GWC Blog for Week Ending August 26th

Information is Power:
A Future Information Website for Vulnerable Refugees and Asylum Seekers – GWC Weekly Blog Post

Goodwill Caravan is always looking for ways to take the next step as an organisation, reach new beneficiaries while meeting more of their needs, and make a bigger impact. We have provided a wide range of humanitarian protection project for refugees and asylum seekers over the past 7 years. In this time, we have had the chance to learn about the needs and challenges that many refugees face.

One persistent issue we see again and again is the difficulties refugees commonly face in accessing reliable information about their legal rights, how the asylum process works, or how to access support services for employment, medical care, education, and other essential needs.

We believe refugees and asylum seekers are no less entitled to relevant and accurate information than anyone else; yet, as one major study put it, there is currently “a huge gap in the provision of relevant, reliable, and timely digital news and information for refugees on their journeys and upon arrival in Europe…” which is forcing them to turn to “alternative unverified sources of information circulated on social media, particularly by smugglers and handlers. This is endangering them and exacerbating an already dire situation.”[1]

 

An image of a luxury liner on a Facebook page promoting smuggling services to prospective refugees. Source: Facebook.

In response to this issue, Goodwill Caravan is in the initial stages of creating a website that will seek to safeguard refugees and displaced populations from becoming victims of trafficking and exploitation due to feeling hopeless and believing that they have no choice but to continue to migrate other EU countries or the UK using risk-riddled refugee trail routes due to lack of information on integration support services in the country they are in or whether they have right of asylum in countries they migrate to. This website will counteract misinformation of smugglers and traffickers on the refugee wire, provide a realistic picture of the immigration/asylum experience from refugees themselves, and empower its users through relevant, reliable, and accurate information on legal rights and integration services where they are located.

A unique feature of GWC’s future website comes from how it will be based on the input of refugees and asylum seekers on key questions such as what information they wish they had known before the left their homes, where they typically go to get information, and what challenges they have faced in applying for asylum and/or accessing integration support services. This input will inform the categories and content of the website, which, in its pilot phase, will focus on legal/asylum information and signposting for integration services on employment, medical care, education, and other needs in Greece, and will be presented in multiple languages and incorporate multimedia content, including refugee voices, geared toward non-literate users. Subsequent phases will scale beyond Greece to reach beneficiaries in key destination countries such as the UK and intermediary third countries such as Turkey.

 

According to the UNHCR, well-informed refugees “experience improved well-being and are less likely to be negatively influenced by individuals or groups seeking to exploit their vulnerability.”[2] Our future website will aim to not only protect refugees and improve their well-being, but also empower them to make informed decisions through relevant, reliable, and up-to-date information on their legal rights and the support services available where they are located.

 

References
[1] Mary Gillespie, et al. (2016), “Mapping Refugee Media Journeys: Smartphones and Social Media Networks.”
[2] UNHCR, (2016), Connecting Refugees: How Internet and Mobile Connectivity can Improve Refugee Well-Being and Transform Humanitarian Action, https://www.unhcr.org/5770d43c4.pdf