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28 January 2016


An IOM staffer verifies documents against flight manifests for IOM’s returns database in Juba, South Sudan (File photo). © IOM 2012

IOM: Data Protection Day 2016

IOM today (28/1) marks Data Protection Day, as one of the first international organizations to have taken significant steps to ensure data security in recent years. IOM handles the personal data of hundreds of thousands of people on a regular basis.

For example, IOM’s Human Trafficking Database alone hosts data of more than 45,000 cases and personal data from around 5,000 to 6,000 victims of human trafficking are collected annually.

Registrations are also done in countries around the world, particularly for the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), which in 2015 registered over 200,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo and over 750,000 in South Sudan. 

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An internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (File photo).  © IOM 2013

Beneficiary Data Protection

Data protection is the systematic application of a set of institutional, technical and physical safeguards that preserve the right to privacy with respect to the collection, storage, use, disclosure and disposal of personal data. Personal data includes all information that can be used to identify data subjects, which in the case of a humanitarian cash-based intervention means our programme beneficiaries, according to the Cash Learning Partnership.

Humanitarian agencies collect a wealth of personal data from individuals in all areas of programming, as well as in other areas such as fundraising and advocacy.  Cash transfer programming is no exception.  However actions to protect beneficiary data have lagged behind.

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IOM registers Syrian refugees arriving at Za’atari camp in Jordan (File photo). © IOM 2012

Data Insecurity: Refugee Protection in Light of Emerging Technologies

The use of biometrics by humanitarian agencies is quietly nearing its thirteenth birthday. As one of the first adopters of this technology, UNHCR has increasingly used biometric data collection technology, which includes fingerprinting, iris scanning, and facial recognition software, since 2002, writes Kate Akkaya in the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action (ATHA) blog.

According to UNHCR, this technology is a tool to prevent and deter fraud while ensuring faster and more accurate registration of refugees. Because humanitarian agencies must learn and record names, addresses, and family and tribal information to ensure an individual qualifies for refugee status and to accurately distribute benefits, the collection of this potentially sensitive data is a key element of the humanitarian aid methodology.

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Migration in the News


  • Toronto Star Touch reported  that Turkey’s approach to millions of Syrian refugees is in stark contrast to the European approach.

  • CNN reported on ways migrants have been blocked, marked and thwarted in Europe as part of a backlash against migration.

  • Irish Times reported that about a quarter of all Moldovans now live abroad and that most schoolchildren and university students expect to leave the country to find work.

  • Sputnik reported that at least seven people died, including two children, after a boat with refugees sank not far from the Greek island of Kos in the Aegean.

  • Reuters reported that a growing number of Iraqi refugees in Germany are choosing to return home, frustrated with the slow asylum process.

  • Independent UK reported that Greece has been warned by the European Commission that it could be expelled from the European Union (EU)’s passport-free Schengen zone if it does not manage its borders better and slow the refugee influx.

  • Press TV reported Human Rights Watch comments criticizing the reaction of EU governments to the refugee crisis and claiming that it has resulted in a crackdown on basic freedoms.

  • RFI reported that the Ugandan government has banned Ugandan women from working as maids in Saudi Arabia, following reports of employer abuse and poor working conditions.

  • Xinhua reported from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)'s winter session, which made it clear that the new battle underway in Europe centers on the number and the origins of refugees in a context generally growing more hostile toward migrants.

  • BBC/Reuters reported that according to Spanish police, British airports such as Gatwick are being increasingly used as entry points to the EU by Nigerian trafficking gangs seeking alternatives to perilous Mediterranean Sea crossings. 

Media Contacts

For comment / interviews on today's news, please go to the contact(s) listed at the end of each press briefing note.
For other information please contact the IOM Media & Communications team here