An international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch says that the United Nations refugee agency improperly collected and shared personal information from ethnic Rohingya refugees with Bangladesh, which shared it with Myanmar to verify people for possible repatriation.
The HRW’s crisis and conflict director Lama Fakih,“The UN refugee agency’s data collection practices with Rohingya in Bangladesh were contrary to the agency’s own policies and exposed refugees to further risk,” said in a statement.
The refugees agency did not conduct a full data impact assessment, as its policies require, and in some cases failed to obtain refugees’ informed consent to share their data with Myanmar, the country they had fled, Human Rights Watch said.
Between 2018 and 2021, the Bangladesh government submitted at least 830,000 names of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar along with biometric and other data for each person, for repatriation eligibility assessments. Myanmar reportedly agreed to allow about 42,000 Rohingya to return. UNHCR told Human Rights Watch that it played no role in drawing up these lists but that the names and other data included in the lists submitted from 2019 onwards, including biometrics, came from analog versions of the data it had gathered during the joint registration exercise, for example, non-digital thumbprint images, HRW further said.