German Gov’t Says Blockchain Can ‘Support Europe’s Unity at a Fundamental Level’

Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAFM) has found that blockchain has far-reaching potential to improve asylum procedures. Following a successfully completed proof-of-concept (PoC), the findings were published on March 26 in a white paper.

The paper was edited by BAFM and authored by the Project Group Business & Information Systems Engineering of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT.

The PoC — undertaken by BAFM, Fraunhofer FIT and an unnamed technology partner in the first half of 2018 — focused on evaluating blockchain’s potential to support two crucial aspects of asylum procedures: the creation of reliable and secure digital identities and improving communication and cooperation between authorities at a municipal, state and national level.

For the PoC, the three partners used a private and permissioned version of an Ethereum-derived blockchain, using a proof-of-authority consensus algorithm.

The white paper outlines that blockchain can enable the creation of tamper resistant digital identities for refugees that arrive without ID documents, based on biometric data collected at the moment of their initial registration in the receiving country. This immutable blockchain-based identity would then support further aspects of the asylum procedure and ensure the consistent and secure identification of each asylum applicant across multiple organizations.

The white paper’s authors propose that a robust, blockchain-based identity solution could have far-reaching positive pan-European implications, noting that:

“Blockchain could be the ‘digital enabler’ of European federalism in the asylum context. [...] A European platform for the decentralised management of asylum procedures [...] would enable the transparent storage of a person’s place of initial registration. [...] Digital identities are per se nationally agnostic and could thus support Europe’s unity at a fundamental level.”

The white paper notes that data protection laws pose a key challenge for blockchain innovation within a European context — a reference to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a landmark EU-wide legal framework for personal data privacy, which took effect in May 2018.

Nonetheless, a GDPR-compliant architecture for a blockchain-powered asylum system could be possible, the white paper suggests.  

A Cointelegraph analysis published in fall 2018 studied the prospective benefits blockchain can bring to strained immigration systems worldwide.