Today, June 20, is World Refugee Day. To continue raising awareness about the role that Technology can play for under served refugee populations, Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and mobile operators supports UNHCR and Refugees United in their cause to help refugees find missing family members and loved ones.
With 43 million people forcibly displaced around the world, family separation due to war, famine and natural disasters remains an enormous challenge. Thousands of families are struggling to find their missing loved ones with whom they have lost contact.
On June 18, UNHCR released its annual report on the trends in forced displacement citing a record of 80,000 people forced to flee across borders. "2011 saw suffering on an epic scape. For so many lives to have been thrown into turmoil over so short a space of time means enormous personal cost for all who were affected," said António Guterres, the UNHCR Chief and High Commissioner for Refugees.
At the Rio+Social event on 19th June, Hans Vestberg, President and CEO of Ericsson, António Guterres UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and Christopher Mikkelsen, co-founder of Refugees United, addressed a largely social media oriented audience about the plight of refugees, and asked the audience to use their collective force to spread the word about the refugee cause, and the Refugees United online family tracing service.
Today, the Refugees United family tracing service is available via web, WAP and Android applications to serve refugees with low-end handsets and lower speed connectivity as well as refugees residing in countries with a larger proportion of smart phones.
Refugees United and Ericsson have reached and exceed the challenging joint target of 120.000 refugees registered on the database within 2012 as the service is spreading and 800 new users are added every week. Additionally, Vodafone Egypt today announces their support to the cause.
The spread and effectiveness of the tool is proven by a recent reconnection case were two Somali brothers in two different parts of the world found each other via the Refugees United platform after only 2 months of search supported by Kenya Red Cross. The brothers fled an Al-Shabaab militia attack in 1998 and didn't see each other since. The younger of the brothers, then 7 years old, travelled to Kenya while his older brother fled to Pakistan, from which he was resettled to the US.
Refugees United ambassador and award-winning actor Mads Mikkelsen says: "Family has always been very important to me, and being a father of two myself, I simply cannot imagine the hardships that these brothers must have gone through. Separated from each other and the rest of their family when they were 7 and 13-years-old, just a few years younger than my kids are now, is just unbearable - and, at the same time, the reality for thousands and thousands of refugee families. Refugees United and partners are using technology to solve a pressing problem related to family - something that we can all relate to".
NOTES TO EDITORS
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. Currently (June 2012), Refugees United contains searchable information of more than 135,000 registered refugees on the family tracing platform at www.refunite.org.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people. In more than six decades, the agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives. Today, a staff of some 7,685 people in more than 125 countries continues to help some 33.9 million persons.
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