Five Ways Technology is Helping With The Refugee Crisis

Facebook will bring internet access to U.N.-coordinated refugee camps, Mark Zuckerberg said on Sunday.

The founder of the social network, which recently recorded one billion users in a single day, told a U.N. forum that "internet access is an important enabler of human rights" and that "connectivity will help refugees better access support from the aid community and maintain links to family and loved ones."

Europe is currently mired in the worst refugee crisis to hit the continent since World War II, with some 8,000 refugees arriving on the continent each day. However, the majority of refugees fleeing civil war in Syria are housed in camps across the Middle East, such as the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, which has a population of some 83,000 Syrians.

Facebook's initiative is the latest in a string of attempts by companies and individuals to use technology to assist refugees in their current plight. Here, Newsweek looks at some of the ways in which tech is providing solutions for some of the problems facing refugees.


Hundreds of thousands of refugees are expected to arrive in Germany by the end of the year, but with limited housing available, many refugees are living in makeshift camps, including one on the site of former Nazi concentration camp Dachau. In response to this crisis, a German-based couple set up a roommate-matching website for refugees who are seeking accommodation in Germany and Austria. The site, called Refugees Welcome, has so far matched 181 refugees to shared accommodation since it launched in November 2014. Refugees are housed for a minimum of three months and are always given their own room. A message on the project's website reads, "We think that the refugee should live under the same conditions as the rest of the flatmates."


A photo of Syrian refugee Abdul Haleem al-Kader holding his sleeping daughter and trying to sell pens on a Beirut street went viral in late August. A hashtag '#BuyPens' was set up by Gissur Simonarson, founder of news aggregation site Conflict News, and used to locate Abdul in Lebanon. Simonarson then created a crowdfunding project on IndieGogo to support the Kader family. The project has massively exceeded its original $5,000 target, raising $191,099.


Patrolling the vast expanse of the Mediterranean Sea for refugee boats, which covers approximately 2.5 million square kilometers (970,000 square miles), is a daunting but necessary task. Frontex, which runs the EU's patrol mission in the Mediterranean, has struggled to deal with the scale of the problem and is due to get a 54 percent budget increase next year. Meanwhile, the International Organization for Migration said that almost 3,000 migrants and refugees have perished crossing the Mediterranean in 2015 so far, with a record 500,000 in total attempting the crossing.

To try and prevent such tragic losses, the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS)—a humanitarian project based in Malta—uses two remote-piloted aircraft, otherwise known as drones, to scour the sea and locate refugees in distress. The Schiebel S-100 Camcopters, which can fly for up to six hours and provide a live video stream, reportedly cost $300,000 per month to rent but have played a pivotal role in enabling MOAS to save 11,680 lives so far.


German developers launched an app in August which helps refugees who are settling in the eastern city of Dresden to find their way around, The Guardian reported. The Welcome to Dresden app helps refugees navigate the bureaucracy of registering for asylum and assists them with accessing basic services such as healthcare. It is available in English, German, French, Arabic and Russian, and its developers—IT companies Heinrich & Reuter Solutions and Saxonia Systems—hope it can be rolled out across Germany. Europe's largest software developer, SAP, is also working on a free app which could be used by refugees in Germany to register for asylum. SAP plans to offer 100 internships and 10 additional apprenticeships to refugees in the next year, German news site DW reported.


Amazon wishlists are usually used by meticulous wedding planners or over-zealous birthday celebrators. However, British TV presenter Dawn O'Porter used the wishlist tool to create a shopping list for refugees in Calais. The Help Calais & Beyond wishlist includes items such as camp beds, walking boots and Arabic dictionaries. Items ordered through the list are delivered to the organizers and then sent on to Calais.