As with most crises, once the immediate emergency is highlighted, the attention often is refocused elsewhere. But this doesn’t mean that the crisis is over. Such is the situation with the Syrian refugees who fled their homeland beginning in 2015.
By most estimates, more than four million – mostly women and children – have fled Syria to neighboring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. Many of these crossed the Mediterranean and landed in Greece, hoping for asylum or a pass-through to other countries.
Communications are critical to help refugees find assistance, connect with loved ones, and stay abreast of news updates, seek jobs, educational training, redistribute currency, and fill out paperwork. While many Syrian refugees are fortunate to have a mobile phone, technical infrastructure was lacking to support these functions in Greece.
For that reason, the NetHope-led Syrian Refugee Connectivity Alliance installed internet and charging station solutions in 98 sites in Greece, Northern Macedonia, Slovenia, and Serbia, with the majority in Greece between November 2015 and December 2016. With initial funding, technical and equipment assistance and expertise provided by Cisco, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and The Patterson Foundation, over 1 million users have benefited from these services which have been critical on these migrants’ long and perilous journey to safety and normalcy.
No one could have predicted that, after the first wave, migrants would continue to leave strife-ravaged Syria searching for safety. More funding was necessary to continue this network throughout these refugee camps. As the original round of funding was depleted, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) recognized the need to continue this valuable service uninterrupted.
The agreement, entitled “Improving the Greek Reception System Through Site Management Support and Targeted Interventions in Long-Term Accommodation Sites,” provides funding in support of the Greek government’s work in the daily management of a total of 26 long-term accommodation sites operating in the country. These sites include refugee settlements in Alexandria, Diavata, Drama, Eleonas, Kato Milia, Kavala, Koutsochero, Lagadikia, Lavrio, Nea Kavala, Ritsona, Serres, Skaramangas, Veria, and Volos. This continues services for the migrants and refugees in those sites with unhindered access to information and communication tools that are pivotal for access to services and to maintain family links.
As past experience has proven, this keeps migrants and refugees better informed on procedures and overall developments affecting their journey. It also encourages stronger participation in the humanitarian response by providing and exchanging feedback through various communication channels and enhanced ability, particularly in regard to unaccompanied migrant children, to remain in contact with their families.
We appreciated the funding and support from our members and partners throughout this refugee crisis and look forward to this new relationship with the IOM over the coming months. We will provide regular updates as the work unfolds.You can be involved in these types of projects by joining NetHope in propelling digital transformation forward, putting technology into the hands of those who need it most.
Read past posts on the Syrian Refugee Crisis: