Technology is a new kind of lifeline for refugees

Marketplace: “Imagine you’re a refugee leaving home for good. You’ll need help. But what you ask for today is much different than it would have been just 10 years ago.

“What people are demanding, more and more, is not classic food, shelter, water, healthcare, but they demand wifi,” said Melita Šunjić, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Šunjić began her work with Syrian refugees in camps in Amman, Jordan. Many were from rural areas with basic cell phones.

“The refugees we’re looking at now, who are coming to Europe – this is a completely different story,” Šunjić said. “They are middle class, urban people. Practically each family has at least one smart phone. We calculated that in each group of 20, they would have three smart phones.”

Refugees use their phones to call home and to map their routes. Even smugglers have their own Facebook pages.

“I don’t remember a crisis or refugee group where modern technology played such a role,” Šunjić said.

As refugees from Syria continue to flow into Europe, aid organizations are gearing up for what promises to be a difficult winter.

Emily Eros, ‎a GIS mapping officer with the American Red Cross, said her organization is working on the basics like providing food, water and shelter, but it’s also helping refugees stay connected. “It’s a little bit difficult because it’s not just a matter of getting a wifi station up, it’s also a matter of having someone there who’s able to fix it if something goes wrong,” she said. …(More)”