By Kevin MacRitchie
In the refugee camp of Lagadikia, Greece, workers were unloading everything from toilet paper to fire extinguishers as the first Syrian refugees began to arrive. Alongside the UN and NGO workers who distribute basic supplies, the NetHope team and I were there to set up a free Wi-Fi network.
Marie Beriot, who is the UN Refugee Camp Management Officer there, told me that an internet connection is critical for camp residents. Refugees arriving in Greece need Wi-Fi not only to contact family members and access essential information, but also to apply for asylum. Currently, the only way to seek asylum in Greece or other European countries is to book an appointment with the Greek Asylum Office via a Skype number.
While I was working with a local electrician to ensure that we could power the access points, two refugee families arrived in a small van and unloaded their few belongings. The families took a seat in the shade with Marie and the UNHCR team. Their first question: "When can we get online to dial the Skype number and apply for asylum?" The UNHCR reassured the refugees that NetHope would be providing a network within days.
“Refugees need Wi-Fi,” Marie told me. Mobile data plans that migrants may have are not adequate. “They have SIM cards, but very limited data. It’s too expensive.” A stable internet connection that covers everyone in the camp is the best way to give refugees a chance at a new life through the Skype asylum number. The NetHope team worked hard in Lagadikia to ensure that this camp, along with over 20 other sites along the migrant route, can fully support the families living there with Internet connectivity.
This post is part of an ongoing series of stories from NetHope's work in Greece to provide connectivity to refugees.