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HOW IS TECHNOLOGY HELPING REFUGEES?

Wednesday 14th October 2015
Corruption and civil war has devastated Syria and the people who live there. The situation has got to a point where the people of Syria have had no choice but to flee from their homes and seek refuge in other locations across Europe, having to take dangerous and desperate measures to do so. This is proving to be a harder challenge than they thought. Could technology give refugees the support they need at this time?  

MONETARY AID FROM SILICON VALLEY
Silicon Valley have stepped up in terms of helping those refugees in need in Europe. Air BnB will be providing “free, welcoming and warm” housing up until January to staff from the International rescue committee. Air Bnb has also setup a donations page that will see the company match up to £200,000 in donations that the page receives. The company will also be offering travel vouchers for relief workers looking to offer aid to the affected areas.

Last week Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his goal to connect refugee camps to the internet. Twitter has also encouraged their customers and users to donate towards the crisis.

Other Silicon Valley companies have also attempted to raise money for the Syrian crisis, the most notable of them being Google, which set out in mid-September to raise more than $10 million for humanitarian organizations at the front lines of solving the world’s refugee crisis, through its refugee relief site.

TECHFUGEES
Moved by the plight of the refugees in Europe, a number of technology industry professionals have formed a small voluntary team to create the free, non-profit, "Techfugees" conference and hackathon.  

The Techfugees hackathon aims to bring the developer community together to deliver relevant and essential tools to the hands of the refugees giving them a voice and support.

So far the ‘Techfugees’ has received has seen huge amount of support. In just 48 hours the organisers witnessed more than 700 people sign up from across the ‘hacker’ community. 

SMARTPHONES
Many refugees are using smartphones to keep in contact with relatives and each other, whilst also using GPS on their smartphone to find their way around Europe.

Refugees are using free messenger services available on Smartphone’s such as Viber, WhatsApp, Facebook to communicate with other refugees and family members they may have left behind.

It’s also been reported some even take selfies to let their families know they have arrived in Europe safely. 

It seems smartphone technology is bridging the gap that may have been there previously before smart technology had advanced to its current level.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND ONLINE CAMPAIGNS
The rise of technology, in particular means news is passed around far more easily and quickly than ever before. Therefore many people are setting up groups on social media or tapping in to hashtags to reach out to a wider audience and in turn reconnecting refugees with each other and also raising awareness of the growing situation in Europe.

The Red Cross has set up a website called Trace the Face where migrants or their families can upload pictures to help them reconnect.

Hashtags such as #RefugeesWelcome were widely used on Twitter, trending multiple times allowing users to share stories, and raise awareness in support of aid to refugees. Many social media users tweeted pictures of them holding signs saying ‘refugees welcome’ and drawing further attention to the petition by the independent on change.org.

APP DEVELOPMENT
“My Refuge” is a new British app that aims to connect refugees with people willing to share their homes. 

Thanks to crowdfunding to finance the initial costs of the app, the start-up managed to over shoot their initial goals in just eight days.

My refuge founder states “We want My Refuge to be a way for individual citizens to play a role in helping refugees. At the end of the day, even if governments have all the good will to help refugees, it will be the communities that welcome them into their environment that will make this humanitarian effort a success, rather than a catastrophe.”

“Our vision is a one stop shop for refuge seekers and refuge providers, a bespoke collaboration tool for governments and NGOs to collaborate with citizens on the key issue of housing. For governments to validate asylum seekers to citizens, and for NGOs to provide relevant support once relationships have been instigated and their support is required. And finally an easy way for citizens around the world to come together as a community around this issue and to understand clearly what they have achieved through their collective efforts.”

What more can be done to help refugees and their families? It seems that technology innovations will continue to be instrumental in helping those refugees in need across Europe, and those elsewhere in the world.  We'd be interested in hearing your thoughts, leave a comment or tweet us @AmsourceTech.

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