Non-profit organisations like Refunite are using cellphone technology to re-connect displaced people around the world.
Everyone has the right to know where their family is
This belief is at the core of REFUNITE, a nonprofit tech organisation whose mission is to reconnect refugee families across the globe with missing loved ones. When families are separated, Refunite aim to put them back in touch. They empower refugees and displaced people to take the search for missing loved ones into their own hands, whether through a mobile phone, a computer or one of their free helplines.
Today, there are over 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide
A large percentage of these people have lost contact with family members or friends in their escape from disasters, persecutions, or conflicts. All too often families end up in different parts of the world, afraid, alienated and alone.
REFUNITE’s long-standing partnerships with Ericsson, various mobile network operators, and the United Nations, have allowed them to collaborate on the pervasive problem of family separation among forcibly displaced populations, to witness the effects of these separations, and to refine their approach to reconnect loved ones.
Through these partnerships, REFUNITE has set out to change the process of family tracing. By creating a user-friendly, online global database of over 600,000 profiles, users can now search for their missing loved ones with the click of a button.
REFUNITE is a fully independent technology based non-profit organisation with projects in the following countries: Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia, Jordan, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Furthermore, REFUNITE has also partnered with Facebook’s Free Basics service, which has made access to REFUNITE’s platform for free in 17 countries: Kenya, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Africa, Niger, Rwanda, Liberia, Iraq, Pakistan, the Philippines, Malawi, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo, Algeria, Chad, Jordan, and Ghana.
More than 38,000 family members have been reconnected through the Refunite network.
REFUNITE’s services are accessible via a computer or any entry-level mobile phone and is completely free of charge. Users can register via SMS, USSD, the company’s free hotlines or via refunite.org.
This year, REFUNITE will also create free access to the platform via Interactive Voice Response (IVR) to assist illiterate families in the registration process. Users need only to provide the amount of information that they themselves find safe to share, which gives them the option of staying anonymous. Follow their work on their Facebook page.
They can choose to register with personal information that only their family or closest friends would recognise, such as birthmarks, favourite foods, or person-specific information. To date, more than 38,000 family members have been reconnected through its network.
Below: REFUNITE founders, brothers David and Christopher Mikkelsen.
Extraordinary video shows you what it’s like to be a refugee
Using nothing more than your mobile phone, you can now get close to knowing what it’s like to be to a refugee trying to make it to Europe.
This striking film, designed to watch on a mobile phone, helps the viewer to experience with immediacy the confusion and fear facing refugees making a perilous journey by boat. Your phone is now a refugee’s phone. Text messages arrive from your family. Suddenly someone contacts you on WhatsApp warning you to turn back. But are they right? Your lifeline is a phone with no signal that’s rapidly running out of battery.
The film is based on research conducted by BBC Media Action, in partnership with DAHLIA, to help humanitarian agencies be aware of the communication issues of refugees in transit. It found that access to internet, mobile networks and social media are critical in helping people feel more informed and better connected. For more information, CLICK!
(Tip: This video has been designed to be watched on mobile phones. Ear/headphones recommended)
Apps for refugees
AppsForRefugees.com is a collection of free smartphone apps especially for refugees. Available in dozens of languages. Safe downloads directly from Google Play Store or Apple App Store to your mobile phone!