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Real life application of WoT: Refugee Use Case

By Alicia Carmona -

One child lay lifeless on a beach because his family could not verify their refugee status. Their hometown in Syrian was under bombardment, being slowly overrun by ISIS forces. They had relatives to sponsor them in the West, with funds and a willingness to take them in, but they lacked the crucial documentation proving their refugee status. Desperate to settle and find normalcy, the boy’s father loaded his family into a boat to seek other options.

The boat sank. And the boy, his mother and brother were dead, because his family lacked the documentation to prove who they were and what they had endured.

Millions more people are part of this onslaught and caught in this same dilemma. According to WorldVision (

  • Nearly 12 million Syrians have been forced from their homes by the fighting; half are children.
  • At least 7.6 million have been displaced within Syria, and more than 4 million have fled as refugees in neighboring countries.
  • Increasing numbers of refugees are making dangerous attempts to reach Europe. About 51 percent of them are from Syria, the UN Refugee Agency says.
  • Children affected by the Syrian conflict are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions have been forced to quit school.

In the wake of this tragedy, a government has pledged to take in tens of thousands of refugees by the end of the year. But the logistical dilemmas are enormous: how do we set up a secure, rapidly scalable system by which people in Syria, preparing to flee violence, can make a verifiable digital record of who they are and where they are from, making the process of proving their identity, establishing some sort of reputation, and ultimately adjudicating claims to rights and services faster and more accurate?

Note that the technology infrastructure is basic. Many refugees have only their feature or smart phones to keep them connected to the world and to their communities—the only material link to who they are (see

Can Web of Trust tools be brought to bear in this case? Can these tools add an improved functionality over centralized infrastructures?

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