How Social Media Can Help Refugees

How Social Media Can Help Refugees

Social media is a phenomenon that has taken over the world and its importance seems only to be growing. It offers many tools that have helped individuals reconnect, express their views, learn and keep up to date on issues that concern them.

When people think of social media the first thought that tends to come into their head is Facebook. And for good reason, Facebook now has over 1 billion users worldwide and it is the most popular social network. But there are many other sites which have taken off such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Blogger and Skype.

How can social media actually help refugees though? There are many answers to this question and it’s important to firstly look at what social media has done already.

“The Most Important Thing” photos of Syrian refugees with their most prized possessions.

An important place to start for this is from the recent events that have taken place in Syria. There are now 1.4 million refugees who have fled the country since January 2012 and that number is continuing to rise. Social media was used very effectively for this crisis, especially when the number of refugees reached the 1 million mark. At that point everyone was Facebooking, Tweeting and blogging about the crisis and this is continuing. This globalised reach allowed millions of dollars to be raised for UNHCR and their implementing partners.

This is a good example of social media working for refugees in humanitarian crises but how else is it able to help refugees individually and as a collective?

Social media’s main raison d’être is to connect people and to allow communication between them. Facebook is the most appropriate tool for this and is an incredibly useful resource for refugees. There have been many stories of refugees connecting with missing family members who may have ended up abroad, still in their country of origin or even in the same city or refugee camp as them.

As well as connecting with lost relatives or friends it also allows them to stay in touch very easily and at no cost. Combined with this it enables people to see what all their friends are up to and to be updated on important information concerning them. There are a number of other platforms which help refugees connect and one important one is Skype which allows free video calling letting people to speak and see each other over the internet.

Refugees learning social media at Tamuka Hub

Another way in which it helps is by bringing awareness on certain issues. This is what we are trying to do at Tamuka. By getting people to blog, use twitter and through our own campaigns we try to tell the world about urban refugees in Kampala and Nairobi. And in doing so we hope to raise awareness and subsequently influence policy makers.

What is needed is a greater online presence of refugees worldwide and for individuals to become online activists. If you have access to the internet then start a blog talking about your life or your views, get on Twitter and interact with people, organisations and governments and tell your friends on Facebook about what you think needs to be done. You have a voice, make people listen.

Written by Alex Kubana

1 comment

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  1. Sonia
    Sonia 15 June, 2013, 14:18

    I agree with this. A greater online presence of refugees worldwide is needed. New communication tools can enable those who are invisible to make their voice heard.
    Our organization, URBAN REFUGEES, just created a new online testimony space where refugees and displaced persons living in urban areas can talk about their life and express their views. If you wish to participate, here is the link:
    We are convinced that testimonies can help build more relevant policies.
    We look forward to hearing your voice!

    Sonia Ben Ali
    Founder and Chairperson

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