The Daily Telegraph
The modern refugee’s most important tool – a mobile phone
THE ONE thing the three young Pakistani men wanted was a place to charge their phones.
The three, aged 19 and 21, had arrived in Calais having walked and hitch-hiked from their homeland. Now they needed to tell their families they had got there.
Technology has transformed this 21st-century refugee crisis, both encouraging people to move and allowing them to support others who do.
The migrants themselves use their phones to transmit up-to-date information on the best routes, the latest police tactics, and the pitfalls to be avoided. Their families at home in Sudan, Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan can be kept informed of their journey. Tales of family members who have successfully made it into Europe heap pressure on those left behind to make the journey themselves.
The modern migrant carries a toolkit of virtual essentials: smartphone maps, WhatsApp, Facebook, GPS.
On Facebook you can find routes, contact details, even risk assessments available for refugees and would-be migrants across the Mediterranean.
“Right now, the traffickers are losing business because people are going alone, thanks to Facebook,” said Mohamed Haj Ali, 38, who works with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Belgrade, capital of Serbia, and a major stopover for migrants. Mr Ali, a Syrian, told The New York Times that he had noticed a surge in Facebook sites such as “Smuggle Yourself to Europe Without a Trafficker”.
The situation in Hungary exemplifies this: a new route, avoiding the perilous Mediterranean crossing, has in recent weeks become wildly popular. On Tuesday a record number crossed from non-EU Serbia into Schengenarea Hungary, with 2,500 in one day.