for a few amenities in host countries but this hinges on specific governmental leaders staying in power. Regardless, paperless asylum seekers still miss out on basic freedoms like eligibility for employment, banking and finding their own housing. Today, an innovative solution is being proposed to a multitude of migrant and refugee problems by an organization called LaLa World.
Blockchain TechnologyUtilizing blockchain technology, LaLa World is on a mission link the ever-growing millions of displaced and dispossessed to a network of international assistance by granting them permanent access to IDs and thus safety, security and financial inclusion into the world economy. Digital authentication gives worker’s identities a strong legal backing with the use of biometric data like iris scanners and fingerprinting. LaLa uses blockchain to store unforgeable, unalterable items like birth records and university degrees. The technology’s use of smart contracts can be used to create work permits and set up instant deposits directly to users’ pockets via a smartphone app.
Identification is essential in modern society to gain access to a range of social benefits in addition to conducting simple daily transactions. Some examples are health care and hospital admissions, access to educational institutions and childcare benefits. In some countries, lack of identity can result in legal detention or even forced repatriation. Risks are amplified for ethnic and religious minorities and the possibility of being arrested for not having ID creates a climate of fear in the lives of already-suffering asylum-seekers. Lack of identity is absolutely ruinous for refugees, 90% of whom live in poverty. Holding documented proof of themselves and their refugee-status could be key to granting certain rights in many places that have until recently avoided prioritizing such documents during ‘influx’ situations (UNHCR). Lately, large-scale care centers who provide aid have realized the impact ‘refugee cards’ could have on streamlining assimilation and connecting refugees to transformative social benefits. By keeping documents in a tamper-proof public ledger, LaLa can help with this.
LaLa World Authentication
Authentication of ID documents has historically been established through a recipe of special paper, ink, and watermarks. ID beneficiaries must also bear the costs of distribution. In the LaLa system, blockchain-stored ID’s can be instantly recognized by governments and border workers as authentic. The blockchain method costs little and can distribute documents in a heartbeat.
With diminished access to healthcare due to lack of IDs, many refugees go unchecked for mental health symptoms. As many are witness to terrorizing events, mental health problems are ubiquitous. According to a 2017 report, 52% of those assessed migrating from Syria into Germany exhibited mental health symptoms such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety or sleep problems (TandFOnline).
On the subject of unchecked mental health and asylum-seekers, at least one perpetrator of the deadly 2015 Paris attacks was discovered to have come from the recent wave of Syrian refugees into Europe. Terrorist attacks like this inexorably sully the name of all refugees. Even though members of the attack were French nationals, these incidents deeply muddy the waters of border policy and public opinion. Acceptance of asylum-seekers is an issue of contention that has currently captured the media zeitgeist. Ignorance, fearmongering and media sensationalism continue to chip away promises of a better future for the displaced. Votes have been cast which only serve to further destabilize a thorny situation, resulting in political deadlock instead of innovative solutions.Consequently, we must take advantage of our new technologies. A digital, accessible registry of documents implemented by a company like LaLa, ranging from internationally verifiable ID to mental health assessments and background checks could be a game changer. In practice, this could move more governments towards unfettered compassion when it comes to border policies. Evidently, this is all quite tricky. Governments have both an obligation to the security of their citizens and a moral onus of assisting disenfranchised people who would contribute to society given the right jumpstart into global financial inclusion.
Across the world, asylum seekers fail to be treated according to internationally accepted human rights standards. Defectors are frequently abused by smugglers, stripped for jewelry and cash and asked for more money along the trip. Female North Korean defectors are lured into China with promises of a new life only to be sold into human trafficking. If caught, they face labor camps upon repatriation. A company like LaLa could integrate these defectors into a digital, permanent registry and ensure NGO assistance to remedy their situation.
By the estimates of ENOC, 337,000 children were registered as asylum seekers in 2015, 88,000 of which were unaccompanied by an adult. This does not include all those unregistered; one in three children are not inputted into any system upon birth. Official data on the number of children sold into sex trafficking has been impossible to establish due to a dearth of honest reporting. Age verification, rendered impossible by missing ID is a major factor in this. Reasons children may not report cases of sexual abuse or violence include language barriers, fears of not reaching their destination, of losing the adult who accompanies them and a generally fizzled trust adults (COE).
LaLa World Bank Services
Finally, LaLa’s bank services and efforts towards global financial inclusion could finance start-ups, small businesses, and budding entrepreneurs. Most refugees currently have no option but to work illegally. Not only does this fuel exploitative wages and working conditions, it downgrades the pay of local laborers due to ‘downward pressure’. In countries like Malaysia where the backbone of their economy is sustained by cheap, exploitative labor, the entrenchment of a gigantic lower class of Malay nationals and impoverished migrants is a vicious cycle. Proper work permits, ‘smart contracts’, visas and banking distributed to refugees by LaLa through the blockchain could disrupt these trends and make waves in the global economy (NewMandala).
In a few years, I believe blockchain will a touchstone of internationally used ID verification systems. The sooner LaLa World gets off the ground, the more people they could reach. To become involved with this project, visit LaLaWorld.io for access to the ICO pre-sale (Whitepaper), starting from November 25th, 2017.