The Daily Telegraph

The modern refugee’s most important tool – a mobile phone

- By Harriet Alexander

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.

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