Incredibly thorough work from @hrw has revealed what we all feared: UNHCR did in fact share personal + biometric data of #Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh with Myanmar (who oversaw genocide against them):…
@hrw Concerning highlights: There was no option for #Rohingya to opt out, nor receive the Smart Card without (seemingly implicitly) agreeing to having their personal data (which was also associated with their family members data) shared back with the very govt they were fleeing from.
@hrw No disclosure: The question of whether they consented to share data with Myanmar was only sometimes provided, and then only in written English – violating UNHCR’s own policy of providing refugees with data collection info in a language and manner they understand.
@hrw Conflation/multipurpose use of biometric identity data – collected for registration purposes, shared for purposes of supposed 'voluntary' repatriation. No acknowledgement that forced repatriation is part of many #Rohingya's history – so why trust that it wouldn’t happen again?
All points towards the very concept of consent being completely invalid. Nobody can consent in situations of such extreme power disparity; when food/shelter is contingent on saying ‘yes’; when the very question is asked in a language they don’t speak.
UNHCR undertook ’several risk assessments’ prior to signing
the data sharing agreement that allowed Bangladesh to share personal, biometric data they collected with Myanmar, without consent. This is totally inacceptable, hi hello, 📢 YOUR RISK ASSESSMENT PROCESS IS BROKEN 📢
UNHCR’s responses are revealing, too –  they point towards their own policies and guidance as what they *should* do in such situations – but "deny wrongdoing or policy violations" while HRW note so many times when policies were not followed and lives were put in danger. 🤔🤔🤔🤔
In summary: thanks to UNHCR's failures, the biometric data of many #Rohingya remains with Myanmar, a country now under military control – ie. the military who carried out the genocide. We desperately need accountability mechanisms to make sure this doesn't happen again.
Also, and truly I’ve never hated being right more than now: I wrote about the risks of this specific data collection nearly 4 years ago. None of this was unexpected or unforeseen – just disappointingly underprioritised.…
A response from UNHCR to this report – they state that safeguarding policies are in place but entirely ignore the evidence that these policies were not reflected in reality as documented by HRW. Quite the denial of lived experience.…
“Each family’s consent was confirmed at least twice and consent signatures were only obtained following this double-confirmation.” This is provably false, as documented by @HRW, and by @EngnRoom in a case study we did in 2018/2019.…
A #Rohingya interviewee told our @EngnRoom researcher: “They told that it is compulsory to take the smart card otherwise we won’t get rations.” A far cry from UNHCR’s claim of individual counselling to “ensure that the refugees fully understood the purpose of the exercise.”
UNHCR: “a widespread counselling and information campaign was also organized to explain the exercise and inform refugees that they would all be able to access the same services and entitlements regardless of their consent” – I would love to see more details on this campaign!
Also: let’s not forget that the very premise of sharing biometric data with Bangladesh and Bangladesh sharing it with Myanmar should not have even been an option that the Rohingya were presented with, let alone one that happened without their knowledge.

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More from @zararah

4 Oct 18
Thanks for having me today, #HCBerlin! Some links I referenced – @HNissenbaum on how poorly consent is operationalised (particularly relevant in humanitarian case)…
All of Katja Lindskov Jacobsen's work, but particularly this on 'a hidden history of humanitarian experimentation', examining how the biometric database at Afghanistan/Pakistan border was operationalised… #HCBerlin
Our work @engnroom with @carlynyst reviewing how biometrics have been used in the humanitarian sector, with @oxfam… #HCBerlin #responsibledata
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