For Refugees, a Digital Passage to Europe

Stranded migrants charge their phones on a field with electricity provided by a generator at the Greek-Macedonian border near the Greek village of Idomeni, November 24, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Excerpt from this article:

While many of us might feel we cannot live without the Internet or our cell phones, for refugees access to digital technologies can be a matter of life or death.

Numerous media reports have highlighted how smartphones are essential and vital for refugees as they travel along perilous routes, contact lost family members, or find safe places before dark.

But focusing on one technology misses the bigger picture. Social media, mobile apps, online maps, instant messaging, translation websites, wire money transfers, cell phone charging stations, and Wi-Fi hotspots have created a new infrastructure for movement as critical as roads or railways.

Together, these technologies make up a digital passage that is accelerating the massive flow of people from places like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan to Greece, Germany, and Norway. The tools that underpin this passage provide many benefits, yet are also used to exploit refugees and raise questions about surveillance.

Governments and refugee agencies need to establish trust when collecting data from refugees. Technology companies should acknowledge their platforms are used by refugees and smugglers alike and create better user safety measures.

As governments and leaders coordinate a response to the crisis, appropriate safeguards around data and technology need to be put in place to ensure the digital passage is safe and secure.

 

 

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