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Blockchain and Global Refugee Movements

Updated: Sep 2, 2019

Blockchain technology is system in which records are maintained across several computers that are linked in a peer-to-peer network. Blockchain is literally just a chain of blocks, but not in the traditional sense of those words. Jon Purizhansky says that its digital information (the “block”) forever stored in a public database (the “chain”).Blocks store information that distinguishes them from other blocks. A single block on the blockchain can actually store up to 1 MB of data. While blockchain technology is beginning to be utilized in business, it has an interesting application that can allow to bring transparency into the otherwise non-transparent world of global movements of undocumented refugees.

Global relocation of refugees and economic migrants primarily from poor countries into more economically stable jurisdictions is more substantial than at any time of recorded history. Blockchain technology can help refugees, host countries and third-party organizations by tracking and storing refugees’ and migrants’ identification documents.

Blockchain technology allows to improve information sharing among various organizations such as government agencies, nonprofits, and volunteer organizations that support refugees. Jon Purizhansky says that blockchain based universal ID for refugees would bring order into the otherwise difficult and non-transparent “refugee world”


When people flee their home countries, they take off in the direction of a perceived safe haven.

When they reach the safe haven, refugees typically apply for asylum. Jon Purizhansky says that the fact that large percentage of refugees lack original identification documents coupled with the fact that refugees often cross multiple borders before they reach the safe haven makes it difficult for governments and third party organizations to establish refugees’ identities, which is turn costs governments more money with regards to adjudications of asylum applications and makes the process longer.

If a blockchain based universal ID is created, refugees no longer have to worry about securing original identification documents of carrying documents with them. Jon Purizhansky says that a universal ID can create security for everyone. Verification of critical information in the universal identification process is time-sensitive and requires great care and attention to detail, which leaves room for error when exchanged between organizations and government agencies Because blockchain is a digital ledger that is immutable, secure, distributed, and transparent it serves as a great foundational technology to enable sharing of information among various parties.

Blockchain based universal ID solution will allow for government agencies to work closely with nonprofit organizations to provide medical care, financial assistance, housing, and employment for refugees in host counties. It will also assist law enforcement and intelligence services by making it easier to identify the “bad apples” amongst the refugee masses. Jon Purizhansky says that a Syrian refugee, for example, will no longer be able to pretend to be from Iraq, etc...Creation and acceptance of universal blockchain based ID will also assist the governments in their fight against terror and will make it more difficult for terrorist organization to deploy terrorists, pretending to be refugees, in host counties.


Therefore, Jon Purizhansky says that we can provide protection for displaced people by ensuring their identity data is stored securely in a way they can easily access while also making it easier to regulate and control global peoples movements. A blockchain based universal ID would simply be a win-win.

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