One of the big things to come out of the refugee crisis in Europe two years ago was the way in which refugees were using smartphones. Off the back of that there are now a range of apps available to help during a treacherous journey.
I was interrailing around Eastern Europe two years ago, while we were in Belgrade we walked through parks full of Syrians who seemed to be somewhere between living and camping there. We were traveling in the opposite direction to the refugees and had been deliberately keeping away from news and emails during the two and a half weeks, so the sight came as a rather abrupt reminder. It just looked dangerous; we hadn’t felt particularly safe out and about in Belgrade at night.
It was only after that, that news stories started appearing on how refugees were putting smartphones to good use to aid their travels. Tracking locations, each other’s progress, details of back home, “I would never have been able to arrive at my destination without my smartphone,” Osama Aljasem told the New York Times.
So here are four new apps which make a dangerous journey that bit less dangerous:
RefAid piggybacks on Trellyz’s city data to provide refugees, migrants and aid workers with information on where to find food, shelter, education and work. Those are the basics, at least, but it also has a specific “Women” section, one for “Unaccompanied Children” and a “Legal/Admin/Info” tab.
The founders spoke to the British Red Cross, the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees and then went on to hammer the app together over a single weekend. Since it’s launch in February 2016 it’s expanded to a (still growing) 14 countries and is used by the big names in international aid, including Medecins sans Frontieres and Save the Children.
InfoAid is an addendum to Migration Aid, this is a platform in Hungary which exists to verify information and help refugees get to their assigned camp. The app translates this information, and much else besides, into English, Arabic, Urdu and Farsi so that refugees can get quick and reliable information upon entering hungary.
Besides the information on where, how and why to register as a refugee, the app also provides information on where and how to get a train ticket, where to find clean drinking water, and notifications on where to avoid smugglers.
The Atlantic reported on DxtER, an app that will come with a small tool kit and use AI combined with a questionnaire to deliver refugees advice on what to do when faced with a medical issue. The app will be able to take body-fluid samples and take vital signs to diagnose a range of diseases on the spot. Finally, the app will continually collect data on emerging outbreaks to provide advice on any illnesses that could be spreading through the refugee community.
REFUNITE has been up and running since 2008, trying to take the work that was being done in refugee camps, reconnecting family members, away from pen and paper and towards technology. They have now set up Free Basics in connection with Facebook to help refugees find each other using their smartphone alone.
You can find plenty more apps which help refugees at appsforrefugees.com. It’s a growing market, many of the apps having been built for Germany so far because of the number of refugees accepted there during the 2015 crisis. But more are on their way with translation tools and phrasebooks all the way through to apps which will store pictures of important documents as PDFs.