Caring control or controlling care? Double bind facilitated by biometrics between UNHCR and Syrian refugees in Jordan

Paragi, Beáta ORCID: and Altamimi, Ahmad (2022) Caring control or controlling care? Double bind facilitated by biometrics between UNHCR and Syrian refugees in Jordan. Society and Economy, 44 (2). pp. 206-231. DOI

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Biometric technologies are increasingly used by governments and international organizations in the context of refugee protection and control. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the ‘double bind’ embedded in the collection and processing of biometric data by exploring the experiences of Syrian refugees residing in Jordan. While taking biometric data is part of the UNHCR-registration, it is also used for other purposes, such as providing assistance and tracking movement. The findings are based on desk research and empirical data collected in Jordan. While stakeholders with vested interests argue for the benefits of technology, critical research is more concerned with human rights, unintended consequences of humanitarian governance or surveillance humanitarianism. Refugees, upon registration, seem to be more concerned with smooth and uninterrupted access to aid. While due to their vulnerable position they cannot really afford considering the consequences of giving their biometric data when they are asked to do so, sharing their biometric data entails a double bind situation. On the one hand, international organizations (such as the UNHCR and the WFP) in cooperation with commercial actors use iris scans as a payment method promising better food security for Syrian refugees in Jordan. On the other hand, the very same biometric data can be used for controlling, if not blocking, their free movement. The double bind logic implies that refugees registered with their biometrics can enjoy care only if they tolerate sophisticated control too.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:humanitarian aid, biometric technology, double bind, iris scans, Syrian refugees in Jordan
Subjects:International relations
ID Code:7231
Deposited By: MTMT SWORD
Deposited On:01 Mar 2022 17:15
Last Modified:17 Jun 2022 12:18

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