Refugees United, a non-profit that has developed the world’s first mobile phone based refugee family tracing service to help reconnect families separated by war or natural disaster, announces that it has now registered 100,000 refugees on the online platform.
The service, developed by Refugees United in partnership with telecommunications company Ericsson, has registered users from all across the globe, but at the moment primarily sees its surge in numbers from African countries like Somalia, Congo, and Sudan. With the current conflict between Sudan and South Sudan, numbers from this specific refugee group are also expected to increase, as families flee the regions and end up in separate places and refugee camps.
Refugees United focuses on expanding the technology via partner collaboration with e.g. Red Cross and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in refugee camps and urban areas of various African countries, where teams on ground help illiterate refugees benefit from the technology.
Christopher Mikkelsen, co-founder of Refugees United, says: “100,000 people registered on the Refugees United family tracing platform in search of missing family members is a testament to the pressing need for family tracing globally. Of the 43 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, hundreds of thousand refugee families remain scattered across the globe – we hope that it’s a problem we can help eradicate with the use of our technology and growing network of partnerships with entities like Ericsson, MTN Group, Safaricom, and UNHCR”.
Two Congolese brothers reunited after more than 10 years of separation
With 100,000 now registered on the online platform, Refugees United is beginning to see the anticipated snowball effect of family reconnections as numbers in the database grow rapidly.
Recently, two Congolese refugee brothers were reunited via the family tracing platform after more than 10 years of separation. The brothers were separated in 1998 during the Second Congo War, when a community-based militia group attacked their local village. Over the years, the brothers ended up in Kenya and Uganda, respectively. Reconnected today via the mobile platform, they communicate frequently and hope to also meet physically in the near future.
Christopher Mikkelsen comments: “It’s stories like this that demonstrate the impact of the right technologies in solving some of the world’s most pressing problems. Right now, millions of refugees live not only in camps and cities across Africa and Asia, but also in the Western world, with 1,6 million refugees in Europe and a quarter million in the US. We’ve already seen family reconnections between e.g. the U.S. and Somalia – something we anticipate to see much more frequently as we aim to double our scale within this year alone”.
BACKGROUND: The growing refugee challenge
According to the United Nations, there are 43 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, the highest number in fifteen years, with numbers expected to increase significantly in the medium-term due to conflicts and climate change effects.
Many refugees end up in countries far from home. According to the UNHCR, the host countries with the largest numbers of refugees as of January 2011 were:
|2. Syrian Arab Republic||1.307.918|
|3. Islamic Republic of Iran||1.075.163|
|9. United States||270.859|
More statistics at: http://www.unhcr.org
About Refugees United
Refugees United is an independent, non-profit organization with the mission of reconnecting thousands of separated refugee families across the globe via an online, mobile-enabled search tool. The free service is available in many different languages and contains searchable information on refugees of more than 82 nationalities.
Refugees United is supported by corporate partners and organizations such as Ericsson, SAP, IKEA Foundation and Omidyar Network and local network providers like Safaricom (Kenya) and MTN Group (globally). Refugees United collaborates with entities such as the Red Cross, Refugee Consortium of Kenya, INTERSOS and the UNHCR in order to reach out to and assist refugees with family tracing in various African countries. Access the Refugees United service on web: www.refunite.org and mobile: m.refunite.org and learn more at http://info.refunite.org.