The U.S. government is considering a handful of new technologies to strengthen and potentially hasten the screening of Syrian refugees.
Mobile DNA analyzers and iris-recognition systems are among the tools under consideration or recently deployed, as the Obama administration strives to let in thousands of individuals escaping Bashar al-Assad’s regime and keep out terrorists.
Meanwhile, partners at the United Nations are scouring social media posts to verify the circumstances of people claiming to be Syrian refugees.
The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program is planning to pilot an initiative, in cooperation with the UN, to use iris scans collected by the UN’s refugee agency, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Throughout the Syrian civil war, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, has relied on portable eye-scanning machines to register the identities of fleeing Syrians, but the United States has not made use of the highly reliable biometric data. That may change.
In the pilot with UNHCR, iris-matching tools will verify applicants’ identities when they appear for their resettlement interviews with U.S. officials, according to DHS.
Another trial program involves “rapid DNA” desktop-size labs.
Processing cheek swabs from children and accompanying adults, which is required to prevent child trafficking, can take weeks.
There are new machines that enable any DHS employee to run a test and confirm a match in about 60 minutes. But the department last year delayed a scheduled field test until consent paperwork and language differences could be hashed out.
Both the iris and rapid DNA pilot projects are in the planning stages, according to DHS.
“We are constantly…